Tommy - Edie Falco interview

Edie Falco (Oz, The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie) plays the newly hired chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Abigail "Tommy" Thomas.

Tommy - Edie Falco interview

How would you describe your character in Tommy?

Tommy's got a very solid moral compass. She wants to do her job and she wants to do it well, and she also wants to do the right thing. She has a feeling of wanting to serve the people she works for, but that's easier said than done because there are so many variables at play.

How political is the show?

There are a lot of hot-button issues, but I think the writers were very smart to keep Tommy apolitical. We're keeping it to the idea of right and wrong. As soon as you bring politics into it, you lose half the country. I think the writers did a lovely job of keeping it about the issues at hand.

Your character is the first female police chief of the LAPD. How much does her gender play into the story?

Tommy comes from a cop family, so she's seen how this world works. However, I don't know if she ever thought, 'I see how Dad does it but I'm a girl, so it's going to be different for me.' I think she just sees, 'Dad's a cop. He takes care of the populace. He does the right thing and that's what I want to do.' She knows how to do this job and she knows she's more qualified than a lot of people who have come before her. Sure, she's going to get pushback at times - but if she continues to do the job well, people tend to come around. That's what I've found. The world is changing, and we have to change with it.

What research did you tackle in order to play a police commissioner?

First and foremost, this role is about a person. What is she going through? How does she behave with her co-workers? That's what the show is about. It's less about the nuts and bolts of being a police commissioner. I could've gone to see the police at work, but I did not. I read an interview with Anthony Hopkins a while ago. He talked about The Two Popes, which was a stunning performance of his. Somebody asked him, "Did you do any research on this man, who actually exists?" And he replied, "No. I just went out there and had fun." That's what I did here, too.

Weren't you tempted to experience a ride-along with the police?

I did that once for a role. I was playing an EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] or something similar. I followed along in an ambulance and I don't ever, ever want to do that again. It was awful. It involved seeing people on the worst day of their life, but I'm there saying, "Oh, hi. I'm doing a TV show about ..." No, that's not my thing.

How much of Los Angeles will audiences see in the show?

We shot the show in New York, but the story is based in LA. That's crazy, right? I live in New York. I can't move to LA for a role. My kids are young. They're in school and I'm a homebody. I was like, "Oh, this is a great script. It's too bad it takes place in LA." I put it aside and I moved onto the next thing, but it came back to me. I still can't believe it.

How many Los Angeles references will viewers recognise?

There are references made to not being able to find a good slice of pizza, and the fact that she's a little rough around the edges in coming from New York - but the LA setting is not a big theme of the show. Maybe the fact that she is a little rougher around the edges makes it a little easier for her to see herself as the chief of police because she has a different idea of what it means to be a female cop. I don't know. But the story taking place in LA as opposed to New York, where she's from, is not a big part of the dynamic of the show.

Were any scenes actually filmed in Los Angeles?

I shot one day out of 13 episodes in LA. I went jogging at the Griffith Observatory for a scene and they got as much LA into that one shot as they could. We shot mudslides and we shot brush fires in New York, but not LA. It was amazing. I need to give a huge shout-out to our art department and our scenic department. We had a truck with palm trees. Whenever we'd stop in front of a store to shoot a scene, we'd take the palm trees out, put them up to signify LA and then put them back in the truck afterwards!

How much of Tommy's personal life will be revealed in the story?

We get to see a lot of her personal life. We get to see lots of pieces of her family and the way she interacts with them. There's an ex-husband. There's a daughter. There's a lot to explore. And we get to see all of it.

Does Tommy's sexual orientation impact the way she approaches her job?

I don't think it does. She is a New Yorker. She's a woman. She's a blonde. She's a lot of things. Her sexual orientation is a part of who she is, but she doesn't wear a shirt that says, "I'm a lesbian." For me, I think it's important that every single person gets represented in television. I think everybody in the world wants to look at television and be able to find themselves somewhere. In the past, I think we've been leaving huge swaths of the population out of that experience.

Do you miss playing any of your lead characters from the past?

No, not really. I'm usually ready to move on by the time we're done with a show. However, if someone said they're going to redo The Sopranos, I'd be there next week. It's funny, because I'll be walking down the street in Manhattan and people will still say to me, "What the hell was that finale?" I'll reply, "Dude, that was 20 years ago. Get on with it. I don't know. I didn't write the show. I'm just a hired hand." I also get, "Is Jackie [from Nurse Jackie] dead?" I don't know. I decided that she was. But who knows? Who the hell knows? I'm not in charge of anything like that.

You've had a number of iconic roles in Hollywood. What recent changes have you observed in terms of quality roles for women?

I've been very blessed with the roles I've gotten over the years. I've been blessed with the roles that I've gotten to read for or consider, too. They've been very fun and rich. I'm not a real girly girl, so maybe the characters I get to look at might have more depth to them. In general, I see that women are getting to be powerful, strong and complicated on screen in a way that they didn't use to. I think that's because there's an audience for it now.

How do you choose your roles?

I like to choose projects that come from an intellectual place, although they always tend to be very different from the last role I played. When I'm reading a new script, I want to move quickly through it. I want to look forward to there being more to it. It's more about a visceral sense of being interested in the story or wanting to know what happens next.

What attracted you to Tommy?

I wanted to do Tommy because the writing's great, the script is smart and the character is funny. She talks the way real people talk, which I love. I also wanted to do Tommy because I love working on series television. Series television is the closest thing I can get to a real job. As I've gotten older, it starts to feel really nice to know that I have a Monday to Friday job.

How gruelling is the schedule when you play the lead character in a show like Tommy?

I am built for this kind of thing. I come from a long line of workers. I've always worked, ever since I was a kid. Even on The Sopranos, I would work three out of five days. It annoyed me when I wasn't on set because I wanted to be there. I work hard and I work best when I'm working hard. My kids have grown up on sets. My daughter runs around and hands out goodies to the cast and crew. I love it. I love it. I love it.