Nurse Jackie" co-creator/co-showrunner Linda Wallem. Although the awards prospects are good for the series, which already has 10 nominations and a win for star Edie Falco, this is Wallem's last chance; she signed off when "Nurse Jackie's" most recent season finished production. Wallem decided to give up her series family in New York for her real life family in California, which includes four step-children and rock icon Melissa Etheridge.This year, Emmy season is "bitter sweet" for Showtime's "
"It was just too hard to be away from them for six months out of the year while I was working on the show in New York," Wallem says. "I missed them so much."
A career move like that might make childless entertainment professionals cringe, and mothers tear up, but Wallem said it's one of the best decisions she's ever made. "Melissa and I say that when you hit your 50s, you stop worrying about what other people think."
Both Etheridge and Wallem have been through difficult breakups, and Wallem seems convinced that at this point in her life, it's not a sacrifice, but a privilege, to be able to follow her heart.
And while she's currently finding her bliss in shuttling the 5-year-old twins to preschool and supporting the 13-year-old and 15-year-old in their numerous activities, she admits that she would like to see "Nurse Jackie" recognized a few more times for what was accomplished under her watch.
The series has a fascinating and very personal history for Wallem. She created "Nurse Jackie" with Liz Brixius right after they ended a lengthy relationship. "That was interesting," Wallem comments wryly. They were working from a male writer's sci-fi hospital script that Edie Falco had passed on, and they set out to make it more interesting for such a strong, talented female lead, according to Wallem.
Neither Wallem nor Brixius had professional medical experience, but they were familiar with addiction and rehab, so they pulled in a number of nurses as consultants. The result was a role Falco could sink her teeth into and a series she couldn't resist.
And Emmy voters couldn't resist her either. In 2010, Falco won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and the show was nominated in various categories seven more times.
Then in 2011, "Nurse Jackie" only received two Emmy nods, one for Falco, and one for Casting. Wallem believes there was push back because it's a dark comedy -- not a laugh out loud, gather the family round the TV type show. "They said it wasn't funny," she laments.
This year, she's hoping Emmy voters once again recognize a darker, more sophisticated sense of humor. Wallem has a lot invested in her last season -- in addition to writing and showrunning, she directed the first two episodes, in which Jackie goes to rehab and comes out clean.
You can't help but wonder what's left for her successor, Clyde Phillips, showrunner for several seasons of "Dexter." After all, the show is based on a nurse who is addicted to the drugs she procures on the job. "Maybe a dead body will turn up in the ER," Wallem laughs. "He (Phillips) is going to be great!"
Wallem thinks her mothering instincts were an asset to her in running a successful television series and would like to see more female showrunners. "I like to make sure that everyone is comfortable, that they've had something to eat, that they're having a good time," she says. "God is in the details." She adds that women are exceptional multi-taskers and notice all sorts of intricacies that their male counterparts don't always pick up on.
Of course Wallem isn't leaving television altogether. Los Angeles is a TV production capital, as well as New York, and since she's living in a bucolic suburb of the City of Angels, there are still plenty of opportunities for her. She's currently involved in development with her friend of many years, Bob Greenblatt, who was President of Entertainment for Showtime when she was working on "Nurse Jackie" and is currently Entertainment Chairman at NBC.
And Wallem has the experience to back her up. She's achieved quite the television pedigree, having worked on "The Carol Burnette Show," " Cybill," " That '70s Show," "Comeback," and many more. She started out as an actress, and had memorable parts in "Sleepless in Seattle" and on "Seinfeld."
So while she'll be leaving one family member behind at the fictitious hospital All Saints (her younger brother, Stephen Wallem, plays hospital employee Thor), Wallem is excited about fully embracing her new, more domestic role in California. Not that she wouldn't mind an Emmy nod.
Wallem says that she and Etheridge haven't selected their Emmy outfits yet, but they would thrilled to walk the red carpet together. The whole family is keeping their fingers crossed.