Skip to main content

Actress Edie Falco

Actress Edie Falco plays Carmella Soprano, wife of Tony Soprano on the HBO drama The Sopranos. She too has been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding lead Actress in a Drama Series. The role turned her from a relative unknown to a TV star. She had roles on Law & Order and Homicide: Life on the Street. She starred in the independent films Judy Berlin, Trust and Laws of Gravity.

14:57

Other segments from the episode on October 5, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 5, 2001: Interview with Jane Kaczmarek; Interview with Edie Falco; Review of the film "L-I-E;" Commentary on the term "Terrorism."

Transcript

DATE October 5, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Jane Kaczmarek talks about her career and being nominated
for an Emmy for her role as Lois on "Malcolm in the Middle"
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, filling in for Terry Gross.

This Sunday, the Emmy Awards will take place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los
Angeles and will air on CBS. The ceremonies had been scheduled for September
16th, but were canceled because of the tragic events of the previous week. We
also postponed interviews Terry recorded with Emmy nominees Jane Kaczmarek and
Edie Falco. Kaczmarek is up for best actress in a comedy, and Falco for best
actress in an drama. We'll play those interviews for you today.

First, Jane Kaczmarek. She plays Lois, the controlling, devoted mother of a
brood of four boys on the Fox show "Malcolm in the Middle." In previous
seasons, she was seen on TV as Felicity's mom and on "Frasier," "Party of
Five," "Picket Fences" and "Hill Street Blues." Kaczmarek was actually
trained at the Yale School of Drama. She appeared on Broadway in "Lost in
Yonkers." But unlike a lot of classically trained actresses, she prefers
working in television. In contrast to Hal, the father on "Malcolm in the
Middle," Kaczmarek's Lois keeps a tight rein on the household, or at least she
tries to. Here she is checking up on her youngest son, Dewey, whom she
sent to bed early as a punishment.

(Soundbite of "Malcolm in the Middle")

Ms. JANE KACZMAREK ("Lois"): What's going on? I haven't heard a peep out of
you in over an hour.

ERIK PER SULLIVAN ("Dewey"): I'm kind of tired.

Ms. KACZMAREK: But you haven't tried your fake running away or your
sleepwalking yet. It's not like you to give up so easily.

SULLIVAN: Egh.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Maybe you finally learned that all those silly little games
you play aren't going to get you anywhere.

SULLIVAN: I guess.

Ms. KACZMAREK: When you're punished in this house, you're going to serve your
time. There's no getting around it. Well, I suppose you've suffered enough.
I guess there's no harm in 20 minutes of television.

SULLIVAN: OK.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Wait a minute. Unless this is a new ploy. You get right back
into bed, Mister.

SULLIVAN: OK.

Ms. KACZMAREK: No. No. Hold on. I'm being ridiculous. Go watch TV. Wait.
Not so fast. I'm not fallin' for it. I'm being ridiculous, but you are not
getting away with it. Go watch TV. No. Stop. Stop. Stay right where you
are. OK. OK, I'll tell you what we're going to do. You are going to watch
television, but it is going to be something you're not going to enjoy.
C-SPAN. That ought to do it. OK, who just won?

SULLIVAN: I'm not sure.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Jane Kaczmarek, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: I want to start by asking you to describe your character on "Malcolm
in the Middle" in your own words.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Well, she's very loud, and she's often in a hurry, most always
in a hurry. And I think she has a very big heart that is often being
challenged. I think she loves her family very much, but there are so many
outside circumstances. There's never enough money. There's never enough
time. There are a lot of boys in that family, including my husband, Hal.
So I think there's a lot of chaos in her life, but she's capable of juggling
quite a lot.

GROSS: To kind of give people who haven't seen the show a sense of her
character, maybe you can describe her reacting to some problem that one of the
boys has had.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Well, probably one of the more memorable was I find a favorite
dress of mine--Lois finds a favorite dress of hers burned and in the toilet,
and it's her anniversary and she's looking forward to going out with husband
in this fancy red dress. And in order to get the boys to confess who is
responsible for it, she puts them through a series of very ingenious
punishments. One is putting their heads under the sofa in the living room,
which we see, through a wonderful camera angle, is littered with pizza and
toys and old socks. And just the idea of making someone keep their head under
a sofa, looking at all this detritus until they speak is one of my favorite
things that she ever made people do.

GROSS: Now a lot of what happens on the show is intentionally broad. How did
you figure out how broad to play your character?

Ms. KACZMAREK: I am blessed with having a wonderful executive producer,
Linwood Boomer, three great directors that we use--Ken Kwapis, Jeff Melman and
Todd Holland--who keep a very, very tight rein on the shenanigans that go on
on that set. I come from the theater and I'm very comfortable getting very,
very big. And I kind of hit it out and wait for them to tell me how far to
pull it back or how far even more to hit it out, so I rely very, very heavily
on the powers on our "Malcolm" set to decide exactly where Lois is going to be
from scene to scene.

GROSS: Now sometimes when your character is really angry and about to explode
at one of the boys, your eyes cross a little bit.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Well, you know what? My mother never sees this. I first
found out about this actually the very first time I did a television movie.
It was the first job I ever got and the director of photography started
noticing that if I looked in a certain angle, this eye would go. I was never
aware of this. And my mother has never been aware of this. I had a boyfriend
at the time who just thought it was sexy and I was doing it to be sexy. I
think it's kind of a weak eye that tends to wander sometime. It's something
I'm never, ever aware of, and some people claim they never see it. Some
people claim they see it all the time. So my eyes are kind of close set also,
so I think sometimes in different angles or when I'm really cranked up, that
thing starts wandering. But there was some review recently that mentioned
that I looked like a feral animal or something with my eyes. It's become kind
of a dear little part of Lois.

GROSS: It seems that, you know, parts of "Malcolm in the Middle" are really
playing to the kids in the audience and parts are really playing for the
adults. Which parts are which? Like can you look at any show and say, `This
stuff is for the kids, this stuff is for the adults'?

Ms. KACZMAREK: Oh, sure. Usually when food is flying, it's for the kids.
Usually when my husband and I are making out on the couch, it's for the
adults. That's one of the lovely things about this character and something I
enjoy so much, especially working with Bryan Cranston, who plays Hal. We have
a very hot marriage, and it's a very realistic kind of romance. Neither of us
are glamour pusses, Hal and Lois, and yet, we're a couple who really likes
each other and is very sexually active in a very realistic way. And I think
that's a great thing to see on television.

GROSS: Well, I question exactly how realistic it is. I mean that in a comic
way. Like there's times when they're hot for each other and the boys are in
the living room and you'll say, `Boys, upstairs to your room,' so that you can
have the living room to yourself.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Like that would ever happen.

GROSS: Right.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Yeah, right. Yeah, you're right.

GROSS: Now usually in family sitcoms, it's pretty sexless between the husband
and wife. I mean, at least the ones when I grew up with, it was pretty
sexless between the husband and wife. Were there any concerns within the
production staff of the show that there'd be objections to this being a family
comedy because the kids would be seeing sex stuff? Not that it's explicit at
all, but the kid could say to the parents while they're watching at home, `I
don't understand what's happening between the mother and the father. Could
you explain that?'

Ms. KACZMAREK: In the back of that car.

GROSS: Yeah.

Ms. KACZMAREK: All the time. There are lots of times, Bryan and I--Bryan
Cranston and I read a script and look at each other and say, `Can we do this?'
And I guess we can. We're married, and I think that makes people a lot more
uncomfortable seeing friskiness between married people. We've gotten so used
to watching television shows where it's, you know, the singles, you know,
younger people are jumping in bed with everybody, that seems to be what
everyone is used to as sex on television these days. Seeing married people
who are frisky is kind of uncomfortable. And I suppose it goes back to
everyone's own private situation. No one ever wants to think of their parents
having sex. So maybe that's what makes people a little uncomfortable.

GROSS: Jane Kaczmarek is my guest. She's nominated for an Emmy Award for her
starring role in "Malcolm in the Middle" as Lois, the mother.

What sitcoms did you grow up with?

Ms. KACZMAREK: "That Girl" and "Bewitched." I think Thursday night is still
my favorite night of the week because I remember watching those. "Leave it to
Beaver." There was a wonderful sitcom called "He & She." That was Paula
Prentiss and Dick Benjamin, very short lived, that I remember loving. I
watched a lot of TV as a kid. Those were the days, you know, there were three
channels on and you had to get up and walk across the room to change the
channel. So it was a very different experience than surfing the television
and, you know, having 500 channels available to you. But I loved television
and being on a television show is something, as an actress, that always
appealed to me in a great way.

GROSS: Was there like a family TV and the whole family gathered around the TV
in the evening and watched together?

Ms. KACZMAREK: Yeah. Yeah. We had one TV in the house. I grew up in
Milwaukee and my father put it on a platform with wheels so we would kind of
spin it back and forth between the living room and the kitchen. And we would
watch TV. But my father would always say, `Don't be a channel changer. Look
in the newspaper, see what's on and then make your selection.' So there was
some parental control, even though we watched a lot of it. We were not
allowed to watch "Gomer Pyle" because my mother said there were enough idiots
in the world without people acting like idiots. So I couldn't watch "Gomer
Pyle" and we couldn't watch "The Monkees."

GROSS: Why not?

Ms. KACZMAREK: My father hated rock 'n' roll. We were never allowed to have
any albums in our house. I remember when I would have pajama parties I was
allowed to borrow two, you know, what my father called rock 'n' roll albums
from a neighbor so we could have that music in the house. But we weren't--we
weren't allowed to have that kind of music around.

BOGAEV: Jane Kaczmarek is nominated for an Emmy for her role as Lois, the
mother on the Fox sitcom, "Malcolm in the Middle." We'll hear more of Terry
Gross' interview with her after the break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: Let's get back to Terry Gross' interview with actress Jane Kaczmarek.
She's up for an Emmy for her role as the mother on the comedy series "Malcolm
in the Middle."

GROSS: You said that there was a lot of discipline in your house. Now your
character of Lois is quite the disciplinarian and her sons always assume that
no matter what they do and no matter how secretive they are about it, she's
going to know because she's kind of the omniscient mother. And they know
they're going to be punished. They're willing to risk it, though. Did your
mother seem omniscient and did you always figure that if you did something in
a sneaky way, your mother would find out and she would punish you?

Ms. KACZMAREK: Mm-hmm. It was more my father, though. My father was a
real--well, he worked for the Defense Department. He was a very clever guy.
My mom was home with us all day, but we always got caught. Now there's one
thing they don't know about still, to this day, but that was when I was in
college. But I think that that's part of what makes...

GROSS: Wait, wait. What about when you were in college?

Ms. KACZMAREK: I can't tell you because they'll probably listen to this.

GROSS: OK.

Ms. KACZMAREK: But it has to do with a fictitious roommate I created because
I was really living with my boyfriend. And they came to visit and I got a
friend to pretend she was this roommate and put her name on the mailbox and
created this roommate. But that's another story. But I think that part of
the reason the mischief is so delectable on "Malcolm" is because those parents
keep such a watchful eye. When kids know they can get away with stuff, they
don't have to be that crafty. The fact that they know that their mom is very
likely going to find out about this stuff, they have to really be sneaky and
really clever. And I think that's what's so much fun to watch. I think
that--and I think growing up--my brothers and sisters and I had parents that
usually found everything out. So you really had to be imaginative if you were
trying to get away with something.

GROSS: Now that you're a mother, do you think kids actually have more power
than you thought they did when you were a kid?

Ms. KACZMAREK: Oh my. I said to my husband the other day, `When is it
they're going to start being afraid of us?' I thought that was something that
just, you know--that just happened. I was very, very stern with Frances once
and really came down on her and she stopped for a minute and I thought, `Wow,
that worked.' And then she looked at me and she said, `Don't ever do that
again.' She was two and a half years old. I was like, `OK. OK.' But I was
amazed she had such presence of self-esteem that she didn't want to be treated
that way.

It's different now because we got--you know, I grew up in a generation when
kids got smacked. I mean, my parents never hurt us, but, you know, you
getting a, you know, spank on the bottom or something was not--it wasn't
unusual. And, boy, it was a way to bring you around really fast. I think one
of the hardest things about being a parent now is how to get your kids to do
what you want them to do and to know you mean business without being able to
smack them.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Jane Kaczmarek is my guest and she stars as Lois, the mother
in the TV show "Malcolm in the Middle."

So you were pregnant with your second child when "Malcolm in the Middle"
started. When you got pregnant, were you in a panic for a little while
because the timing seemed so bad?

Ms. KACZMAREK: Oh, man, Terry--oh, sure. We had--with my first, with
Frances, we had--oh, it had taken years and years. I was barren as a stone,
my husband used to say. He used to say, if he was Henry the VII, I was be so
dead by now. And I have a great fertility doctor, Dr. Joyce Vargyas at
California Fertility said, you know, `Are you under any kind of pressure?'
And I said, `I'm an actress in my 40s during the pilot season.' The
combination of being, you know, `Nobody wants me as an actress. I can't get
pregnant, you know, was about as much rejection as anybody ever needs in a
lifetime.' And she said, `Why don't you take a year off?' Which was just so
lovely to hear this coming from a medical professional. And I picked up the
phone and called my agents and said, `Don't send me on any auditions for a
year.' And what a magnificent year. I enrolled at UCLA. I started taking
classical music classes, history of music, history of the symphony, Beethoven.
Fell madly, madly in love with these classes. And started adoption to China
and tried the fertility thing one more time and it worked. And I wasn't
allowed to work for the rest of the year because it was such a high-risk
pregnancy and it was a magnificent year of being weaned away from the world of
show business, which was just such a relief and such a delight.

My daughter was born in '97 and I really thought, `I don't want to go back to
this.' So I had a great time with her. I was doing a recurring role on
"Felicity," a show that I just adored. You know, working one day every three
months, taking my music classes at UCLA and had no intention of ever going
back to it. We knew we wanted to have another baby and I was anticipating the
same long process getting pregnant. And told my agents, `Don't send me out on
any auditions for series. I just don't want to work on a regular basis.' And
got through the end of April when "Malcolm" showed up and they said, `Please
just read this. Just read this one. It's so good.'

And then they said, `Also they're really interested in you,' which, you know,
your actor's vanity kicks in and you think, `Oh, they really want me?' And I
read it and it was so unique and Todd Holland had directed some "Felicitys"
that I had done and I knew what a great director he was. And I thought, `Man,
if they're smart enough to put the combination of this director with this
material, you know, this could be fun.' But I really didn't think it would
go. And if it did go, I would be the mom on a kid show. I'd work one day a
week.

So we did the pilot and a month later the phone rang and it was Fox saying
that the show had been picked up and my husband got a call the next day that
"The West Wing" had been picked up and then the doctor called me Friday to say
I was pregnant. And we were living in a rental house. We were renovating our
house, living in a rental and it was the beginning of a whole new life.

GROSS: Now your husband is Bradley Whitford, who plays the assistant chief
of staff on "The West Wing."

Ms. KACZMAREK: Yeah.

GROSS: You're both on hit TV series, but for those viewers like me who only
know you through your roles, you seem so mismatched because, after all, you're
a suburban, working-class mother, who's a clerk at a discount drugstore on
"Malcolm in the Middle" and he's a member of the White House staff. So what
kind of match is this?

Ms. KACZMAREK: Isn't that something? Well, I know it, it's funny. And when
most people see us, they recognize Brad and then they tend to look at me and
say, `Oh, you must be so proud.' I don't get recognized. I don't get
recognized a lot. Brad thinks it's because people think I'm going to yell at
them so they don't even want to come over and say hello. I think it's because
Lois--you don't expect to see someone like Lois with someone like Josh. I
don't know what that is except I think there are a lot of women of my--I was
raised in a--you know, a nice, upper-middle class suburb and I went to very
good schools and got a very good education and I was lucky that my life turned
out in a way that I had always wanted it to. But I think there are a lot of
people out there who are just as smart and clever and determined as I am who
end up a little more like Lois and are in jobs that aren't fulfilling and do
have troubles making ends meet. And I suppose that's who Lois is.

GROSS: Now you're nominated for an Emmy. Is your husband nominated too?

Ms. KACZMAREK: Yes, he is. That was a happy morning.

GROSS: So you're both going together, needless to say.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Yeah, but we're trying to figure it out because he obviously
will be seated with "The West Wing" people and I will be seated with the
"Malcolm" people and unless they have the two casts sitting in close
proximity, we're not quite sure how we're going to figure it out, but I'm sure
they'll think of something.

GROSS: So if either of you win, it will make the traditional kissing of the
spouse very difficult.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Well, we had an interesting time last year because I was
nominated and he wasn't. I did not win, but "West Wing" won so he became the
big victor of the evening. And as we walked into the ceremony, all the
attention was on me. And when we walked out of the ceremony into the parties,
all the attention was on him. And it was a lovely little reminder of how
quickly these things change.

You know, there's nothing less necessary and more subjective than an acting
award. You got the job. You're, you know, making a paycheck. This
is--you're on a show that's as celebrated as "West Wing" and "Malcolm" are.
We've won the lottery by just being on these shows. You know, there's a lot
of tension from this stuff and as lovely as it is to be nominated, it's more
lovely when it's all over.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us. And I was to
congratulate you on the nomination for the Emmy.

Ms. KACZMAREK: Oh, thank you, Terry. It's my pleasure to be here.

GROSS: It was a pleasure having you. Thank you.

BOGAEV: Jane Kaczmarek is nominated for an Emmy for best actress in a comedy
for her role as Lois, the mother on the Fox series, "Malcolm in the Middle."
The Emmys have been rescheduled to air this Sunday on CBS.

I'm Barbara Bogaev and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of theme song from "Malcolm in the Middle")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) You're not the boss of me now and you're not so
big. You're not the boss of me now. You're not the boss of me now. You're
not the boss of me now and you're not so big. Life is unfair.

(Announcements)

BOGAEV: Coming up, we talk with Emmy Award nominee Edie Falco. She plays
Carmela on the HBO series "The Sopranos." Also, film critic John Powers
reviews "L.I.E," a controversial film about man-boy love set on Long Island.
And linguist Geoff Nunberg takes a look at the history of the word terrorism.

(Soundbite of "Every Breath You Take")

STING: (Singing) I'll be watching you.

THE POLICE: (Singing) Everybody breath you take, every move you make,
everybody bond you break, every step you take.

STING: (Singing) I'll be watching you.

THE POLICE: (Singing) Every single day, every word you say, every game you
play, every night you stay.

STING: (Singing) I'll be watching you.

THE POLICE: (Singing) Every move you make, every vow you break, every smile
you fake, every claim you stake.

STING: (Singing) I'll be watching you.

THE POLICE: (Singing) Every single day, every word you say, every game you
play, every night you stay.

STING: (Singing) I'll be watching you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Edie Falco discusses her role as Carmela Soprano in
"The Sopranos"
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:

This is FRESH AIR. Terry Gross is out today. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

This Sunday, the Emmy Awards will take place in Los Angeles and will air on
CBS. The event originally scheduled for September 16th was canceled, but in
response to calls by leaders to return to doing the things we usually do, the
awards were rescheduled, albeit in a more scaled-back fashion and with
heighten security provided by the FBI, the LAPD and the FAA. Before the
original September airdate, Terry spoke with Edie Falco, who's nominated for
best actress in a drama for her portrayal of Carmela Soprano on the HBO series
"The Sopranos."

Falco won an Emmy for that role during the show's first season. She'd already
had experience of managing bad boys on HBOs as corrections officer Diane
Wittlesey on the series "OZ." In addition to her television work, she
appeared in the hit Broadway show "Side Man" and the independent feature film
"Judy Berlin." Falco's Carmela Soprano tries to reconcile her two identities
as a devote Catholic and a mob wife. Terry asked Edie Falco how she
approached Carmela's personal style, and whether it was putting on the hair
the nails or the gold necklaces that transformed her the most.

Ms. EDIE FALCO (Actress): I would have to say it's the nails. There is
something very--like, I couldn't be more different from Carmela in this
respect, in particular, that I'm always building something or painting
something or chopping wood or some such nonsense. And you put those nails on
and it becomes very clear what a different class, or something, a person that
she is, how she is physically incapable of doing these things that I do
regularly. You know, it's heels and tight-fitting clothing and big hair and
makeup where you can't really touch your face and jewelry that feels
uncomfortable to me, but this is all very much a part of who she is. So it
takes me a certain degree of time to get ready to shoot. And in that period
of time, I definitely feel a transformation take place, but I don't know that
it's anything, you know, miraculous about me. I truly believe that, you know,
if my father was to put on the fingernails and the hair that he would end up
becoming Carmela after two hours as well.

TERRY GROSS reporting:

When you met James Gandolfini who plays your husband Tony Soprano, had you
seen him in anything else before?

Ms. FALCO: Sure. He was one of those actors you always think, `Oh, good,
he's in this. He's great.' He scared the hell out of me when I found out that
he was the guy playing my husband because previous to that I'd seen him beat a
bunch of people up and, you know, he'll kill me for saying this, but he played
a lot of tough guys and a lot of mean guys. And, you know, they're, like,
`Yeah, this is the man you'll be going to bed with in this show.' And I
thought, `Well, that's interesting.' So I was basically afraid, but he's the
one who made the initial phone calls to introduce himself when he found out
who was cast and that he wanted to have lunch so we could get to know each
other. And I realized, `OK. That's right. He's just an actor,' that perhaps
he's, you know, not the mean guy that I've seen in all these movies, and, you
know, needless to say, that it's very much the case, that he's a lovely guy.

GROSS: How well have you gotten to know each other? Would you prefer to know
him mostly as Tony Soprano or have you really wanted to know James Gandolfini
well?

Ms. FALCO: That's the thing. And, again, I don't do this on purpose, but
it's something I notice about the way that I have sort of done this whole
thing is that I don't know Jim very well. We don't spend a lot of time
together certainly during hiatus or when we're not working. And it is not
because I don't want to. The truth is on some level I look forward to the
show ending--I mean, only on this level because I'm loving it, so I can
actually get to know Jim a little bit because while we're working, I'd so much
prefer to have him walk on to the set and have him be Tony, only Tony, you
know, where I don't necessarily know how Jim spent the weekend or, you know,
where he went to eat and, I mean, all stuff that I would normally love to
know. But I think on some level I fear it would get in the way of how pure my
relationship is with him as Tony, you know? As I said, this is not something
I planned, but it's something I think I've done in other jobs as well. I need
to keep my personal relationship with these actors kind of clean and
unincumbered so that the pretend relationship starts to take on a much fuller
life for me.

GROSS: Did you ever have a personal relationship with an actor you were
working with and find that it did interfere with your performance?

Ms. FALCO: Let me think. Yes, I have. I will not mention names, but yes,
this had happened. And it was extremely distracting, and I was furious about
it at the time at myself for having let it happen. Even just friendships,
close friendships, start to absolutely get in the way. Yes. It's funny. I
don't know that I feel exactly the same way about not wanting to get to know
the actors with anyone other than love relationships, you know? I think it's
mostly with the men that I've had to be involved with on these various
projects that I need to keep a distance from. Like with the kids, Robert and
Jamie-Lynn, I know them fairly well, you know? I know about their personal
lives and their families and I met their parents and that doesn't seem to be
quite as distracting.

GROSS: Do you have any favorite Carmela episodes of "The Sopranos?"

Ms. FALCO: Gosh, you know, it might be in the first season with Father Phil
because the writing was so good and--which it always is, but I had a lot to do
in that episode and Father Phil is played by Paul Schulze who is one of my
oldest friends in the whole world. We went to college together. I've known
him 20-something years and when he was cast in this role, I was beside myself
with excitement. And the fact that I got to spend all those days working with
him and he had this huge--he and I have done so much together, so many films
and movies and television shows, at this point it's almost silly. We played
brother and sister and, you know, everything. And here we were on this
television show that people were watching, working together, making each other
laugh in the--my grandmother is a very devoutly religious woman and she has
watched everything I've done from forever, every TV show and movie. And I've
done a lot of stuff where the language is terrible and there's nudity and
violence. And she sits there and she smiles. She's so proud of me.
Apparently the one time that she had to get up and leave the room was during
the episode with Father Phil where she thought we might kiss. So I finally,
after all these years I shocked my 84-year-old grandmother.

GROSS: Why don't we hear that scene?

(Soundbite from "The Sopranos")

Mr. PAUL SCHULZEY (As Father Phil): Of course, it wasn't just what Christ
said. I mean, it was his deeds.

Ms. FALCO (As Carmela Soprano): See, that's my question. I understand what
he did. But a lot of what he said, I don't get. Like the sun rises on the
just and the unjust alike. Why?

Mr. SCHULZEY: Because, Christ was saying that we're all...

Ms. FALCO: What? That whores will go to heaven before a lot of the
righteous?

Mr. SCHULZEY: Uh-huh.

Ms. FALCO: Well, that's not right. Well, let's face it, Father, we've got
some major contradictions here.

Mr. SCHULZEY: It's about love. Think about it like that.

Ms. FALCO: What does that mean?

Mr. SCHULZEY: It means, hopefully some day we will learn to tolerate, accept
and forgive those that are different. Change through love.

Ms. FALCO: Well...

Mr. SCHULZEY: Well, oh, man, I better get going.

Ms. FALCO: Oh, I--where are you going? You just go here.

Mr. SCHULZEY: Oh, I'm--it's getting late.

Ms. FALCO: But it's pouring rain out.

BOGAEV: A scene from the first season of "The Sopranos" featuring our guest
Edie Falco as Carmela, Tony Soprano's wife. Falco is nominated for an Emmy
for best actress in a drama. We'll hear more of Terry's conversation with her
after the break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: Let's get back now to our interview with Emmy nominated actress Edie
Falco.

GROSS: In a way, I figure you became an actress to get away from the kind of
suburban life and neighborhood that you grew up in and now you're famous for
playing it, for embodying it.

Ms. FALCO: It was funny that the first bunch of roles that I got
professionally were playing waitresses, which is, of course, what I did for 15
years to support myself. It seemed like a cruel joke. But I don't know that
I ever really wanted to leave my suburban upbringing. I mean, you wanted to
move to the big city as a young kid and knowing that's where you have to go to
be an actress and all that. But I guess it is sort of funny that I ended up
kind of back in that environment. But I was never in any huge rush to leave
it, particularly now, you know, whatever--15 years after I graduated from
college, all I think about is wanting to get a house in the suburbs again, how
lovely it is out there and how the city's wearing me down, so...

GROSS: How many years did you waitress before you were able to make a living
as an actress?

Ms. FALCO: Oh, on and off for, I guess, 20 years, probably, from, you know,
my first waitressing job to my last probably covered a span of 20 years.

GROSS: What kind of restaurants?

Ms. FALCO: Oh, every kind. West Fourth Street Saloon, which is now gone,
which is sort of heartbreaking for sort of a, you know, saloon-bar place on
West Fourth Street and then Formerly Joe's, which is no longer Formerly Joe's;
it's a Chinese restaurant now, I think. Beaurokeno(ph) on 29th Street, Canyon
Road on 77th Street, all different kinds of food, all different kinds of
restaurants and I was so unhappy. You know, the jobs varied in difficulty and
in income and clientele and all that kind of stuff that I was so unhappy and
just got more so as the years went by. It was the only way I knew to make a
living and still have time available to go to auditions and classes and all
that stuff. But it was--augh, I was just miserably unhappy, and I was sure
that it would never end. I remember going to Sunday brunches to set up the
restaurant and think, `This is my life now. For the rest of my life, this is
what I'll be doing.'

And I still have moments where I wake up and realize that I don't have to set
up a restaurant on a Sunday morning. I will still walk past a restaurant with
a sign that's saying, you know, `Help Wanted,' and think, `Oh, that's a pretty
busy lunch crowd. I should check in there.' You know, I wonder if that will
ever completely go away. I can't say for sure that it will.

GROSS: What was the worst part of waitressing?

Ms. FALCO: Occasionally I would be recognized for some small film that I had
done or theater performance, and for some reason it upset me tremendously. I
prefer to kind of put on my waitress face, you know, my sort of, you know,
worker face while I was doing this stuff. I'll bring you your drinks and I'll
bring you your food and I'll tell you the specials, if I'm in a good mood, and
I don't want to be recognized as a human even. I sort of felt like if I'm an
actress, that's what I want to be doing. I want to be walking down the street
getting my coffee when someone recognizes me, as if when I'm acting, that's
what I do and that's all I do. I don't know, I'm try--you know, I'm having to
discover this as I'm talking about it as to why it would affect me the way it
did. But that is definitely the way it affected me. I hated it and I
occasionally even denied it, that I was the person they thought I was.

GROSS: Do you think you learned anything about people by waiting on them,
things you could draw on for performances?

Ms. FALCO: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. There were certain stereotypes of
people, depending on the area in which I waitressed or the time of day. It
was frightening how predictable sometimes it would be. I mean, there was a
certain echelon of individual who I despised. Oh, God, getting into this, I
should probably shut up at this point. But where they would never make eye
contact with you. They would come in and you, you know, `Can I get you
something? Can I get you a drink?' And they would no so much as glance in
your direction. They would--you know, they'd ask you a question, they'd be,
you know, still looking at the person they're with or like pointing to like
something on the menu and they would not so much as look up. You know, I
became evil towards the end of this whole thing, so I don't know how much was
them and how much was me. But it was all kinds of fantastic behavior to take
on while, you know, or to learn from as I wandered through these various jobs.

GROSS: Do you tip well now?

Ms. FALCO: Oh, God, I do. I'm a little over the top. But, you know, there
are worse things. You know, you live literally dollar-to-dollar when you're
waitressing and I remember times when I was working--I would work from--the
shift was from 4 to 4, if you can believe this--4 PM to 4 AM was one of the
first jobs that I had. And I remember having to go home with $24 after that
many hours and I would have to spend $10 taking a cab home because I lived up
by Columbia University at the time and the restaurant was way downtown. So,
you know, 12 hours of my life for 12 bucks of whatever, so--outrageous. But
years and years were spent like that. And to know that a person is not
expecting more than whatever it is, 16 percent or something, and to give them
a nice big tip. You know what? It used to make my day. So it's the very
least I can do.

It's an interesting thing when dating that me and female friends have talked
about, the first really big thing you learn about the guy you're dating is how
he treats waiters and waitresses at a restaurant and what a huge effect that
will have on the rest of the relationship or its longevity. You know, it's a
big thing for me. These people are doing a job, you know, and for the most
part, as far as I'm concerned, an unpleasant one and the least you can do is
be polite.

GROSS: Well, Edie Falco, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

Ms. FALCO: It was my pleasure.

GROSS: And congratulations on your Emmy nomination.

Ms. FALCO: Thank you very much.

BOGAEV: Actress Edie Falco. She's up for an Emmy for her role as Carmela on
the HBO series "The Sopranos." The Emmys air this Sunday on CBS.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New independent film "L.I.E."
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:

The new independent file "L.I.E.," which stands for New York's Long Island
Expressway, is another cinematic exploration of the underside of American
suburban life in the tradition of films like "Happiness" and "American
Beauty." It won the first director award at Edinburgh and was one of the
hottest movies at Sundance. Our film critic John Powers has a review.

JOHN POWERS reporting:

In my head, I keep a list of all the kinds of films I've had it up to here
with: movies about men's midlife crises; movies in which high school students
are hacked to bits; movies which stretch a "Saturday Night Live" skit into 90
minutes of hell. And then there are the movies about the emotional
tribulations of sensitive teen-agers. I really don't want to see anymore of
those. But, of course, I do and sometimes they surprise me.

That's what happened with "L.I.E.," which plays like an indy film version of
"American Beauty" set on Long Island. Paul Franklin Dano plays Howie Blitzer,
a soulful 15-year-old with a taste for poetry and a sense of being sexually
different. Howie's life has lost its center. His mother died in a crash on
the LIE, the Long Island Expressway, and his father's in some vague legal
trouble. And so he starts robbing houses with a group that's led by a
flamboyant teen-ager sociopath named Gary on whom Howie develops a crush. But
when one of their robberies goes wrong, Howie gets mixed up with his victim.
His name is Big John Harrigan, that's Scottish actor Brian Cox, an ex-Marine
with a predilection for teen-age boys.

Howie finds this older man both unsettling and charismatic. And as his stable
suburban world starts collapsing around him, he gets drawn into this strange
surrogate father's orbit. Big John is an edgy, complicated man as is obvious
when he first gives Howie a ride home and decides to confront the boy about
the robbery.

(Soundbite of "L.I.E.")

Mr. BRIAN COX (As Big John Harrigan): Gary told me everything.

PAUL FRANKLIN DANO (As Howie Blitzer): You know Gary?

Mr. COX: He told me you guys were very close friends.

DANO: That's right. We are.

Mr. COX: He also told me that my guns were gone.

DANO: I guess they are.

Mr. COX: You guess. Come on, Howie. You sold them, you know, don't you?

DANO: I didn't sell them. Look, I didn't even touch your guns.

Mr. COX: Well, then somebody did.

DANO: Well, this has nothing to do with me, mister.

Mr. COX: Oh, don't call me that. Call me Big John.

DANO: Big John, look, I don't lie, all right. I didn't touch your stuff and
I don't believe that Gary told you I did.

Mr. COX: Well, then what the (expletive deleted) were you doing in my
basement?

DANO: I just went along.

Mr. COX: You just went along? Gary, a lying little psychopath.

POWERS: "L.I.E." is the first film by 38-year-old Michael Cuesta, a director
of TV commercials who, aside from some fast-motion forays into ad man style,
clearly knows how to make a movie. His scenes are crisply paste and neatly
shot, capturing the beauty of Long Island with its wide streets, slated light
and slightly alienating architecture. What Cuesta doesn't always have is a
sense of what's Fresh. By now, the wounded teen-ager is a cinematic cliche,
all those rebels without a cause and lonely souls being welcomed to the
dollhouse. Howie belongs in that company and the movie's least interesting
when it focuses on the typical tribulations of teen-age life: loutish
friends, clueless parents and so forth. We all know firsthand that it's hard
being a teen-ager.

Still, Paul Franklin Dano does a remarkable job of making us empathize with
Howie's turmoil. He has one of those faces that reveals what's going on
inside him, be it confusion, pain, anger or startled joy. And he does all
this with enormous delicacy. He doesn't make a show of showing you his soul.
And his performance is matched by Cox's terrific turn as Big John, the movie's
one truly original creation. Whereas screen pedophiles are invariably
portrayed as cartoon villains, Cuesta and his screenwriter Stephen Ryder turn
him into a man of many dimensions. He's a guy who pals around with cops,
breaks into French and croons the old song "Harrigan." He's a sexual predator
with an aura of menace. One imagines him doing almost anything. Yet he's
also a man who knows that his sexual activities are sinful. Even as he
pursues Howie, he's drawn to and moved by what's rare and precious in Howie's
purity. Big John genuinely wants to help him out.

Howie and Big John's scenes together are reason enough to see the movie,
especially because this potentially queasy material develops far more tenderly
and less explicitly than you fear it will. The only trouble with setting up
such an off-kilter relationship is that you eventually have to resolve it.
And it's obvious that Cuesta and company aren't quite sure how. Just when you
think that everything is building to an epiphany that grows out of the
characters' mutual feelings, the story veers into a finale whose arbitrary
violence undercuts the originality of what comes before.

Howie winds up a bit too grown up; Big John a bit too saintly. And the Long
Island Expressway a bit too heavy a symbol of dreams betrayed. The big LIE.

BOGAEV: John Powers is executive editor of LA Weekly.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: History of the term terrorism
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:

Cyberterrorism, eco-terrorism, psychological terrorism: in recent years, the
word `terrorism' has been used in very broad ways. Our linguist Geoff Nunberg
traces the history of the word and says it's been controversial since it was
first coined more than 200 years ago.

GEOFF NUNBERG reporting:

A few weeks ago, The Washington Post disclosed that the global head of news
for Reuters had written an internal memo asking reporters to avoid using the
word `terrorist' to describe the airplane hijackers. As he explained it, `One
man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.' And recent Reuters
dispatchers have avoided using the word `terrorism' apart from when they're
quoting someone else. Given the circumstances, Reuters scruples seem
excessive. There are times when evenhandedness can tip over into moral
abdication.

But their policy actually goes back more than 20 years and reflects the
equivocal history the word `terrorism' has had. `Terrorism' is one of those
words like `crusade,' which began its life at a particular historical moment.
In 1792, the Jacobins came to power in France and initiated what we called the
reign of terror and what the French call simply le terror. Robespierre called
terror an emanation of virtue. Terror is nothing but justice, prompt, severe,
and inflexible. And in the months that followed the severe and inflexible
justice of the guillotine severed 12,000 counterrevolutionary heads before it
abbreviated Robespierre himself.

Needless to say, not everyone shared Robespierre's enthusiasm for the
purifying effects of terror. One of the first writers to use the word
`terrorist' in English was that implacable enemy of the French Revolution,
Edmond Burke, who wrote in 1795, `Of those hell hounds called terrorists
who are let loose on the people.'

For the next 150 years, the word `terrorism' led a double life. A justified
political strategy to some; an abomination to others. The Russian
revolutionaries who assassinated Czar Alexander II in 1881 used the word
proudly. And in 1905, Jack London described terrorism as a powerful weapon in
the hands of labor, though he warned against harming innocent people. But for
the press and most of the public, the word `terrorist' connoted bomb-throwing
madmen and politicians weren't above using the word as a brush to tar
socialists and radicals of all stripes, whatever their views of violence.
When President McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist in 1901, Congress
promptly passed legislation that barred known anarchists from entering the
United States.

By the mid 20th century, terrorism was becoming associated more with movements
of national liberation than with radical groups and the word was starting to
acquire its universal stigma. One of the last groups willing to describe
itself as terrorists was the Jewish organization called the Lehi, better known
as the Stern Gang, who killed dozens of people when they set off a bomb in the
King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946.

But most of the Third World movements that resorted to political violence in
the 1950s and 1960s didn't call themselves terrorists. They preferred terms
like freedom fighters or guerrillas or mujahaddin. Terrorism became a
condemnation, a word used only by the colonial powers. That's the point when
news organizations like Reuters started to become circumspect about using the
word to describe groups like the IRA and the African National Congress. It
seemed to be picking sides and perhaps a little imprudent, particularly when
you consider that former terrorists like Nelson Mandela and Menachem Begin had
ended their careers as winners of the Nobel Prize.

By the 1980s, terrorism was being widely applied to all manners of political
violence. There was a flap over the word in 1989 when The New York Times
editor A.M. Rosenthal attacked Christopher Hitchens for refusing to describe
the fatwah against Salman Rushdie as terrorism. Hitchens had a good point,
though. The fatwah may have been repugnant, but it was far from an act of
indiscriminate violence; more like state-sponsored contract killing. But by
then, the word `terrorism' had acquired a kind of talismanic force, as if
refusing to describe something as terrorism was the next thing to apologizing
for it.

By the 1990s, people were crying terrorism whenever they discerned an attempt
at intimidation or disruption. Hackers who concocted computer viruses were
cyberterrorists. Cult leaders were psychological terrorists. Software
companies accused Microsoft of terrorism in its efforts to maintain its
Windows monopoly, and Microsoft accused Apple Computer of patent terrorism
after the companies got into a dispute over intellectual property. And when
photographer Spencer Tunick got 30 people to lie down naked for a picture in
front of the United Nations building in New York, a critic described the piece
as `artistic terrorism at its best.'

With that kind of free-wheeling precedent, it probably shouldn't have been
surprising that the Justice Department defined terrorism very broadly in its
new anti-terrorism legislation. According to the bill, a terrorist offense
could include anything from hijacking an airplane to injuring government
property, breaking into a government computer for any reason, or hitting the
secretary of Agriculture with a pie. Civil libertarians are concerned that
the notion of terrorism could become an all-purpose pretext the way
racketeering did after the passage of the RICO Act in the 1970s.

Actually, that might be a linguistic misfortune, too. Granted, it's natural
to appropriate the language of violence when we want to dramatize our zeal or
outrage. We make war on poverty, we skirmish over policy and we cry bloody
murder when the newspaper's late. But when things happen that merit the full
force of our outrage, a legacy of careless usage can sometimes leave us at a
loss for words.

BOGAEV: A collection of Geoff Nunberg's FRESH AIR commentaries called "The
Way We Talk Now" has just been published by Houghton Mifflin.

(Credits)

BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

42:26

'Supreme Inequality' Argues That America's Top Court Has Become Right-Wing

In a new book, lawyer/journalist Adam Cohen makes the case that the Supreme Court has been "a right-wing court for 50 years," siding with corporations and the wealthy — and against the poor.

09:04

Carla Bley's Trio Brings A Scaled-Down Dynamic To 'Life Goes On'

Bley spent decades leading big bands. Now in her 80s, the jazz composer and pianist has a new album with longtime pal and partner bassist Steve Swallow and English saxophonist Andy Sheppard.

42:10

Daughter Of A Numbers Runner Witnessed An Underground Economy In Action

Growing up, Bridgett M. Davis' mother booked and banked bets from their home in Detroit. She writes the role of "the numbers" in the black community in her memoir. Originally broadcast Feb. 4, 2019.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.

Playing

Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue