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

 
 

AE: Do you pitch shows together too?
LW: Yeah, we do everything together. We’re both showrunners, we’re both producers. She’d never done TV before, but she’s a natural at it.

AE: It must be nice to work with a crew of other lesbians.
LW: It’s fascinating. We joke about our crew in New York. We have a bunch of what we call the “hardy straight girls.” You assume that they’re gay, but they’re not. (laughs)

And Richie (Jackson) is gay, so we have another gay executive producer. John Melfi was our executive producer last year, who I’d worked with on The Comeback, and he did Sex and the City. So a lot of the straight crew is like, “Wow, this is a really gay, female kind of show…” But it was the nicest, calmest, happiest set. Anyone will tell you, we had a great, great time.

AE: Plus, lesbians get things done!
LW: Right! And with 19 years in TV, I had the advantage of having learned what not to do. So I kept thinking, “I can’t wait until it’s my show, because it’s gonna be a fun party.

AE: How did the storyline for Coop’s lesbian moms (played by Blythe Danner and Swoosie Kurtz) come about?
LW: We kept thinking that we want a lesbian couple in this, how’s it going to be? Then Rick Cleveland shared a personal story about when his parents split up and his mom was with another woman. He adored this other woman. And it’s kind of his true story about the women who raised him.

Eve Best, Blythe Danner, Swoosie Kurtz and Peter Facinelli

LB: That’s what I want to grow up to be. I want to be Blythe Danner and Swoosie Kurtz. I want a relationship like that. Two lovely ladies who are just ladies in the world, just a couple of gals.

I remember when I was in high school seeing an article about San Francisco in Time or Newsweek, and there was a shoot of two women walking down the street, presumably on their lunch breaks, wearing work clothes like anybody wears in the accounting department. And they were holding hands. I suddenly felt there was nothing exceptional about them, they didn’t have cool hair or great boots or tattoos or any of the things that are kind of exciting and dazzling about early 80s lesbians. They were just two women who could blend into any crowd and loved each other.

Because I’m not a showy person, I’m too conventional. I’m never going to have a tattoo, I’m never going to be pierced, I’m never going to be radical, I’m never going to be cool. So I loved these women, because I was like, “I want to be like that. There’s room for me. There’s nothing visually exceptional about me or overtly political about me. I just want to live my life quietly. Equally.”

That’s what I love about Blythe and Swoosie. Like you can be a lady who lunches, you know? And still be gay. And that gave me so much hope when I saw that picture.

LW: Liz and I both wanted a normal lesbian couple on the show, because we think they’re wonderful. We’re totally bringing them back again, if we can get them, because we adore them, and they [Kurtz and Danner] are best friends in real life. So they were wonderful. And without giving anything away, there’s going to be more fun gay surprises this year.

AE: Fun gay and lesbian surprises?
LW: Yes! (laughs) It’s gay goodness coming down the pike on this show. I don’t want to give anything away, but keep watching because if everything works out, it’s going to be pretty f—ing great.

Why am I saying “f—ing” a lot today? I guess I’m a Merchant Marine. (laughs)

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