Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kevin Peyton May Just Be 'Nurse Jackie's Most Intriguing Character...

Though the Showtime series is titled Nurse Jackie, I'm beginning to think the most interesting character is the man behind the titular woman: Kevin Peyton (Dominic Fumusa).


We don't know much about Kevin. He owns a bar; he spends a good chunk of time as a "house husband;" he seems to be an all-around good guy. Yet still Jackie (Edie Falco) cheats; she lies; she jeopardizes their relationship and their seemingly perfect little family. Maybe she's bored with him-- with them-- or maybe it just has nothing to do with him at all but instead her own shortcomings and need to self-sabotage.

Did he really have no idea what his wife was really doing, or did he just turn a blind eye? Neither option has him coming out looking so good... But then again, the show wasn't really about him, as the title would suggest, so it would make sense that in the beginning he was barely a secondary character, and not nearly as fleshed out or flawed as his female counterpart. All of this ended up lending itself nicely to a "man of mystery" quality about him, leaving the viewers wanting more, and when he finally found the balls (or was just slammed into the light) to confront her at the end of the second season, it seemed to set up a turning point.

Sure, development with Kevin is going to be slower coming due to simple math; he has no place in Jackie's work life-- hell, none of the other nurses even knew he existed until this season's premiere-- and because of this, he's not around much. But when he is, it's always pure gold. Watching him interact with the headmistress of his daughters' schools when he was putting down a deposit on the youngest's education and putting himself as the primary emergency contact just scratched the surface: he is a man taking his life back.

The Al-Anon meetings, although unfortunately off-screen-- again because they don't serve a purpose for the protagonist's journey (at least not yet)-- are just another layer to that. Who would've imagined that someone who grew up so keenly aware of addicts' behaviors would end up married to another one, and seemingly blind to all of the warning signs? That in and of itself can be quite compelling and most definitely a story worth telling.

In fact, it's a story I am trying to tell. Not of Kevin himself, per se, but of a woman who created a life for herself based around very specific beliefs and situations. She grew up with an alcoholic father and deeply believed she was doomed to repeat his sins and mistakes simply because nature so often wins in the end. But on the edge of her having everything she always thought she wanted, she learns this man was not actually her biological father after all. Her crisis becomes one, then, that can be mistaken for mid-life but is much more existential: is who she is really who she is meant to be or just a complete manipulation created out of fear? And in this case, is it really nature or nurture that matters? She, too, has her eyes opened to the fact that the partner she has fallen for is an addict (though in recovery), which only further complicates things.

I have been working on this story for two years, and since the completion of the first draft in 2009, it is still very much in the same form. It is a story I do not want to be glib or laxidasical about in any way, and it is one that I know requires deeper research and insight on my part to be able to execute the message in a meaningful way. But now, seeing at least the exposition of Kevin's similar struggle on Nurse Jackie, I inherently want more. Not only to help me along in my own research process but because I truly think the struggle is a fascinating and extremely unique one. We so often see portrayals of addicts themselves, but very rarely do we get an inside look at the emotional conflict experienced by those who love them-- even when they loathe the behavior. It's a harder story to tell, admittedly, because it's so much more an internal struggle that doesn't always translate to a visual medium. Maybe that's even why I'm having trouble with it. But it's just as emotional and can therefore be even more impactful.

Season three of Nurse Jackie has already set up quite the spiral for Mrs. Peyton herself, but I sincerely hope the series will expand a bit and learn to juggle its supporting characters because she is not the only one who needs to heal.

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