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Edie Falco: 'Sopranos,' Sayles, stage star

Edie Falco
Edie Falco  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

(CNN) -- Edie Falco is known best known as Carmela Soprano, the tough wife of crime kingpin Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos." The role has brought her two Emmys.

But Falco doesn't just restrict her acting life to Carmela. While "Sopranos" staffers were preparing for a new season, she's been very busy. She can currently be seen on screen playing a working-class hotel owner in the new John Sayles film "Sunshine State." Later this month, she is back on the boards in the award-winning Terrence McNally play "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune."

Falco spoke Wednesday with CNN's Paula Zahn on "American Morning."

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Congratulations on all of your great success.

EDIE FALCO: Thank you. Thank you.

ZAHN: In so many different venues. How do you do it?

FALCO: I don't know -- they send me the script, and I show up at rehearsal. I guess is kind of the way it's working these days.

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ZAHN: The strangest thing I heard about "Sunshine State," this movie that's now out, that's doing well, is that John Sayles, the director, had never seen you before in "Sopranos."

FALCO: I know, which I was thrilled about, and I should have guessed when I read "Sunshine State" and saw what the character was like. I should have guessed that he hadn't seen Carmela because it couldn't be more different.

ZAHN: Describe who this character is that you play, who happens to share the same name of your current dog, Marly.

FALCO: Marly, yes, oddly enough. She's a local Florida girl who owns a family business and motel. And she's lived there her whole life, and her dad is Ralph Waite.

ZAHN: And the deal is, the place is being besieged by real estate developers.

FALCO: Money comes into town, and it's about how the local people react to it.

ZAHN: You get to play the kind of woman you play best, a very downtrodden, tough-spirited woman.

FALCO: Actually, yes. Kind of sarcastic, a little smarmy, and it was actually great fun, great fun. No fingernails.

ZAHN: You've come a long way for someone who used to play clowns at weddings.

FALCO: Don't get me started. Yes, a lot of years of crazy jobs. That was just one of them. It was actually the Cookie Monster I played at weddings, but I'd rather not talk about it.

ZAHN: We just want to elaborate on how far this woman has come.

FALCO: Read my book, if I ever write one.

ZAHN: You will. You will. We will urge you to. The New York Times featured you in its magazine over the weekend talking a lot about all of these various projects you're talking on.

How is this working, logistics-wise? "The Sopranos" off for a little while, then you decide to tackle a play. It takes a lot of balancing to do that.

FALCO: Thank gosh there are many people who handle that stuff. You know, my agents and stuff, because scheduling has been a bit of a nightmare. But there are so many good things that happen to be coming my way right now. There's just no way that I have found to say no to any of them, and they've just, like -- sometimes within days (the people) work out the schedule so that they can all happen.

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit about the challenge now of tackling this project with Stanley Tucci back in the theater, and how different that medium is for you than doing television or doing film.

FALCO: You know, Stanley Tucci and I are both sort of deer caught in the headlights. ... We've both been doing film and television such a long time, and we both went to SUNY-Purchase (State University of New York at Purchase, New York) and were trained on stage, but have done other things for a while.

So (theater) is like a completely other animal, and one that if you go too long -- if I go too long without doing it, you really miss it. It's the immediacy of an audience every night; it's different. You get to go, beginning, middle, end. You know, the story has an arc every night. There's really nothing like it. But we're in the rehearsal process, and we're both a little nervous right now.

ZAHN: You have many weeks ahead to get prepared yet. But I guess in many ways, it must be liberating for you as a performer to get out of that box that perhaps some of your greatest fans have put you in, because they see you as Carmela Soprano.

FALCO: Right. That's certainly their prerogative. I hope to play a million roles, well, in this career. All I can do is do my job, which is to, you know, as thoroughly as possible inhabit whatever the role is I am supposed to be playing, and ideally the audience will come with me on this journey.

ZAHN: So do you want to betray family secrets about "The Sopranos" and what we might expect next year, next fall season?

FALCO: Not one, no, not even a single one.

ZAHN: Is it wrapped up now?

FALCO: We're not. I think we're doing the last week now, but people have been shot for less on my show.

ZAHN: We won't do that do you.

FALCO: Thank you.

ZAHN: When you think about the stunning success of the series, was there anything early on, when you joined the project, that made you believe it would have the longevity it has and the popularity?

FALCO: No. To be honest with you, no. The script was brilliant; the actors were brilliant; but, truthfully, I've been involved in projects that I felt had a better shot at this kind of notoriety, and never made it to television once, not even the pilot. So I am terrible judge of that, as far as what people are going to watch.

So I know we shot the pilot, and David Chase said to us, well, we had a great time, it was nice meeting all of you, too bad no one is ever going to watch this. So, I mean, obviously I wasn't the only one who was expecting this kind of attention.

ZAHN: See, the audience gets it right again, don't they? God bless them. Smart people out there.

FALCO: Couldn't be happier about it.

ZAHN: Well, it's going to be fun to keep so busy watching everything you're doing, trying to keep up with you on film, and stage and on TV. Continued good luck to you, Edie Falco.

FALCO: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Thanks for stopping by.


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