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In the often dark world of drug addiction, cheating and lies that are a part of the foundation of the Showtime hit series "Nurse Jackie," one bright spot in the mix in the Edie Falco drama is Dr. Fitch "Coop" Cooper. Usually putting his foot in his mouth or sleeping with a co-worker's girlfriend and then wondering why said co-worker slugs him in the nose, the gloriously unaware Coop (played by actor Peter Facinelli) is about to have his world rocked in tonight's episode when his two moms (played by guest stars Swoosie Kurtz and Judith Light) have some earth-shattering news that will wipe the smirk off Coop's face for awhile.
Our Jim Halterman rang up Facinelli the other day to talk about finding the right tone for playing Coop, how the news from Coop's moms will propel him into a new phase of his life and if Facinelli's real-life wife, actress Jennie Garth, will be appearing on the show anytime soon.
Jim Halterman: Going back to the beginning of the show, can you talk about bringing Coop to life? Was it all on the page or did you have a hand in shaping who he is?
Peter Facinelli: A little of both. I remember when I read the script I thought it was great and I sat down with the writers because I wasn't really sure we were all on the same page. The tone of the show I hadn't seen before so I went in and read with the writers, who were friends of mine, just to make sure I was doing it the way they wanted and they said 'That's perfect!' It was a little tricky and I think we could've gone a lot of different ways with that role. For me, Coop is like this 12-year old trapped in a man's body. I always feel like he's a sympathetic character and not a character who is mean-spirited but he just doesn't have a filter. What he really wants is for everyone to like him and he's kind of like a dog in a room full of people running around and jumping up all the time.
JH: I love the irony that Coop isn't always the luckiest with women yet he has two moms. How was working with Swoosie Kurtz and Judith Light as your two moms?
PF: I always love working with them. Judith Light replaced Blythe Danner and knocked it out of the ballpark. Blythe was actually off shooting a movie and wasn't available. I love Coop's moms and hope there's more storylines with them. This week, they kind of drop a bomb on him that they're getting a divorce and that blindsides him and spirals him into a depression. It's the best part of me to play because Coop is always so happy and energetic and now he's in a funk.
JH: In that scene before they tell you, you see just how much Coop is like a 12-year old as he takes pictures of everything and just cannot sit still.
PF: He's inept a little bit and he doesn't really handle things in an adult fashion.
JH: You usually shoot on a stage so it must've been a nice change to get out and shoot in Central Park.
PF: Yeah, I was really happy to shoot there. It's a beautiful set piece in New York and a lot of people don't know about that place so it was fun to explore. Anytime we get out of the hospital is a real treat since most of the stuff I do is the interior of the hospital.
JH: To what extent will we see Coop spiral into the depression you mentioned?
PF: It goes on for a little bit and I guess Coop's arc this year is trying to grow up but he tries to grow up for all the wrong reasons. For him, one of the ways he decides to grow up and take responsibility for his own happiness is to start a family of his own. In Coop fashion he decides to get married and have his own family to replace the family that is broken in his life. And, of course, he decides to get married, like, tomorrow. Just find a girl and get married tomorrow.
JH: All that said, do you think Coop is capable of having a healthy relationship?
PF: I don't know. I mean, his relationships with women so far have not been so great but he has been with a lot of women and he can be quite the suave player.
JH: I think we all know someone in our lives like Coop who maybe isn't the most self-aware. Do you have someone like that?
PF: I don't know that I have someone like that in my life but what's fun about playing him is that he kind of lives in his own world and doesn't realize that everybody around him doesn't really get him. He thinks that everyone at work is his best friend and they're not. That's part of the fun to play is that obliviousness that makes him such a sympathetic character.
JH: Peter, you've worked on several network series but how is the freedom of being on a cable show?
PF: There definitely is a freedom there and I definitely can feel it and it's a luxury. I'm very happy to be a part of that and do work that allows you to not have to try to satisfy the desires of [advertisers] but service the audience.
JH: You do a lot of comedy in 'Nurse Jackie' but you've also done darker dramas like 'Damages' or even the 'Twilight' movies. Is there a major switch you have to flip to get into those more dramatic roles?
PF: They're different muscles but I enjoy being able to explore the different muscles. For me, I like being able to go and do something dramatic and then the next project do something completely different. If I had to do three dramatic roles in a row I'd get bored pretty quick. I'm happy right now because I have something where I can do more comedy but even on 'Nurse Jackie' the more dramatic I am on that show the more Coop is funny. I don't try to play things for laughs but I just play them as real as can be. In some scenes I'll go and break down and cry and it's hysterical.
JH: When can we see your wife, Jennie Garth, guest on 'Nurse Jackie?' That would be great to see.
PF: I don't know. We've always kept our stuff separate; she does her thing and I do my thing. It might be fun to do something but I'd never really thought about it and she's never really asked.
"Nurse Jackie" airs every Monday at 10:00/9:00c on Showtime.