Edie Falco returns to TV tonight, in her first ongoing TV series role since Nurse Jackie ended in 2015. She stars in the CBS drama Tommy as an NYPD officer who becomes L.A.’s first female chief of police.
Still best known for playing Carmela Soprano on HBO’s The Sopranos, Falco is the only actress to win Emmys in both the drama and comedy categories (for The Sopranos and Nurse Jackie). She spoke with Adweek about returning to TV, how close she came to not auditioning for The Sopranos, how Donald Trump prompted her to film the upcoming sequels to James Cameron’s Avatar and why she doesn’t appear in ads.
The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Adweek: This is your first regular TV gig since Nurse Jackie ended in 2015. Why was now the time for you to go back to TV?
Edie Falco: I don’t plan any of this stuff [laughs]. I’d like to say have an overall [plan]; I don’t. I love to work, so I am always reading stuff. I’m reading all kinds of scripts—plays and movies and a lot of stuff comes my way. But very little of it moves me. It’s hard work to work. Although I adore it, it is hard. So I’m going to pick something that I respond to. I have some sort of internal mechanism that lets me know if it’s something that’s interesting to me. And this was that thing.
Since Nurse Jackie ended, the entire TV landscape has changed, with all these streaming services, so it’s somewhat surprising to see you on a broadcast show. What was it about Tommy that made it the one for you?
I have to tell you, all that stuff—cable, network, streaming—I have never understood any of it. There are all these people, my agents and managers, who handle all that stuff. It’s the same thing that I always responded to. It’s the script. The character’s interesting. The other characters are interesting and things they say are smart. Some of them are funny. I couldn’t care less what the forum is.
The TV business has changed so much where your digital numbers are often even more important than your linear ratings.
That’s right. And I was thinking, “Well, we’re on Thursday nights. Isn’t that a big night for NBC?” Then I was like, “Who gives a shit? People watch whenever.”
Yes, the idea of what your competition is has changed so much.
And it’s changing as we’re sitting here. So I really stay out of it. As this whole world has changed, my job has remained exactly the same. There’s a script and I say these words.
As you were working on Tommy, what was important for you to have in there to make sure it was meaty for you and it wasn’t just whatever crime she’s trying to solve that week?
It’s a complicated thing because there are crimes, and the crimes have details and an audience wants to be able to follow it. And so, getting those details out to the audience is important. But I’ve also done some of those shows where you’re like, “All right, give that line to him, that line to her, that line to … .” Where it doesn’t matter who’s saying it. That doesn’t fly with me. There’s got to be a reason. Why is he saying that to her? He would never bring that up in front of her ’cause they had that [history]. So, the idea of hiding exposition is very important to me. Make it make sense within each character and what we know about them, that they’re the one telling you that piece of information. It’s not easy.
You almost always take projects in and around New York, where you live, and this is also shooting in New York even though it takes place in L.A. So I was really surprised when you ended up filming those Avatar sequels in New Zealand. How did that project actually pull you out of New York?
Trump. In a word. I was told that people in New Zealand know how to live. This is the one thing I’ve heard about it forever. People are like, “If I could retire anywhere, I’d go to New Zealand.” There’s something that we’re all aware of going on in this country right now that is very destabilizing. As a parent, it’s very hard. I have kids and I’ve got to tell them that we’re going to be all right, everything’s going to be all right, when I myself don’t entirely believe it. I wanted to go to a place where people live differently.
I hope I don’t get my ass kicked, but the project was not a big part of what I was responding to. Me and my kids went to New Zealand for almost four months, and I drove on the other side of the road, and we took seven-hour drives up into these places that, my imagination couldn’t have come up with the way some of these places looked. [Those people] grew up with a kindness in their day-to-day life that made them a different type of people.
It sounds like you got what you went there for.
Oh, my God, I got what I went there for! That’s one of the beautiful things about my job is I’ve gone to all kinds of places that I would never decide to go to in my day-to-day life. I wouldn’t go any place for four months if I wasn’t working there. So me and my kids got to live in a different country for awhile.