Edie Falco is a master of the tough exterior: The mob boss’s wife in “The Sopranos.” The drug-addicted E.R. nurse in “Nurse Jackie.” And now, in her new CBS series, “Tommy,” the jaw-busting, gay, first female chief of the L.A.P.D.
But in person, Falco comes across as a big softy whose human and fur family — her son, Anderson, 15, daughter, Macy, 11, and two rescue dogs — outranks her Emmy-heavy career. Calling at noon on the dot from her West Village home (“I’m a nerd like that,” she said), Falco rattled off 10 things she can’t fathom living without and pondered a few growing pains. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
1. CNN I turned on CNN on 9/11, and I don’t think I’ve turned it off. I’ve been in some state of high alert internally. The way things are right now, I certainly don’t trust that the government has my back in the way that I used to. So I feel like I just need to stay on top of what’s happening and be sure I’m prepared for storms, missile launches, floods, whatever. They are my celebrities, John Berman, Alisyn Camerota, Jake Tapper. If I saw them on the street, I’d get all googly-eyed.
2. Joni Mitchell I have been listening to her since I was a little kid. My mom [Judith Anderson] used to do community theater, and I used to go with her all the time, and it was tech, and they were setting up the lights, and they were playing Joni Mitchell in the background. And I thought, who the heck can sing like this? And that was the beginning of a lifelong love affair.
3. Elena Ferrante’s Books I became obsessed with “My Brilliant Friend” and all those [other Neapolitan novels]. Female friendships are so interesting and complicated, and she really seemed to get all the complexities of relationships with girls that are fraught and deep and toxic and nourishing. I’d never seen it depicted in a way that I recognized quite as accurately.
4. Washington Square Park Dog Run My first love was my dog Marley, a yellow Lab/white shepherd mix. When I was living on my own and I didn’t have kids, it was just she and I, and she grew up in the dog run. Nobody’s unhappy in there. Everybody’s laughing, smiling and looking at the dogs together. It’s unfettered by the loneliness that people can feel in New York. Now I have two dogs: Sami, a Brussels Griffon who was a mommy in a puppy mill until they busted the puppy mill, and Niko, a Border collie mix, another rescue dog. Rescuing animals is very important to me.
5. Village Vanguard I was very, very close to my dad [Frank Falco]. I lost him a couple of years ago and it’s still not easy. He was a huge jazz fan, and he and I had gone there a bunch of times together, and they are experiences that loom large still. We saw Billy Eckstine there a thousand years ago, and my dad was just in heaven.
6. Outsider Art Fair It’s a little bit like independent films. When it started out, [the artists] were real outsiders. But now as they’ve become more popular, maybe they’re not quite outsiders anymore. Some of them were mentally ill, some of them were incarcerated, and they made art without rules. And I find it profoundly moving. Many years ago, I fell in love with a painting by Terry Turrell, and I bought it. I’m almost embarrassed, but I have probably 15 pieces of art that he’s made. It gets my heart-rate going when I see a new piece of work of his.
7. ABC Carpet & Home Who doesn’t want to live there? It really feels more like a museum than a store. The sensory of the experience of walking through that door, if there was ever a use for the word delightful … because I am just delighted. The colors, the smells, the feel of the fabrics, the crazy design of the place. Every bunch of years I will give myself a little shopping spree to get a new blanket or bedspread or rug. Everything in there is the way I wish my house looked.
8. John Golden Theater My first Broadway show, “Side Man,” was there 150,000 years ago [actually, in 1999], and it holds a very special place. I would walk to work and giggle to myself every frigging day, like, “Are you kidding me?” The excitement of having a career that just felt absolutely unattainable for a lot of years. I will never not be that sort of awkward girl from Long Island wondering what I’m going to do with my life. And I still have moments where I can’t believe that I get to do the stuff that I do.
9. Kadampa Meditation Center I have been a student of Buddhism for about 25 years. And I have had one main teacher, Kadam Morten Clausen, who has run this center for all those years, and a very, very wise man at a time when that’s not easy to come by. Of all the seeking that I’ve done, I landed at Buddhism and I never have stopped being able to feed from it. It helps me enjoy my life, to learn how to live better, how to be kind to other people. These principles, there’s a reason they’ve been around so long.
10. My Dad’s Sculptures They were all around my house growing up. And when he passed away and I started going through the house, there was so much more artwork that I didn’t even know about. He was left-handed, and so he was doing a sculpture of his left hand with his right hand. And then he had it cast in bronze. So I’m sitting next to a sculpture of my dad’s hand, which is very, very meaningful to me.