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Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” returns March 28 for its third season. For those who missed the first two, Jackie (Edie Falco) is a nurse at a New York City hospital who has a bad back and is fully addicted to pain meds. She’s also a mother of two with a loving, patient and loyal-to-a-fault husband, Kevin, who, until last season’s finale, remained improbably clueless about her addiction. He’s still blissfully unaware that Jackie’s been sleeping with her supplier, the hospital pharmacist, Eddie, who has creepily befriended Kevin.
All of that makes for compelling TV, the kind that yields award noms, like Golden Globes and Emmys, which Falco won last year. The writing is excellent, the acting superior. But allow me to address the purely superficial. Falco is an incredible actress, but a traditional beauty she is not, particularly on this show where her look is deliberately run down and topped off with a butch haircut. Yet her husband, played by Dominic Fumusa, is patently gorgeous — hazel eyes, messy dark hair, scruffy face and typically a flannel shirt — the picture of a manly nice guy. He’s not short but not as tall as he looks on TV when I meet him at the Starbucks of his choosing on 21st Street and 5th Avenue. He’s also more fashionably dressed than he is on TV in a black ribbed crewneck, gray corduroys and black leather jacket that work in a stylish yet straight way. The sight of him reduces my 50-something female photographer to a giggly little girl.
After Fumusa tells me that this season his character will man up and stop being such a passive doormat, I raise my point: What’s a guy like him doing with a girl like her? Furthermore, what’s a girl who has a guy like him doing with Eddie, played by Paul Schulze, who has what’s known as “character?” On this show, the joke is on the pretty boys. It must be popular over at Jezebel.
“I’m sure people think about it to a certain extent,” says Fumusa. “What I would say is that [series creators] Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius continually push the envelope and say, ‘Let’s turn everything on its head.’” Which indicates that casting against the stereotypical standards of beauty was intentional. “Well, I don’t think it’s unintentional,” he says. “But it’s not something we talk about.” That would probably be pretty awkward.
At 41, Fumusa is younger than Falco by six years and looks every minute of it. Whether his character is supposed to be junior to hers is never acknowledged in the script, but Fumusa says the idea is in the air. “I don’t think the writers wanted to address it directly,” he says. “I think they’re happy with the fact that it’s become a discussion piece for some people.”
Besides, as Fumusa sees it, “Nobody would blink an eye if a 45-year-old man was paired with a woman half his age.” Just look at Harrison Ford, he says. Actually, I watched “Morning Glory” last week on a plane, and I’m pretty sure Ford’s days of romancing younger women are officially over. “But they had a nice, long run with it,” says Fumusa.
If the age discrepancy is not something that’s openly discussed on set, “I do think it’s valid to talk about how nobody talks about it until it’s reversed,” says Fumusa. “And clearly a man can be attracted to a woman who’s a little older, a little younger. It’s irrelevant.”
He speaks from experience. Fumusa’s wife, Ilana Levine, an actress-producer, has a few years on him, though he hesitates when asked about it. “She’s just a touch older than me.” — six years to be exact, so their age difference is the same as Fumusa and Falco’s. The couple met when they were both cast in a play at the Kennedy Center in Washington and married in 2002. They now live in Brooklyn with their two children. Fumusa has spent his entire professional career in New York, where his theater credits include “Wait Until Dark” with Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino, “Tape” “Fault Lines,” “Passion Play” and “Take Me Out,” in which he appeared completely naked. Film and TV roles have been picking up since “Nurse Jackie.” He begins shooting “Recalled,” a war movie with the rapper Bow Wow next week. After our interview he has his second meeting with director Stephen Frears, who is casting his next film “Lay the Favorite.” The part isn’t Fumusa’s yet, but “I’m hoping he falls in love with me,” he says. Justin Timberlake, Rebecca Hall and Catherine Zeta-Jones have already been confirmed, so Fumusa won’t have to worry about being the pretty one.