INTERVIEW: Dominic Fumusa Loves Ninth and Joanie

The acclaimed actor talks about his role in Brett C. Leonard’s new play and returning to Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.

Dominic Fumusa
(© David Gordon)
Dominic Fumusa
(© David Gordon)

Over the past 15 years, actor Dominic Fumusa has become a familiar presence on stage, with roles in such shows as Wait Until Dark, Take Me Out, [sic], and Fault Lines, and on television, with appearances on such shows as As the World Turns, Brotherhood, Law & Order: SVU, and most notably, Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, in which he plays Edie Falco‘s now-estranged husband, Kevin Peyton.

Currently, he’s back Off-Broadway in the LAByrinth Theatre Company’s production of Brett C. Leonard’s dark drama, Ninth and Joanie, at the Bank Street Theatre.

In the show, directed by Mark Wing-Davey, he plays Michael, who returns to the the South Philadelphia home where he grew up and reconnects with his dad and brother after his mother’s funeral, with unhappy consequences. “As an actor, you have to live with your part, and what happens to my character during the play really gave me pause when Mark offered me the role,” says Fumusa.

“You never know how a part will affect you until you do it, but as dark as this one is, so far I haven’t been living with it in a problematic way offstage,” he adds. “I think because there are so many technical things I had to master during rehearsals that it took some of the edge off of the character. And one of the big reasons I wanted to do the play is I’ve learned that you need to deal with what you’re afraid of. It’s how we grow up as people, not just as actors.”

An ex-con now living with his wife and son, Michael hasn’t seen his dad or brother for seven years before their uneasy reunion. “I think we all have to find ways to outgrow our childhood and deal with what happened in a healthy way,” says Fumusa. “What’s so interesting is that Michael is someone who got out of a bad place — even though he had to go to prison to do it — and when he comes back has to deal with this backlash. He’s not some squeaky clean guy, for sure, but in many ways, he’s the healthy one in the family.”

The play marks the actor’s first professional collaboration with Leonard, and it’s one Fumusa is enjoying. “He’s interested in the darker side of people. I expect the audience to be shocked and troubled by this play, and some people won’t react in a positive way,” says Fumusa. “This is such an uncomfortable situation these characters are in. They’re not evil. They’re people who make poor choices and don’t know how to deal with them or communicate with each other. I just hope we’re doing the play and these people justice.”

Fumusa says he found taking a quick day trip with the cast to the South Philadelphia neighborhood where the play takes place to be helpful, despite some initial skepticism. “I live in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, and I see Italians every day, so I thought ‘how different could it be,'” he notes. “But just observing those people, walking down those streets, allowed me to pick up one or two things for the character. I got the essence of South Philadelphia. None of us are trying to painstakingly recreate the accent, but the important thing is that the cast all sounds like each other.”

Dominic Fumusa and Edie Falcoin Nurse Jackie
(© Showtime)
Dominic Fumusa and Edie Falco
in Nurse Jackie
(© Showtime)

The actor is also thrilled to continue to be part of the cast of Nurse Jackie, which began airing its fourth season on April 8. As viewers know, the show’s third season ended with the surprising revelation that Kevin had cheated on Jackie, and her demand that he move out of their house.

As Fumusa admits, he didn’t know that development was coming — and was unsure how it affected his future on the series. “Edie doesn’t look to know what’s going to happen ahead of time, so we all have gotten used to playing things by ear,” he says. “But there was a moment or two after I saw that script when I thought I might not be coming back. So I asked the powers-that-be what was happening and they assured me pretty quickly that I would be back.”

That said, viewers may not find out any more about Kevin’s affair as this season progresses. “I have to admit I still have questions about that affair; I’m not even sure who she was. I think it might have had something to do with the episode where he goes to sell the pinball machine,” says Fumusa. “Television moves fast; you don’t have a lot of time to sit around and discuss your backstory, so that affair might always remain a mystery.”

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