Contender Q&A: Edie Falco and Merritt Wever from ‘Nurse Jackie’

Rain and a single paparazzo threaten on the streets of Tribeca on this spring afternoon, but " Nurse Jackie’s” Edie Falco and Merritt Wever are taking a chance with both. They’ve settled in at an outdoor table just outside Falco’s favorite local cafe, Peace & Love, to chat about their polar opposite characters on Showtime’s hit series. But don’t expect the mentor-mentee relationship that the no-nonsense titular character (Falco) and the panda-smock-wearing ingénue Zoey (Wever) have on the show — the actresses are too busy processing that it’s Emmy season already. Instead, things turned quite clinical, as The Envelope sorted through their chat about aneurysms and IV insertion.

So, the Emmys are coming up …

Edie Falco: Oh, for … sake. Excuse me. I never know what’s up with that.

Well, it’s just the nominations.

Falco: Oh, good. I thought you meant the show.

Edie, you’ve been several times — and have three wins for “The Sopranos.” Merritt, if you get a nomination, will you ask her for advice?

Wever: Probably … um … aaah! I had a little aneurysm there. I think the quickest way to make everything awful would be to ask you for advice about everything.

Falco: Oh, Lord have mercy.

Wever: “What do you think I should do? How was I in that last scene?”

Falco: “Enough about me, what do you think about me?”

Wever: And after the 12-hour workday, you could braid my hair. We can do sense memory together.

Speaking of memory issues, do either of you have a problem with all that medical jargon?

Wever: While we’re doing one scene, I’m still memorizing the next scene that comes along. I’m always trying to memorize lines, whether I understand them or not.

Falco: That’s the scary truth. The common misconception is that as an actress you have to learn what you’re doing. No, you just have to make the audience think you’ve learned it.

Wever: And they frame out your hands when you’re trying to do complex procedures.

Falco: That’s right! We have a real nurse on set, and I’ve asked her to do things like put in an IV — just the hands part. Otherwise, we lose validity across the board.

Edie, you’re just a few years past from being treated for breast cancer. Did you think about that before signing on to play a nurse?

Falco: Well, it’s an emergency room [on “Jackie”], so it’s a very different situation in that regard. I have mixed feelings about the fact that my experience in a hospital is not the same as everyone else’s, because I’m on a TV show. I had a lot of people treating me very well and paying a lot of attention to me. My sister just kept saying, “Be grateful. Be grateful,” which I try to do, but I’ve been a regular person far longer than I’ve been a person on TV.

Do you think audiences are responding to “Jackie” in part because it shows healthcare providers really fighting for the patients?

Falco: I never really thought about what comment it may be making on the healthcare system. It could be about a cafe going out of business and an old-school owner who sticks to making bread the old way. Does it say anything about the economy and the country at this moment? Maybe, but it really is more about this person.

How do you keep each other entertained on the set?

Wever: People are pretty aware of trying to keep a good energy up because people get tired. Usually, I’m trying to sleep if I have a half-hour off, but people try to maintain a good awake energy.

Are you anything like your characters? Merritt, you don’t wear panda shirts and big earrings in real life, do you?

Wever: No, no — wardrobe does a great job. Zoey is a sight gag. You show up in that gear and you don’t have to say much.

Falco: I’m sure there must be some of Jackie in me. Maybe there’s a part of me that wants to be more like her. I like that she says what she means and doesn’t spend a lot of time picking words. She’s not as concerned about the ramifications of her actions as I am. It takes a lot of energy, second-guessing all the time.