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Actress Edie Falco talks ‘Sopranos’ memories, new TV series

Twenty-one years ago, she began her run as a dutiful mobster’s wife. Now, she’s on duty as the top cop in Los Angeles.

Bada bing! Edie Falco is the Boss.

In the CBS drama series, “Tommy,” premiering Feb. 6, the multiple Emmy winning star of “The Sopranos” and “Nurse Jackie” plays Abigail “Tommy” Thomas, a high-ranking NYPD officer who becomes the first female chief of police for the LAPD. “Ridiculous that there aren’t more female chiefs,” said Falco, 56. “It might sound like a stereotype, but women are quite level-headed and get the job done.”

Case in point: In real life, Falco is a breast cancer survivor and single mom to adopted children Anderson, 14, and Macy, 11.

She mulled it all over — including future “Sopranos” projects — on a weekday afternoon from her home in New York where it turns out breakfast for dinner is a Sunday tradition.

Review-Journal: What is your idea of the perfect Sunday?

Edie Falco: My perfect nonworking Sunday definitely involves some lunch-brunch thing with some friends at my favorite local veggie restaurant in New York. Then maybe my friends come over. I love when everyone just comes over to hang out with me and the kids. Maybe I’ll cook. On Sunday nights, we’ve been known to have pancakes and smoothies for dinner. Later, my daughter and I will sit around and watch TV.

Tell us about your role in “Tommy.”

She just wants to do the right thing and do her job well. Since she does do that job so well, she goes from New York police officer to chief of police in Los Angeles. The key isn’t that she has these rough New York edges. The bigger thing is that she’s a woman in the role of police chief. There aren’t many of them. And she’s a woman who doesn’t just want to sit behind a desk. She wants to get out there and solve some crimes.

The series is mostly set in Los Angeles, but you film the whole thing in New York.

I shot one day in L.A. The rest is done in New York. It’s a shout-out to our art department and our scenic department. I started to wonder, after a while, where we were! Basically, we’re in New York with a truck bed full of palm trees. We’d stop, take the palm trees out, put them up and film. Then the trees go back into the truck. The funniest thing is before we film a scene on a brutally cold New York day, someone will shout, “Parkas off.” Then you try not to shiver because we are supposed to be in L.A.

What do you love about doing TV?

I love the atmosphere on the set of a TV show. Another reason I love to do television is you get to know these people for a very long time. If you’re lucky, you create a family of sorts with incredible actors and behind-the-scenes people. Some of the biggest emotions I’ve ever felt in my life were in the guise of another person while filming a television show.

You grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, where your mother did community theater and other acting. Is that why the acting bug bit?

I was enchanted by the stage and the props and eventually the audience. I’d sit backstage while she rehearsed. These were people who had other jobs by day, but they transformed into these totally different people at night. I found that mesmerizing. … So the community theater directors began casting me in the plays. I got the bug, but I prefer to say the magic of acting settled into my system.

In 2003, you learned you had breast cancer and then went back to work on “The Sopranos” the same day.

I had the biopsy that morning and was told that they found cancer. Meanwhile, I had to be at work at one. It’s a bit surreal how I remember that day. I remember that I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t breathe. But then I thought: I am a strong woman. I have resources to get good treatment. I can handle this. So, I went back to work, which was the first step for me. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want it to just be about “How are you feeling?” Of course, I was scared. There were days I didn’t feel so good. One of the producers was a good friend and I told her, so we could schedule my work around my treatments.

Tell us about your children.

I never really thought I’d have kids. Then the cancer thing kicked in. Once I realized I wasn’t going to die, it was like a light going on. I knew I wanted to be a mother. They’re amazing children and we bring out the best in each other, which is what family should do for each other.

How long did it take to transform into the perfect mafia wife who made that great baked ziti?

On the set, I’d be in the makeup trailer for about two hours with all the hair curling, straightening and pinning. It was a lot of makeup and then those long nails and big rings. Carm came out from all of those things.

There are rumors of a “Sopranos” sequel?

Once, I told (creator) David Chase that maybe now Carmela should be the mob boss. He just laughed. Do you have a favorite Sopranos episode?

There is one where Tony is looking out the window at this young woman next door hanging laundry. You don’t know if it’s his imagination or a ghost. Maybe it’s a representation of his mother. I found that episode to be so incredibly moving. It was so beautifully written.

Really, you won’t watch an episode?

Watching an episode of “The Sopranos” is too evocative for me. It brings up too much. I’ll see Jim and … I’ll remember this or that. Or I’ll think, “Oh God, he was so young.” It just brings up too much.

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