As Zoey, Nurse Jackie’s incredibly eager nurse-in-training, Merritt Wever steals every scene she’s in. And not because she’s decked out in bunny-patterned scrubs; she’s just got that kooky, squeaky-wheel thing down. Vulture spoke to the native New Yorker about what we can expect from season three (which premieres tonight on Showtime).
Last season ended with Jackie saying, “I’m a drug addict — “
Right. What the hell?
I know, I know. Season three picks up at the same exact moment, which is fun.
What can you tell me about how this season will play out?
It’s just getting a lot harder for Jackie to keep everything under control. I think the stakes are getting a lot higher for her and the hole that she’s digging is getting deeper and deeper. I do know that she’s still the apple of Zoey’s eye and she can still do no wrong.
The show also left off with Zoey and Lenny heating up.
This season they’re full-fledged boyfriend/girlfriend. You’ll really get to see what she’s like as a girlfriend and as a sexual person, too.
Is she awkward?
No! I don’t know what she’d be like with someone else, but Lenny likes her so much, he kind of lets her get away with anything. She puts him through the ringer; she’s a toughie. And Lenny is really trying his best. But she can be hot and cold with him. She looks like the pink bunny, but I don’t think she’s the way people would expect her to be as a girlfriend.
Edie Falco has had a handful of sex scenes in the show. Can we expect that from you now? Would you be comfortable doing those scenes?
That would suck. I imagine it sucks for most actors. It sounds really, really embarrassing. I have not had to go to the extent that Jackie has onscreen, but Zoey and Lenny definitely display their physical intimacy. She and Lenny definitely have sex, and then Zoey talks about it — too much.
The show is a dark comedy. Is that the kind of project you look for?
I take whatever job they give me, usually. I do think there are trends in your life once you’ve been auditioning long enough. I was the angry teenager and then the sweet victim. Zoey’s made me the quirky girl.
Are you concerned you’ll be pigeonholed?
I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, but I do think it’s important to do other work that’s different from Zoey between seasons, because I don’t want to start equating acting with acting like Zoey, which I thought started to happen after season one, when I wasn’t doing a lot of other work. I remember auditioning for things and finding myself feeling like she was a monkey on my back.
You were in Tiny Furniture. Are you friends with the writer-director, Lena Dunham? She’s an NYC girl, too.
We are friends. She’s pretty amazing. I’m not sure what the definition of an auteur is, but she’s her own thing, organically and naturally.
Do you dabble in writing yourself?
I’ve started thinking about it. I wrote a lot when I was younger, though never anything like plays or scripts. And then I stopped when I graduated college. But I’ve missed having some kind of art form that I could do on my own, without depending so much on other people.
Why don’t you start writing then?
Until now, honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I just didn’t know what story I wanted to tell. Sounds kind of pathetic. Where I went to college [Sarah Lawrence] we didn’t have majors, but if I’d had a major, it would have been poetry. I used to joke that if acting didn’t work out, poetry was my commonsense fallback.
You grew up in a very lefty and activist home. Are you still an activist?
Unfortunately, I don’t think I can call myself an activist because I don’t really do enough of anything. But I still have the same beliefs and values from when I was growing up.
Is it more difficult now that you’re famous and recognizable to be part of that world?
It’s interesting: I’ve wanted to go back to it for some time now. I don’t think I’m that famous or recognizable at all, but then there is that fear that if you — I don’t know. It’s hard sometimes to get involved.
I imagine it’s tricky because some people get annoyed if celebrities are political, but then given your position, it’s like you have a responsibility.
I don’t feel a responsibility because I’m on a TV show by any means. I feel a responsibility just because I’m alive in the world.