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Nurse Jackie’s Julie White on 12-Stepping, Oxy Addicts, and Playing the Worst Sponsor Ever

Julie White. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Julie White has tangled with Matthew Perry on the sitcom Go On, tended to Hal Holbrook in Lincoln, and mothered Shia LaBeouf in the Transformers movies. But it’s her current role as Jackie Peyton’s AA sponsor Antoinette on Nurse Jackie that may have left the Tony award winner (for 2006’s The Little Dog Laughed) most in need of a vacation. “Every week when I saw my character failing, it got more and more depressing to play,” says the actress in an interview with Vulture. “I was really glad when it was over!” We spoke to White about Antoinette’s recent admission, her blindness to Jackie’s drug use, and the future of her sponsorship. [Warning: Contains spoilers up through this past Sunday’s episode of Nurse Jackie.]

Antoinette kind of forces her AA sponsorship on Jackie. Is that a good way to begin that kind of relationship?
[Laughs] You tell me! It doesn’t seem to be working very well. Nurse Jackie is about an extraordinarily flawed protagonist. So it sort of makes sense her sponsor would be someone equally flawed. I do think Antoinette’s heart is in the right place.

She’s certainly a straight-shooter. After Jackie finds out her ex is getting married again, Antoinette doesn’t coddle her.
The hallmark of AA is honesty. So much of addiction is about lying — to everyone around you, to yourself. A sponsor is the one person who will be honest with you. What was frustrating was that Jackie was never honest with Antoinette. So by the end of it, I felt like, man, I am the worst sponsor ever! In my last episode, I made them put in the line: “I am the shittiest sponsor ever.” [Laughs hysterically.]

You say honesty is the hallmark of AA. But Antoinette goes with Jackie to spy on Mia, her ex’s new fiancée. Isn’t that encouraging dishonesty?
Well … Antoinette didn’t expect Jackie to run across the street and have that doozy of a confrontation. It was kind of a no-judgment thing. She does make fun of her, saying, “Oh, you’re not a lunatic. We’re just two nice ladies drinking really expensive coffee and spying on Kevin’s fiancée!”

When she meets Eddie, the pharmacist with whom Jackie had an affair, she asks him how long he and Jackie were sleeping together. Is she asking for Jackie or herself ?
Clearly Antoinette is not a by-the-book 12-stepper! As for Eddie, Jackie told her she slept with the pharmacist for drugs, so she knows Eddie enabled her. I think she’s attracted to him and a little suspect of him. Over the next few weeks, he and Antoinette go through an experience that bonds them.

So, is Antoinette the worst sponsor ever, or is Jackie just the sneakiest, most high-functioning addict? Antoinette tells Jackie she’ll be prone to bad, impulsive behavior and to promise not to make any big decisions. Then Jackie adopts a dog and lets her boyfriend Frank move in after previously telling Antoinette it’s a terrible idea.
This is why it became very hard to play. Antoinette is talking to Jackie as if she’s sober. She’s calling her on her stuff and trying to be there for her in a steady way, so Jackie feels she can trust her. I felt like an idiot a lot of the time. But Antoinette doesn’t watch the show! She doesn’t know the despicable things Jackie’s really doing, like sleeping with her drug dealer while Frank is home unpacking his stuff.

So, is Jackie just the most highest-functioning addict? I mean, she takes handfuls of Oxy at a time.
I know somebody who’s an Oxy addict who was going to a show-business function. The person’s manager handed her hairdresser an envelope with, like, 20 Oxys in it to help her get through the evening. Apparently the more you take it, the less it does for you. So you end up taking jillions of them to maintain.

On Sunday, we got to hear about Antoinette’s past, that she killed her husband while driving drunk. Why did it take her so long to tell Jackie her story?
She’d told her before the consequences of using would not only be for her, but she’d kill somebody else. [Now] she had to go that one bit further. In a way, maybe that was her ace in the hole. But who would want to tell anybody that?

And thinking Jackie was sober, maybe she didn’t feel it necessary to reveal her darkest secret.
Yeah, Antoinette was secretly drinking, like Jackie is secretly using, and thinking she could get away with it. There’s something Jackie does later on that, oh … Edie [Falco] said it’s going to make the audience so upset. Jackie really wants to keep using.

When we last see Jackie, she’s running after Frank, asking him for help after she’s told him she found a stash of Oxy under Grace’s mattress, taken seven pills, and doesn’t need him. Does she ask Antoinette for help too?
The three-day vacation Frank planned turns into a three-day detox at home, and Antoinette’s there.

A white-knuckle detox doesn’t exactly sound sponsor-approved.
Antoinette wants her to go into treatment, but she can’t force her. Maybe a better sponsor would.

Nurse Jackie’s been renewed. Will we see more of Antoinette?
I don’t know. I think when they were writing, they weren’t sure. It will be clear when I exit [this season]. Jackie doesn’t want this woman around and goes to great lengths to get rid of her.

So, any addictions of your own you care to reveal?
Oh, God, I’ve struggled with smoking since I was a teenager. That’s the hardest thing to give up.

Were you successful?
Ninety-nine percent of the time!

Nurse Jackie’s Julie White on Bad AA Sponsoring