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Falco Led 'NURSE JACKIE' Premieres on Showtime 6/8, Best & Smith to Co-Star

On Monday, June 8th, at 10:30 PM ET/PT, SHOWTIME will premiere the new, half-hour dark comedy NURSE JACKIE, marking the triumphant return to premium television of Emmy® Award-winning actress Edie Falco. The series, inspired from the provocative journal of a real-life Manhattan ER nurse, is executive produced by Caryn Mandabach, John Melfi, Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem.

The series is created by Evan Dunsky and Liz Brixius & Linda Wallem.

Press notes give us a great deal of information on the exciting new series: Best known, for her three-time Emmy®-winning role as mafia wife ‘Carmela Soprano,' Edie Falco breathes life and humor into this original, complex character who is at once Saint (nurse, wife, mother...) and Sinner (addicted to pain killers, adulterer, vigilante...). "I started reading a lot of scripts after I finished The Sopranos," says Falco. "I thought I would know when the right script came - and that's what happened." There was a lot in the pilot that helps introduce the kind of woman Nurse Jackie is, throwing the ear in the toilet, giving the money and boots to the young girl - Jackie has her own ‘Robin Hood' complex - taking justice into her own hands while barely staying within the boundaries of the law." Co-executive producer Richie Jackson adds, "Jackie always tries to do the right thing even if her means are unconventional...Things aren't always black and white, right or wrong and that's where Jackie lives - in the grey."

Shot entirely in New York, principal filming began in November 2008. The production built its standing sets in the shadow of the 59th Street Bridge at Kaufman Studios in Astoria, Queens, just down the road from Silver Cup studios where Falco worked during her Sopranos days. The All Saints Hospital interiors were shot there, with extensive location filming on the streets of New York City including Baruch College on 24th and Lexington, (which doubles for the exterior of All Saints), to a quaint Irish pub on Crescent Street in Queens named Kelly's Bar and Grill (husband Kevin Peyton's bar in the show), along with several other off-the-grid sites that help to create a lush and diverse backdrop for Jackie's complicated world. "I have been involved in more aspects of this production than ever before," admits Falco. "I was included in conversations about production - cast and crew decisions, dialogue, etc. and have been surprised to discover that I actually have opinions about these things and have loved being part of the larger process."

For audiences who might be yawned-out from typical medical shows, NURSE JACKIE isn't about unwittingly handsome doctors or bizarre medical conditions. It's not Seattle Grace or County General. It's All Saints, and we experience it through Jackie's point of view -- a blue-collar, subway-riding, working mom from Queens. "Nurses are heroes," says Brixius, "they're like firemen. Those are the stories we want to tell -- A fiercely protective nurse and mother whose life is complicated and full of double-standards." Wallem continues: "Jackie Peyton doesn't have magical powers or solve crimes. She is hard working and trying to make a living and is great at her job, but very flawed and very heroic."

In an effort to gauge the views of the nursing community, a special advance screening of the NURSE JACKIE pilot episode was held at New York's Roosevelt Hospital for a select group of emergency room nurses who overwhelmingly approved of and enjoyed the series and Falco's performance. While they would never adopt her vigilante ideals and practices, those in the trenches could relate to her and were thrilled that a strong, smart nurse was finally showcased in a television series and the world would see some of the real issues they face head-on everyday.

A New York City emergency room is a melting pot where all walks of life come on the worst days of their lives to be treated. Working alongside Jackie at the All Saint's ER is a staff that is itself a microcosm of the city, equally dramatic, hilarious and flawed...

Fellow nurse, Mohammed "Mo-mo" de la Cruz (Haaz Sleiman, The Visitor) is Jackie's street-smart confidante with a biting sense of "gallows" humor. He understands the trenches better than anyone. Sleiman says of his character and working with Jackie..."they sort of cover each other's little bad doings. And he has her back - they have the best sort of friendship...they don't judge one another, they're always there for each other, and they almost finish each other's sentences..."

Her best and most unlikely friendship, however, is with the hilariously droll Brit, Dr. Eleanor O'Hara (two-time Tony® nominee Eve Best). O'Hara's disdain for stupidity is matched only by her respect and affection for Jackie. "They're both very intelligent, very good at what they do and share the same sense of humor," says Best. "They're both the kind of people who are intensely good, but intensely unsentimental."

Watching and learning from Jackie's every move is Zoey Barkow (MERRITT WEVER, Michael Clayton, Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip), an impressionable, exuberant, first-year nursing student whose enthusiasm for nursing has yet to be dampened by the grind of cranky patients and a flawed healthcare system. "Jackie is the old hand who knows all the tricks," says Wever. "Zoey is brand spanking new and everything is really exciting...getting through the smallest procedure is a very big deal, but she sees that nursing is difficult and sometimes thinks she doesn't have the backbone or isn't good enough." 

And always throwing a wrench in the machine is the young, seemingly perfect, Dr. Fitch "Coop" Cooper (PETER FACINELLI, Twilight, Six Feet Under), who typifies the smug, Ivy League doctors who have trolled the hospital halls for decades on their way to the golf course, leaving the nurses to deal with the repercussions of their drive-by diagnoses. Says Facinelli, "It was half-way through the season and I still never knew what Dr. Cooper was going to do - he has these manic highs and lows. When he gets nervous he acts out with inappropriate sexual touching as you see in the pilot episode...I don't think Jackie's life would be as adventurous if Dr. Cooper wasn't in it."
And somehow, it's all held together by the old-guard, by-the-book, ER Administrator Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith, The West Wing), who truly believes, "...there's not a move in the repertoire that I haven't seen."

Which begs the question: how could she not know that Jackie is having an affair with the pharmacist, Eddie Walzer (PAUL SCHULZE, The Sopranos), who showers her with love and the painkiller Percocet. Maybe it's because Jackie is just that good at keeping her secrets and flying under the radar, at least for now. Schulze says, "Jackie rationalizes very well, she's extremely gifted at what she does but at the same time addicted to pain killers...she's sleeping with my character in the pharmacy from time to time. I don't know about her husband and her husband doesn't know about me, so she's got a lot on her plate."

It's a high-wire act, juggling patients, doctors, an addiction to pain killers, and a picture-perfect family. Her husband, Kevin Peyton (Dominic Fumusa) and daughters Grace and Fiona (RUBY JERINS and DAISY TAHAN) experience Jackie as a focused and loving wife and mother. "She definitely has a bunch of different lives going on simultaneously but they're mutually exclusive," says Falco. "Somehow she's managing to keep them both going at a high rate of functionality. There's something psychotic about it, but completely intriguing and interesting to me."

NURSE JACKIE is at turns wicked, heartbreaking and funny. At its center is a character, compelled by her own sense of morality. As Brixius says, "If she didn't think what she was doing was justifiable, she wouldn't be doing it. Jackie is, among many things, a lapsed Catholic - who is faithful to her vision of right and wrong. She's proud, and she's smart. She's a little bit like ‘Dirty Harry' if ‘Dirty Harry' were a nurse...and a her forties."
Perhaps there will be a time when Jackie can break free of her secrets and addictions, but until that time, NURSE JACKIE offers a riveting glimpse inside the heart and soul of a functioning addict, a loving wife, mother, and a first-class nurse. Falco says, "Jackie is a force to be reckoned with...She gets done what needs to get done and doesn't let anyone or anything get in her way."

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Photo Credit: Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.

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