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Nurse Jackie’s Adam Ferrara on Playing Edie Falco’s Love Interest and Not Wanting to Kiss Like a Fish

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Showtime

[Spoilers ahead] Jackie finally got a promising (and sober!) relationship on Nurse Jackie this season, courtesy of stand-up comic Adam Ferrara, who played the warm and likable cop Frank Verelli, a guy who gave Jackie quirky gifts and a high-five after sex. Now that the couple has exchanged I love yous, we expect to see a lot more of Ferrara’s character on the show — assuming Jackie’s recent relapse doesn’t get in the way. Ferrara spoke to Vulture ahead of this Sunday’s season-five finale (which is already available on demand) about booty calls, tattoos, and kissing Edie Falco. 

You watch Game of Thrones, but didn’t read the books, I learned from your Twitter

Man, the Red Wedding! I thought there were fights at my family gatherings, but wow! Usually, at my family’s weddings, you yell at one of the cousins for taking one of the bridesmaids into the coat closet. That’s the big social indiscretion. But I’ll tell you this: My wife and I decided we need a dragon. How cool would that be? You show up for a meeting, and they would be like, “We gotta buy his show. He rides in on a dragon.” I mean, anybody can show up in a limo.

You could use that to tell the folks at Nurse Jackie to make you a regular.

[Laughs] When I walked in to read with Edie Falco, it was nice, because I auditioned in New York, and it was very quick. You walk in, there’s Edie, the producers, the director, and a camera. I read three scenes, and it was done. In L.A., it’s much longer: “Hi, how are you? Do you want a drink? Here’s a bag of smoke for your ass.” So New York was nice and quick. And Edie was so gracious. It was real familiar. I think it’s because we’re both from Long Island, which made a real easy connection. We drink water from the same well.

Which helps explain the chemistry between your characters. Someone else saying, “Take it in” like Frank does could have come across as a little more cocky.

When we first shot that scene, it was early in the morning and the background actor in the bed behind me, the poor guy actually fell asleep! I heard this snoring, and I thought it was a machine or something. Because you know, as an actor, that’s what you want — the guy falling asleep behind you. That’s when you know you’ve got your audience riveted. [Laughs]

You have a scene where Frank booty-calls Jackie, although you did tell her in advance you would be booty-calling her and not to pick up. And when she does, you serenade her.
I do stupid stuff like that: I’ll call my wife from the road, send her pictures of glaciers. If you call a girl you just started dating and serenade her, that’s fun to do with five to eleven beers in you. But when you come home with a tattoo on your face, you know you’ve had too much. I never did that. I would have gotten the Kiss Destroyer album on my back or something ridiculous. I remember for my 18th birthday, I was going to get a tattoo, and I made the mistake of thinking I was a man and telling my father, and he was like, “Oh yeah? You better tattoo a new address on your arm, because you’re not living here!” And that was the end of that discussion.

If Frank got upset when he knew her ex-husband was there after midnight, how upset do you think he would have been if he had known that after she left their first date — half date, really — she had unplanned sex with Bobby Cannavale?

That would have been a deal breaker! We didn’t even make it to dessert! But it’s weird, at that point in the relationship, I don’t know if she’s obligated to tell him. But I’m so glad Frank doesn’t know.

If it had been you, would you have told the other person?
What, I tripped and accidentally had sex? Mmm. I probably would not have told the other person. I don’t see the upside to it. “Look, I know we’re just getting to know each other, and I just want to clear the air. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but … ” You can’t win! There’s no winning in that situation! Oh, I am so glad I’m married.

What’s it been like shooting the love scenes with Edie?

The breath always terrifies me. The first thing I do, I check my breath. I even took a box of Altoids before the first kiss scene, but they were cinnamon, and it made my mouth go numb. I was like, Aww, this is a mistake. She’s going to think that I kiss like a fish. This isn’t good! But it’s an adult relationship, and they call each other on their shit. There are no games. He really likes her and wants it to develop into something. He knows that she means quite a bit to him. Frank gets upset that Kevin was there and he shuts down, and then he realizes he can’t do that.  

So they’re developing this healthy relationship, which is new for her, and then, at the end of the finale, she takes the pill.

Did it break your heart? It broke my heart at the table read. She’s feeling stuff for the first time, she’s not anesthetized for this whole thing, she says she loves him, and she’s supposed to be happy — but happy ain’t easy. There’s a saying in AA, “If something bad happens, go to a meeting. If something good happens, go to two.” I think we all carry the seeds of our own destruction. You really have to be aware that just because something is good, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be trigger a self-destructive impulse.

Where would you like this to go in the next season? If Jackie full-on relapses, can Frank stick by her? Will you be back?

I can tell you that when I read the last script, I was like, “No coma, no coma, no coma … Okay! Frank’s not in a coma.” [Laughs] Frank’s not an idiot. He knows what the end road of addiction is. But he doesn’t know Jackie’s past behavior. He doesn’t even know she is using again. So as far as where it goes, he’s blissfully unaware. It’s up to the writers, but my first instinct is that he wouldn’t pull away right away. He’s used to dealing with crisis.

Nurse Jackie’s Adam Ferrara on Kissing Edie