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Edie Falco is such a New Yorker that Tommy, the new CBS series in which she plays Los Angeles’ first female police chief, is shot in Queens.
“I started to wonder after a while where we were. We had a truck with our palm trees [inside]. We’d stop in front of a bodega, take out our palm trees,” she told reporters at the drama’s Television Critics Association winter press tour presentation in Pasadena on Sunday morning.
Falco’s character in the series, Tommy, is also from New York, and while her hometown is one of Tommy’s defining characteristics, it’s not necessarily the most challenging thing she has to navigate on the job.
“I think I can have some rough edges and whatever else that other people may equate with being a New Yorker, but it’s not something that has to be front and center about the series,” Falco said. “I think the fact that she’s a woman is probably a bigger piece of the job that she does than the fact that she’s from the other side of the country.”
Also a major aspect of the character: she’s a lesbian, something that Falco is happy to represent onscreen.
“I think it’s important that every single person — large, small, different colors — gets represented in our television. I think everybody in the world wants to look at television and be able to find themselves somewhere, and I think we’ve been leaving huge swaths of the population out of that experience,” she said. “I could always find myself on television as a kid. The world is changing; we’ve got to change with it.”
And while the series focuses on the titular character trying to prove herself at work — if she fails, it’ll be another two decades before the city hires another woman, she laments at one point in the pilot — it also delves into her family life and her love life.
“We also get to see some of her romantic life, and we were very lucky because we were able to get Katrina Lenk … to play someone who comes into Tommy’s life and becomes a first simple and then complicated romantic partner,” said showrunner Tom Szentgyorgyi. “So that figures into the season as well.”
Los Angeles is a large, diverse city, something Szentgyorgyi hoped to represent in his writers room. Half of the eight writers in the room were male, half female, half LGBTQ-identifying, and a quarter African American. L.A. has large populations of Latinx, Korean, Armenian and other groups, which is something he and his team are very conscious of.
“The issue of representation is one we will be facing for as long as we’re going to be on air,” he said, adding, “We’re always going to be having to work to try to get that right.”
The series was created by Paul Attanasio after he learned that the three biggest cities in the country — New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — have never had a female police chief. Falco stars as a former high-ranking NYPD officer who becomes the first female chief of police in L.A. and uses her honesty and hardball tactics to navigate the social, political and national security issues that converge with enforcing the law.
Falco’s casting was a major coup for CBS, as the actress has mostly stuck to cable with HBO’s The Sopranos and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie (though she signed on for Dick Wolf’s limited series The Menendez Murders two seasons ago on NBC). Falco holds the record for the most number of SAG Awards — 22 — and is the lone actress ever to earn an Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG win in the same year for the same series.
Tommy premieres Thursday, Feb. 6, filling the 10 p.m. slot after the already-renewed Evil ends its 13-episode season.
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