(CBS Local)– Edie Falco has played some of the most interesting characters on television in the last 20 years.
She starred as Carmela Soprano on “The Sopranos,” navigated life and death scenarios as Jackie Peyton on Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and now she’s the lead of CBS’s new “Tommy.” The multiple Emmy winner plays a former high-ranking NYPD officer who becomes the first female chief of police in Los Angeles history.
Falco spoke with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about the show, which premieres on Thursday, her career, and her role models.
DJ Sixsmith: What appealed to you about the show and about the character?
Edie Falco: I liked the script. It was smart and funny and gave the character of Tommy plenty to do. She kind of has a sense of humor. Those are things that are hard to come by in a lot of the previous scripts I had read.
DS: What was the toughest challenge of playing this character?
EF: Well, I don’t know if it was a challenge as much as it was a fun place to go. I like the fact that she is in charge of a lot of people and she has to hold her own among people that may not have her back right away. She’s kind of a wise guy a little bit. Her sense of humor is a part of who she is and she has a fair amount of confidence about that.
DS: The TV industry has shifted a lot since your days on “The Sopranos.” What has it been like for you to see the television blow up over the last 15-20 years?
EF: It’s made me feel happy and lucky. I remember in acting school that the idea of going off to do television meant that you were sort of selling out. Over the period of time that I’ve been working, it really is the destination place for a lot of actors. It’s where some of the best work is being done. The idea of a steady job where you have an idea of what you’re doing for a period of time in the future is an unusual blessing for an actor.
DS: Who are some of the actors you’ve learned the most from during your career?
EF: I’ve always been a huge Meryl Streep fan for a very long time. Laurie Metcalf is another… I’m a huge fan of hers and I saw her in a play in New York and was dumbfounded at her talent. Daniel Day-Lewis. I’m afraid these are a lot of names that people feel the same way about.
DS: How about the battle between New York and Los Angeles in this show. What was it like for you to play with that concept?
EF: We were lucky in that it was about a New Yorker coming to a city she’s not familiar with. She had to get to know who she is in that environment and who are the people she works with. She doesn’t know the city and she’s a fish out of water in a lot of different ways. It’s kind of nice to start the series where she doesn’t know the people around her because we were all in real life getting to know each other as well. It worked in our favor.
DS: Your character also doesn’t know who she can trust. What was it like unpacking that?
EF: A lot of that was written in. She doesn’t know who is who. In her old environment in New York, I’m sure she knew who her allies were and the people she needed to keep an eye on. That’s sometimes something that takes a long time to learn. Now she’s starting fresh.
DS: When people watch the show, what are some big things you want them to think about?
EF: We are taking a look at lots of national and international issues that we’re dealing with as a culture right now. I’m hoping people who thought they knew how they felt about some of these things might be spurred to open their minds a little bit. We can give them a different way to imagine the outcome. A different way to think about it and find out how other people feel. It’s a place we’re really struggling in our real life culture. I think if we could do that, we’d be very lucky.
Watch “Tommy” Thursday at 10pm EST/PST