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The Madrid - Off-Broadway

Edie Falco stars in Manhattan Theatre Club's production of Flahive's new drama.

The Madrid’s Edie Falco on Carmela, Jackie and the High School Musical That Launched Her Career

The Madrid’s Edie Falco on Carmela, Jackie and the High School Musical That Launched Her Career
Edie Falco
Edie Falco describes her favorite roles, and her dream of appearing in a Broadway musical.

Before Edie Falco donned mob wife couture as Carmela in The Sopranos, she won a Theatre World Award for her harrowing performance as the embittered wife of a jazz musician in Warren Leight’s Tony-winning drama Side Man. Falco continued to make stage acting a priority while becoming only the second person in history to win lead acting Emmys in both drama (The Sopranos) and comedy (the title role in Nurse Jackie). Now starring as a runaway mom in MTC’s off-Broadway premiere of The Madrid, Falco chatted with about her iconic TV heroines, three favorite stage roles and the high school musical that gave her the confidence to pursue a career in acting.

Role That Was the Most Memorable
“I got my Equity card with Side Man [1998 as Terry Glimmer, Theatre World Award] and was involved in it from the first reading through Broadway and the West End. Everything about it was challenging and thrilling. My dad was a jazz musician, so I grew up in that world. The play addressed the nature of addiction—the husband’s addiction to jazz and how that passion affected his marriage, and Terry’s addiction to ‘drama’ and ultimately to alcohol. She was a large personality, and the play covered years of her life. I didn’t open on Broadway because I got cast in [the pilot of] The Sopranos. People said, ‘How could you go and do TV?’ but the truth was, I had never been out of debt my whole life, and I knew this pilot would pay off my debts. Who knew it would turn into 10 years of work?”

Role That Was the Least Like Me
“I remember reading the script of The Sopranos [1999-2007, as Carmela; three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama] and thinking, ‘I know exactly who this woman is.’ My second thought was, ‘I will never be cast.’ I didn’t look Italian in the way television traditionally casts people, but so much of the casting in the show was against type. Carmela’s physical presentation was a big part of who she was, and in that way, we could not have been more different. The amount of time it took to get ready! I couldn’t fathom the idea that a woman would spend that much time to present herself to world, even if she was just going shopping. [In later seasons], we got to see more sides of her, as opposed to just the wife of this guy. The weirdest thing was watching the kids grow up. Robert [Iler as A.J.] was 12 when I met him and 22 when the show ended.”

Role That Changed My Life
“I was a shy, awkward kid—I didn’t know how to be popular and never wore the right clothes—and being chosen to play Eliza in My Fair Lady at Northport High School [on Long Island] was very, very meaningful. My mother had been an actress, and the idea of auditioning for a play was mortifyingly scary for me. But Fran McGarry, who is still performing, cast me and gave me the confidence that I could carry a play and lead an ensemble. The fact that she trusted me was a huge part in my becoming an actress. My Henry Higgins was David Troup, who now works at a theater in Maine [Everyman Rep] and was one of my dearest friends. I would love to do a [Broadway] musical. I almost did Threepenny Opera with Alan Cumming, but I had a conflict. I find the whole mode of expression in musicals very moving.”

Role That Was the Darkest
“I would say that Nurse Jackie [2009–present, as Jackie Peyton; Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy] is my darkest role. She can come across as a strong, powerful, competent individual until you get to know her and you see how much inner turmoil this woman is trying to quiet. I responded first to the fact that she didn’t try to be liked, as so many characters do. It was refreshing to me to go a place where this woman is just trying to get stuff done, and let the chips fall where they may. She’s really a no-nonsense person, very urban, and that was appealing.”

Role That Was a Welcome Departure
“I really enjoyed playing Lorraine in This Wide Night [2010]. She was an ex con trying to get her life back together after being released from jail, an entity traveling through a difficult life. It was one of the few times I’ve played someone who was not a wife or a mother. She had been that, but it wasn’t what the play was about; it was the story of two troubled women looking for a connection. I’d do anything with [co-star] Alison Pill, because she’s a dream. [Performing in a tiny theater] was freeing because it wasn’t about ticket sales, it was about doing something I found interesting, and hopefully other people did, too.”

Role That Was the Most Joyful
Frankie and Johnny [in the Clair De Lune, 2002, as Frankie] was one of those momentous full-circle experiences. It was one of the first plays I saw as a kid—I came into the city to see it when Kathy Bates did it—so to be asked to do it all those years later was a thrill. It’s a two-hander, which is fun for me because I like to be on stage the whole time. It’s harder for me to keep the through-line of a story going if I’m off stage a lot. Frankie is very vulnerable and sweet; she’s someone the audience roots for and wants to take care of. It’s an incredibly romantic and moving story. I loved working with Stanley Tucci, and I love the play.”

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