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


Nurse Jackie, starring Edie Falco (The Sopranos) as the complicated, sweet-and-sour title character, has been a surprise hit for Showtime. With its strong female characters and gay-inclusive storylines — one of the lead characters, Mo-Mo (Haaz Slieman), is gay and the show recently featured a lesbian couple played by Swoosie Kurtz and Blythe Danner — the drama has become a favorite with LGBT viewers as well.

A big part of Nurse Jackie’s progressive recipe for success are its co-creators and co-show runners, Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius — who also just happen to be out lesbians.

Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius

We spoke to both of them about writing gay storylines, where Nurse Jackie is headed in its second season, and how they’ve fared as out lesbians in entertainment. Congratulations on the success of Nurse Jackie. Only two days after its premiere episode, it was picked up for a second season!

Linda Wallem: We were thrilled! That never happens. I’ve been working in TV for a long time. They just did the mother of all promotions for it and the day after it aired we were so happy.  We were hoping they’d pick us up maybe a month after. But two days after, that’s thrilling.

We’re just over the moon. We can’t believe we’re working with Edie Falco and the stories we get to tell…and Showtime has been just amazing. We have to pinch ourselves!  We get to do Season Two with these characters, and we have the greatest writers…I don’t know, I just can’t believe it.

AE: What about Nurse Jackie makes you the most proud?

LW:  The thing I’m most proud of is that when me and Lizzie and Edie and her manager, Richie Jackson (who now is an executive producer on the show) sat down together and said, “Let’s do this.” And we dreamed what it would be. We looked at each other at the end and said “It’s even better than we thought.” 

And I’m proud that we all stuck to our guns in terms of the integrity of the stories we wanted to tell and not get network-y about it.

Liz Brixius: I’m proud that it’s a show centered around a really fascinating, complicated woman in her 40s.

Most of the medical shows out there are male-centric, or hot young 20-year olds saving lives. This is just one of the greatest actors of our generation, and the show is built around her. Everybody who works on that show works at such a high caliber because of her, and it’s a cool, smart show that, in my opinion, reflects what’s going on in the real world.

It’s not a fantasy show. We have a crumbling health care system, and this is a show about the crumbling health care system.  People overextend themselves, and Jackie overextends herself.  People try to be good mothers, and be good nurses and be good people. But the reality is, we’re all really flawed. And Edie handles it beautifully.

Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie

AE: You don’t hear those stories very often in television, where creators truly have the freedom to make exactly what they want and it comes out even better than expected.

LW: And that’s a big hats off to Bob Greenblatt (Showtime President of Entertainment) and to Showtime. They are just the most supportive network in the world, and he specifically gives very smart, thoughtful notes. And it’s not done by committee. I did network TV for years and you’d be on the phone with 30 people, all just trying to justify their jobs! 

But with Bob, they have a co-production with Lionsgate and they have this beautiful system.  It all goes through Bob, and then Bob gives us notes on everything. He’s a big reason why it’s so good.

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