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April 24, 2014

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Anna Deavere Smith Gets Funny

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Showtime's hit comedy series 'Nurse Jackie' starring Edie Falco returns for a third season this week, and brings with it Anna Deavere Smith, who comes back to play Gloria Akalitus, the old-guard, by-the-book ER administrator.

The Baltimore native and noted playwright, whose career spans more than 20 years and has included several critically acclaimed one-woman shows, such as 'Fires in the Mirror' and 'Twilight: Los Angeles,' is currently midrun with 'Let Me Down Easy' at the Philadelphia Theater Company.

The play tells the human side of the health-care story now unwinding in politics, by bringing to light questions about the human body, the resilience of the spirit and the price of care.

Smith recently spoke to BlackVoices.com about the joy of 'Nurse Jackie' returning to television.

"Oh, well, it's thrilling," she says. "You know, of course, the thrilling part has already happened, which is the filming of it. But I'm excited to see how audiences respond."

And even if Smith doesn't think she's as funny as more conventional comedians, she is quick to point out that her 'Nurse Jackie' character, Gloria Akalitus, is hilarious.

"I think she's funnier. More obviously funny," says Smith. "You know, my work that I do in the theater is considered so serious, because it usually has to do with social issues. Although there's a lot of humor in it. I was talking to Chris Rock at a Christmas party and he argued with me that I am funny. So if he thinks I'm funny, I guess I am."

With her appearances on 'Nurse Jackie' in the can, Smith is free to redirect her focus on 'Let Me Down Easy,' and the City of Brotherly Love.

"I love being in Philly. Last week the mayor of Philadelphia gave me the Liberty Bell, which is apparently the big honor. And this is a great city. It's clean. It's a great walking city. I think it's more affordable than New York. I mean nothing is in New York, obviously. But this city has got a lot of life and a lot going on."

'Nurse Jackie' airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.



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