As the walls begin to close in on ‘Nurse Jackie‘s Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), many factors threaten to expose the truth behind her pill popping addiction. One All Saints nurse is a particular thorn in her side: Sam. Played by Arjun Gupta, Sam, a recovering sex and drug addict, has had a sixth sense about Jackie’s drug abuse all season, but has thus far remained mum. Now, following the discovery that Dr. Cooper (Peter Facinelli) slept with his girlfriend, Sam has become dangerously close to unraveling. Gupta, whose addition to the cast this season rattled some fans after he replaced the much-beloved Mo-Mo (Haaz Sleiman), took a look back at season two and teased what’s in store for Monday night’s season finale (Showtime, 10/9c).
How did you deal with all the Mo-Mo backlash at the beginning of the season?
You know I didn’t think very much of it. It’s great. It’s a testament to the show that people had that much affection for the character. My character is really different from Momo and I think people thought I would be some kind of replacement. But my character added a completely different element to the show and I hope people are responding well.
So you haven’t been reading the message boards?
I have not. I’ll be honest with you, a friend of mine has sent me some comments and it’s been positive. I’m not gonna sit there and be like ‘I have a pulse on what everyone in the world thinks about Sam.’
Is it a case of intentional avoidance?
No. I don’t know if it’s conscious or subconscious. I’m not out there searching for it… Well, I’ll be honest: I’ve searched once or twice. But I haven’t scoured! I’m not a dude who’s on Twitter, either. It’s just my own technical inexpertise [sic].
Known Twitter expert Peter [Facinelli] hasn’t tried to convert you?
He has not tried to convert me yet. Facebook is enough. I was never a cat who was like ‘I need a Facebook, a Myspace, a Friendster, a LinkedIn.’ I don’t know.
Friendster? You’re really taking it old school here.
I know. I went old school. I don’t really use all of that. Twitter is interesting but I’m just not that interested in it.
Back to the message boards for a second. Opinions seem to be split three ways: 1: We love Sam. 2: We hate Sam. 3: We think Sam is hot. I’m most interested in your reaction to the third.
What do you say to that? It’s incredibly flattering. I think people are slightly delusional. But hey, I’ll take it.
It doesn’t hurt that Sam’s a sex addict, though.
Listen, I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing. It’s almost absurd for me to think of. I take that stuff with a grain of salt. Any time anyone says that I’m hot, it’s a great big compliment.
What’s the plan for maintaining the hunky status?
I work out. But never consistently. I’m not a huge fan of going to the gym. I try to keep healthy. I like being pretty to people. I’ll try to stay pretty to people.
How did you find out about Sam coming back for a second season?
They liked having a character who knew about Jackie because it added a new tension and conflict to the show. When I did the first episode in the first season I thought that was it. I talked to Richie Jackson late in the summer and he said they were thinking of bringing me back for a few episodes, maybe more. I was over the moon. It was so random to me. I didn’t even know they were thinking about it. I thought maybe one of the nurses would be on vacation and I’d be subbing in. But then a week later Richie took me out to lunch and told me that they wanted to bring me back for the whole season. I tried to play really cool. Then as soon as lunch was over I like, bugged.
Who did you call first with the news?
Mama. Mama was the first call. Then I called my best friends. I think I walked like 30 or 40 blocks just bugging. I didn’t know what to do with myself. There’s a mural on Houston [Street]. I think I stood for like 30 minutes just looking at that mural.
Yeah, the Os Gemeos mural.
I honestly stared at that thing for a long time, just taking it all in. It was a dream. The goal has always been to make a living out of acting. I’m two years out of school and to be able to do it on a show with actors I respect and admire, I have to pinch myself.
Do you know if Sam’s coming back next season?
I don’t know. I know that Nurse Jackie got picked up for a third season. No one’s talked to me yet about anything. Obviously I’d love to go back. It was a great experience. I think it really depends on story.
I like this mystical element to him; reading lifelines, he knows what’s up with Jackie.
I hear what you’re saying. It’s a really interesting ride that Sam takes as he gets to know the staff a little bit more. It’s wild.
Can you be a little more…specific?
I’m trying to be smooth without giving anything away.
I’ll get to the point: Does he relapse?
You’ll have to wait and see! This is the first time at a job where he’s there for more than a couple of days. Sam is really trying to be a part of the team. You should be excited and I don’t think it will disappoint.
When do you think you’ll find out if Sam will be back?
I haven’t really been in too much contact with the writers and the executive producers. Someone might be in a room now discussing my deal. I don’t even know. I hope to find out in the next couple months. I’m pretty new at this stuff, so I don’t know the timetables.
Did you learn anything juicy about Edie Falco that no one knows?
She’s actually really goofy. On the show you’re like, ‘Damn that girl’s intense. She’s fierce,’ but its really funny. At the end of the scene when they yell cut she always done something funny to break the tension. She’s incredible to work with.
Were you freaking out about the sex scene with Eve [Best]?
I was definitely nervous. I think we did that the third or fourth week of shooting. This was my first big, like, thing. I was like ‘Wow, this is all happening too quickly.’ I remember we were doing some photoshoot and I was talking to Liz, and someone casually was like, ‘Oh yeah, we brought you on to bang our hottest doctor.’ And I was like, ‘What? Excuse me?’ I didn’t really know what was happening. It ended up being really comfortable and fun.
What’s your approach? Tic Tacs? Listerine?
[Laughs] I definitely had a toothbrush there that day. I think we did it the last scene of the day. Brushing the teeth was definitely key. You want to be that for someone. I’m not gonna eat onions or pop a garlic Tic Tac.
Do they make garlic Tic Tacs? If so, gross.
I don’t know. That was just something I said. I said it and I was like ‘That doesn’t make sense, Arjun. Why are you saying that?’
Did you do any research with people in recovery beforehand?
I did. I didn’t go to any NA meetings. I wanted to but I didn’t get a chance to. What I did do is spend five hours in a New York City ER shadowing nurses. These guys have such an incredibly noble profession and I have the utmost respect for them. I’m just trying to honor that as much as possible.
Which hours do you think are worse: a full-time ER nurse, or an actor working full-time on a TV show?
Listen, if you love what you do then I don’t think it matters. Nurses do 13-hour shifts several times a month. Whose hours are worse? I don’t know. Their work is much harder. They’re saving lives. I put more importance on them. We just play. I may come in at 6 am and work ’til 1 am the next day, but at the end of the day it’s not brain surgery.
What are your personal addictions?
Oooh. That’s interesting. I feel like I should be really deep right now but I don’t really have a deep answer. I did recently quit smoking. It was a stupid little phase. I love sports. There it is. I’m addicted to sports; basketball, football, cricket, and baseball. Yes, I did say cricket. I spent a year in India and I fell in love with it. I follow it as much as possible on the Interweb. I love spending time with my friends, you could say that’s an addiction.
[Laughs] Not that I would say out loud.
Who from All Saints would you want as your personal nurse?
Oh, Jackie. Definitely. I know Jackie’s got my back. Talk as much as you want about her personal life, and it is messed up, but Jackie will bend over backwards to make sure you’re comfortable and getting the care you need.