‘Nurse Jackie’s’ Stephen Wallem On Thor’s Love Life And His Busy Work On The Stage

Eddie (Paul Schulze, l) and Thor (Stephen Wallem) have a chat. (Showtime)

What would the manic (and often drug-induced) world of Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” be without reliable, trustworthy, honest and jack-of-all-trades, Thor. As played by Stephen Wallem, the character who has been on the long-running series from the start, always seems to be the go-to guy for anyone with a problem.

However, when I talked to Wallem recently, we talked about whether we’ll be meeting Thor’s oft-mentioned new boyfriend as well as why he thinks the show has endured this long (and it’s renewed for an seventh season, too!) and what he’s been up to outside of the show. (Yes, folks, the man can SING!)

We’ve heard mention of Thor’s new boyfriend. Are we going to meet him?

Stephen Wallem: We do meet him but that’s in the last couple of episodes…there are two onscreen appearances by an actual human being. It’s like there’s an actual human being after seven years!

I want to ask  you kind of a general question since I’ve watched this show since the start. Why do you think this show has endured this long? Because in some ways Jackie’s still an addict and she’s still going through her stuff but there’s something still so fascinating about it.

SW: I think if we had anybody else at the center of this universe other than Edie Falco I’m not sure if people would want to stay on her journey as much as they have. Well, first of all, the writing is brilliant, of course, and I love all the twists and turns and just when you think you’ve got it figured out what she’s going to do, of course, they’ll throw a wrench in it. But I think it really does all center back on Edie and her performance because I still marvel after seven years. I will watch an episode and I will sometimes literally say out loud ‘how did she do that? how did she do that?’ and it will be from just the smallest look or just one moment that she’ll have that has 15 different layers going on. It’s absolutely mesmerizing.

This character is so complicated because you want to shake her and slap her and say ‘why are you ruining all of these people’s lives?’ and at the same time you’re rooting for her. And again, I think in lesser hands this character may not have endured as strongly as it has but I think it also starts at Edie Falco at the end of the day.

Much happens behind closed doors (and blinds) on 'Nurse Jackie.' (Edie Falco & Wallem, Showtime)

So much of this show is about Jackie doing things under people’s noses but do you play it where maybe Thor does know more than he lets on?

SW: You’re the first person to ask me that. It is something I think about. I’ve never really talked about it to anybody else and of course I never know what’s coming. They’ll give Thor two minutes to sort of express himself on that level but I think he is smart. I don’t think anything gets past him. I think he loves Jackie so much and looks at her like a big sister, for sure, and that’s been since moment one. I think he has the same admiration for her that Zoey (Merritt Wever) has but it manifests itself in a more subtle way.

I think the admiration is just as strong but I don’t think anything gets past him. Even in the dialog where he says ‘oh, we didn’t even know that you were married’ and he knew. In my mind nothing gets past Thor because he looks at every file, he’s a whiz on the computer. I think there’s very little left that is going to get past him. He’s just not necessarily going to admit that he knows everything, but he does. My insight.

And Thor’s kind of the go-to guy to everybody for different things. I love there’s some scenes early in the season where you’re basically helping Coop (Peter Facinelli) online date and you’re telling him the things to do and not to do. The gay guy knows all!

SW: I love it. Those are kind of my favorite scenes when you see me unexpectedly next to somebody at their desk, I had that with Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) last year, helping her with Spotify, and this year helping Coop with his dating. He just always seems to pop up next to somebody on their computer. And again that’s sort of just him being every man, jack-of-all-trades, all-knowing presence in the hospital. He just doesn’t need to show it off. He doesn’t need to tell everybody, ‘come to me.’ They just naturally gravitate toward him.

Here’s a clip from this Sunday’s episode…

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/watch/Nurse-Jackie/6115786120257849112/272771139886/Nurse-Jackie-Season-6%3A-Episode-9-Clip—-Clean-and-Sober/embed 580 476]

So whether we see much of this later in the season or not, is it a good bet that Thor’s probably a very good boyfriend?

SW: Boy, I would think so. It’s gotten to the point now where I forget sometimes where I end up and where Thor begins but I think it also makes it sort of natural for me to incorporate my own personality in it. And when these new situations arise and ’oh how would he treat a romantic relationship?’ I think he can be as neurotic and obsessive, especially about the new relationship, as anybody can. I certainly have shared those qualities in my past, hopefully in my past. But yeah, ultimately I think he is, at heart, he is a good guy in two capital G’s and at the end of the day if you call him he’ll be there in a heartbeat. And I think that, of course, that applies to his romantic life, too.

Stephen Wallem transformed into Shrek on stage.

What else do you have going on in that world? I know a year ago when we last talked you were doing the Anna Nicole Smith opera so I feel like you probably have things in the works out there.

SW: The next thing coming up for me is I’m going to be doing another show at 54 Below. I’ve done a whole bunch of the Sondheim Unplugged [shows] over the years. And there’s a new series that’s starting now with all Rodgers and Hammerstein music. It’s four singers, two male, two female and it’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein review and that’s for one night. And the then the next big thing is I’m going back to the Muny in St Louis, where I was last year, where I did ‘Shrek,’ and I’m going to play Horton the elephant in ‘Suessical,’ which has kind of been a dream role of mine for a long time and I’m thrilled. And it’s sort of a mini ‘Shrek’ reunion because Julia Murney is coming back and John Tartaglia, who directed ‘Shrek,’ is playing The Cat In The Hat for ‘Suessical.’ Yeah, I can’t wait. I could not be more excited.

“Nurse Jackie” airs Sundays at 9pm on Showtime. For info on the Rodgers & Hammerstein show at 54 Below show on June 15th, visit the website.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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