COLIN VICK­ERY

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

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

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