Interview with “Nurse Jackie” creators Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius

 
 

AE: Can you give us any hints as to what we can expect on the season finale, or even in the second season?
LW: All I can say is that I think by the end, people are going to just say, “Oh my God!”

One of my favorite things is that we have Wendy (Melvoin) and Lisa (Coleman), who do our music. We love them and still can’t believe we have them. They’re just geniuses.

One of the most fun things was when Lizzie and I went over to their studio and we had just finished shooting and brought the last four episodes over and sat there and watched them with Wendy and Lisa. They hadn’t seen them and hadn’t scored them yet.

So we’re sitting there and Lisa’s jaw is on the floor and Wendy is saying, “Jackie! No!” It was hilarious and thrilling to see their reactions.

So I’ll just say that the last four episodes kind of blew Wendy and Lisa’s heads off, and I think they will for everyone else too. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s great. And it sets us up beautifully for what’s going to happen in season two.

LB: There are lots of close calls, and there are consequences. All of season one has been a high-wire act and a juggling act and she hasn’t stumbled at all. Well, she stumbles.

AE: Part of why the show is great is because of the quality of the writing. It’s rare that you get TV (or films) with truly great writing. What other writers or shows have influenced your own writing?
LW: We have an amazing small group of writers. We have Rick Cleveland, who won an Emmy for The West Wing, Christine Zander who I’ve known for years. She comes from 30 Rock, and she did the Ab Fab pilot this year, which was great. I was sad it didn’t go, but glad we got her back. We were all at Carsey-Werner together, where I worked on Cybill and That ‘70s Show.

We have Liz Flahive,  who has never done TV or movies before but she’s this gorgeous playwright from New York.  And the beautiful Mark Hudis. I worked with him on Cybill and That ’70s Show. He’s one of the best writers I know, and I can’t believe we got him for this show.

We also have Jennifer Hoppe and Nancy Fichman — two more lesbians. (We have a lot of lesbians in the room.) They’ve done features and I say they’re the best kept secret in Hollywood. They’ve written all these beautiful features but nothing was produced yet, and they’re just geniuses. So we have this really great eclectic group of writers and we all make each other laugh a lot. But we also test each other and challenge each other to tell stories and make the kind of show that we’d want to watch.

LB: I love writing, and I love writers. I studied poetry for five years, I taught poetry at the University of Massachusetts for five years, so the writers that I love are not screenwriters or television writers. I love playwrights. I love Harold Pinter, and I love Eugene O’Neill. I love Anne Sexton, the poet, Elizabeth Bishop, the poet.

Linda brings to this 20 years of television, so she knows how television runs, and I know poetry and plays. So you end up with Nurse Jackie, a very savvy TV show with a very poetic heart.

Linda has a poetic heart too, all of our writers do. But that’s where I live. There’s that line in the show where she [Jackie] says “Quiet and mean, those are my people.” I would say “Poets and playwrights, those are my people.”

AE: How did you two become writing partners?
LW: We were actually girlfriends (laughs).

AE: Of course you were! You’re lesbians!
LW: Then we did Insatiable together, which was this pilot for Showtime. And, unfortunately, after that we broke up. But we stayed together writing. Then we did another pilot for Showtime which didn’t go. It was the Untitled Cougar Project (laughs), we were the first one on that wave, then Nurse Jackie happened.

So that’s what happened. We were girlfriends, we broke up, but we stayed together writing and it’s a perfect partnership.

AE: So remaining friends with your girlfriend can sometimes turn out to be a good thing.
LW: Yes! It can be tricky, but we worked it out.

Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius

AE: So about the Untitled Cougar Project…
LW: Oh my god, it was so naughty! When I worked on that ‘70s Show, I said, “What if I had been straight and had run that ‘70s Show, but I had an affair with Ashton (Kutcher) when he was 15?” That was the whole idea of the show. But no, the lead of the show, at that point, he was like 17, but this woman who was in her 30s had this affair with him.

Again…we’re just glad that Nurse Jackie came along (laughs).

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