AM healthier than I have ever been.’’ That’s quite a statement from Edie Falco, given the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actor has battled cancer and alcohol addiction.
The Nurse Jackie star was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. She kept the news from her then-Sopranos cast mates for a year because she didn’t want them to pity her.
Even when she had to endure strong doses of chemotherapy, she’d turn up for work. She wanted to remain as normal as possible. Eight years later, Falco remains cancer-free. ‘‘ I’m one of the lucky ones,’’ she says. ‘‘ It (breast cancer) is for the most part very treatable if you get it early enough, but there are still nightmares. I keep hearing about people who waited too long or were misdiagnosed.’’
Her battle with the booze goes back further. This year, she celebrates two decades sober and she is proud of that achievement.
Falco hit the bottle hard in her 20s but decided to go cold turkey after ‘‘ one particular night of debauchery’’.
Falco has admitted she struggled during the decade she made The Sopranos (she played mafia wife Carmela Soprano), because the cast loved to party.
‘‘ I’ve been sober for 20 years and it (alcoholic Falco) feels like another person,’’ she says.
‘‘ I think an addict’s personality is forever. I’m no longer interested in anyone who is an active addict.’’
Falco’s addiction did have an upside. It gave her an insight into the character of emergency room nurse Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie. Peyton has a weakness for pharmaceuticals.
She also has a messy personal life — married and raising kids but having an affair with her pharmacist Eddie (Paul Schulze).
‘‘ I had been looking at a lot of scripts since The Sopranos and the one requirement was that I wanted something I found interesting,’’ Falco says. ‘‘ With Jackie, I thought, ‘ I want to be inside this brain for a while and see what it feels like’. Because of my experience, I think I’m able to understand how crazy she gets.’’
Falco is in a great place professionally, physically and emotionally, but her twin health battles have given her a new perspective on life.
She surrounds herself with positive people and has one heck of a ‘‘ bulls---detector’’.
Falco had a lot of say in the casting of Nurse Jackie and she was determined to create a harmonious set.
‘‘ I’ve been doing this (acting) for too long to want to spend 16-hour days with people who have attitude problems,’’ she says. ‘‘ On the set, we laugh our heads off. They’re (cast and crew) some of the funniest people I’ve ever known.’’
Nurse Jackie, Eleven, Tuesday 9.30pm Bad medicine: Edie Falco as the pillpopping nurse Jackie Peyton on