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

AE: There are people in the entertainment industry (some of whom are already out themselves) who still advise performers or those who are in other aspects of the industry not to come out professionally because it will hurt their careers and put them in the “gay entertainment ghetto.” (In fact, just recently there was a controversy over this in relation to some of Todd Holland’s alleged comments at Outfest.) What do you think about that attitude?
LW: It’s astonishing. I’ve noticed that in the last couple of months, a few friends whose managers have told them “Oh don’t do this, you shouldn’t be out.” It’s like, wow, what year is this? It just throws me. I think that’s really sad that even still out there…and again, being friends with Melissa, I joke and say that she’s on the lesbian dollar bill! She’s the face on that.

She’s just so wonderfully, beautifully out with her family and Tammy and all of that. And she’s just been such a role model for everybody, and I spend time with them and see how the world treats them. So when I hear that stuff, I just think it’s so sad. I don’t know why that’s still perpetuated. It’s puzzling to me because I feel that we’ve come so far.

Edie Falco and Linda Wallem

AE: Well, you’re proof that it’s not true, you’ve always been out and you’re successful.
LW: Yeah, and now with the show, I’m in a position that people can ask me. Because you know, before…I’ve done many pilots, but nothing ever went before. So nobody really cares about the co-executive producer who is gay.

And speaking of gay people, you know Nurse Thor on the show?

AE: Yes.
LW: That’s my little brother, Steve. He’s gay too. We’re two out of three in our family!
I told him though, "What good are you? You can’t blow dry my hair." He’s not good with the hair.

AE: He’s not that kind of gay?
LW: No, he’s not that kind of gay. But he’s adorable on the show.

AE: For those of our readers who have an interest in getting into the entertainment industry, what would you tell them about being out professionally and about of writing for television?
LW: Well, first of all, good writing is good writing. And usually, if you’re going into a meeting, it’s not about your sexuality, it’s about your point of view. Period. And just own that, no matter what it is.

For years, I was on so many different shows, and you kind of have to write in the voice of whoever created the show. But the thing that will get your attention, whether it’s in a spec script or a screenplay, is your truth. What is the unique story that you can tell? It might be just your story of growing up, it might be a gay story or it might not. But whatever it is, really dig deep. Don’t try to write like anyone else. Write your own unique point-of-view.

LB: Your ability to succeed is directly related to your ability to hear the word “no” than they can say it to you. Eventually, someone will say “yes.” You just have to persevere.

Here you go: George Foreman was the heavyweight champion of the world when he was 44-years old. It’s not because he was a superior boxer, it was because he could take a punch. You just have to keep going. Don’t stop.

AE: What do you think about the current state of representation of lesbians in film and TV? The L Word is gone now, and regardless of what you thought about it….
LW: Oh I totally watched it! I’m very sad it’s gone. I can’t believe there aren’t more shows like that. I’m kind of puzzled by that, and I’m hoping that will change. We’re doing our little part and I don’t want to give anything away, but…we’re doing our part. (laughs)

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