Jackie Peyton does not lead a safe life.
The title character of Showtime's dark comedy "Nurse Jackie" is using — and stealing — drugs, cutting corners at work and is about to resume an affair with the stalkerish ex-lover who recently struck up a friendship with Jackie's husband.
Is there anything Jackie isn't capable of?
"No, I don't really think there is," Edie Falco, who's played the emergency room nurse for two seasons now, said in a phone interview last week.
"Especially if you add the variable of drug addiction, where so many rules change under those circumstances," Falco said. "Depending on how deep in she gets, I think she could potentially be capable of anything."
Clearly that's a big part of Jackie's appeal for the actress, who's in rehearsals for an off-Broadway production of "This Wide Night" —"me and Allison Pill, who is just beyond amazingly spectacular" — in which Falco plays an ex-convict "trying to find a life outside of prison."
But there's a difference between playing a character who lives on the edge of disaster and living there yourself, and it's a difference Falco appears to appreciate.
"You start out hoping that you'll trust them," she said of "Nurse Jackie" executive producers Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem. "You kind of go into it with a certain amount of trepidation, keeping your antennas up. But we've got a solid two-plus years under our belts — going on three years, since I met them — and we are still obviously on the same page ... tastewise."
It doesn't hurt that Falco, who came out of HBO's "The Sopranos" with three Emmys and considerably more show-business clout than she'd had going in, has managed to surround herself with people she trusts.
"Pretty much everybody working on 'Nurse Jackie' I have a history with, and that was not by accident," said Falco, whose lover on the show, a pharmacist named Eddie, is played by Paul Schulze, whom "Sopranos" fans will remember as Carmela's Father Phil.
"Me and Richie — my manager and executive producer of the show, Richie Jackson — and Liz and Linda spent a good deal of time hand-picking not just the cast, but the crew," Falco said. "Because if you've been doing it for a while, you really start to travel in the same circles and, ideally, when you get to a job, you're like, 'Oh, fantastic! He's working on this! That's great, I love that guy.' We got all of those guys in the cast and in the crew.
"So to be in an environment where you have absolutely secured a safety zone for yourself and your cast mates, it really is just completely different. The kind of thing you really hope for. The kind of thing very few people have the luxury of really being able to do.
"Going on set, I knew most of these people the first day," Falco said. "It's a very different thing. I really feel like — it feels a lot like home, you know? A very safe, comfortable place to be."
"Nurse Jackie" airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on Showtime.