A Conversation with Nurse Jackie's Merritt Wever

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For many people watching Nurse Jackie last season, Merritt Wever was an unknown actress -- until she started stealing scenes from the show's title character. The New York City native has been on television before, playing Matthew Perry's assistant on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and because of her success on Jackie, Wever's schedule is filling up fast. Just last month, she appeared opposite Annette Bening in an L.A. stage production of The Female of the Species and this weekend, viewers can catch Wever twice -- in Noah Baumbach's Greenberg, which opens in theaters today and Nurse Jackie's second season premiere on Sunday.

Talking to Movieline today, Wever discussed her busy schedule, the most valuable lesson she learned from Edie Falco and the reason it was hard to return to Nurse Jackie for a second season.

How did you first get into acting?

I went to really good New York City public schools that had arts programs. So in junior high, I got into the drama department. From there, I went to a performing arts high school in New York City called Laguardia and I just kind of fell into the professional side by happenstance.

I've been to a few high school musicals in Manhattan that were incredible.

Yeah and it depends on which school you go to. For some of them, you have to audition to get in and it's very strict and conservatory-like in all honesty. I got a pretty good conservatory-like theater education in high school which is a pretty impressive thing to be able to get for free in New York City.

Not only are a lot of Nurse Jackie's cast members New York-based, but a lot of them come from theater, like Eve Best, Anna Deavere Smith and Dominic Fumusa. What do you think having such strong theater actors brings to the show that other television series don't have?

I just think that working out of New York, the talent pool is so incredible, especially with all of the theater that is done here, that you can get quality actors that bring so much to the show. The guest stars are a big part of every episode so I think that is just one of the pluses of shooting in New York.

Do you get recognized much on the street?

Well, not too much. It definitely happens but not too much. I don't know if more people will watch this season and that will change but it happens every now and then. It hasn't been invasive at all. I try not to anticipate it or worry about it.

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Your character, Zoey, had such a great arc the first season of the show, going from the anxious, easily-rattled newbie to one of the most stable staffers at All Saints Hospital. What's in store for Zoey this season?

She's continuing that trajectory. She's no longer the newbie. She's no longer green. She's a lot more comfortable and she's kind of itching to get her hands dirty. She is really eager to be as immersed as possible. I think she'd love to be hardcore if she could be. [Laughs]

So many of the show's reviews last year cited your performance as one of the best parts of the show. Was reading that much praise strange?

It was! In some sense, praise and criticism should go in one ear and out the other. I think I saw Edie on a talk show say something like, "If you believe the good stuff then you have to believe the bad stuff too." Maybe it wasn't her who said that but I think that's an interesting way of looking at it. And it's hard to really watch or know a show when you're in it, so reading other people's assessments can sometimes get complicated or tricky. I'm wondering if I'm actually going to even read reviews this year. It was hard enough to watch the show last year and go back and play the character again. I sometimes wonder how helpful it is as an actor.

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Comments

  • Juke Early says:

    Merritt is excellent. And perceptive. I also think she did just as well in a smaller rôle on STUDIO 60 was a really good show. Just not something morons could get a handle on. NURSE JACKIE would flop if it were 1- on a dinosaur network 2- PODCASTER JACKIE. The superb acting & writing would be pearls before swine, because the great unwashed thinks they relate to nurses & not to media and/or cerebral types. Or it has to be cloying faux life crud like WEEDS. Luckily Edie & cast nail it & NJ transcends hospital bedpan operatics.

  • Rod Pastor says:

    I think Merritt is beautiful!! She is an excellent actress on Nurse Jackie and I look forward to seeing her whenever she is on television.

  • Jinko says:

    Love her character, and she just gets better and better.

  • Deb says:

    did merritt wever play a role with danielle panabaker on an episode of law and order

  • Deanna says:

    Merriit Wever is superb. Her timing and mannerisms are so adorably annoying. I swear, when she did the dance about the pancakes for dinner (Jackie's new roommate), I thought I was going to pee on myself. @Deb, I recall seeing Merritt on one of the Law and Order shows, just not which one. I have seen her in a few dramatic roles (Michael Clayton, for another), and she is excellent in drama as well. I hope Nurse Jackie goes on and on and on. Every season is better than the last.

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