When Edie Falco first heard that Pete Davidson’s dream was for her to play a version of his mother in a project that would ultimately become Bupkis, out today, she was surprised—flattered, yes; but wholly surprised.
“I thought, how the hell does Pete know who I am?” Falco tells Complex early into a discussion about her role in Bupkis, a semi-autobiographical take on Davidson’s life that showrunner Judah Miller describes as being a “fever dream” by design.
To be clear, you’d be hard-pressed to find any steward of pop culture—the art form of TV, specifically—who wasn’t familiar with Falco’s reliably perceptive work in some of the most universally beloved stories of all time. In David Chase’s The Sopranos, for example, Falco and the late James Gandolfini led us into a golden age of television as Carmela and Tony Soprano—the influence of which is still readily apparent in our current TV landscape.
Davidson has gone on record to say that he (like so many others) is “obsessed with” The Sopranos. But the Bupkis casting stands as not only a dream come true for Davidson; it also represents a number of firsts for Falco, who already has multiple Emmys and Golden Globes to her name. While her previous work has been more in the drama genre, Bupkis is more lighthearted and never takes itself too seriously, which allows for a more collaborative work environment than she was used to. But the show also has its insightful, and emotional tones—like Davidson’s family dealing with losing his dad on 9/11—and Falco shines in those moments.
“There were a couple of scenes with Pete and I that weren’t just funny; they were a little quieter and more meaningful. They had been through this huge trauma together and were trying to pick up their lives and move forward from there,” she tells Complex. “I could really feel the weight of what that must have been like for both of them. Pete was surprisingly accessible emotionally to that stuff.”
Complex caught up with Falco ahead of the show’s release and she talked about playing her own version of his mom in the series, how different this experience was for her, and whether or not she would do a Season 2. Bupkis hits Peacock on May 4.
This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Could you take us back to when you first learned of or first attached yourself to the project? And what drew you to this story specifically?
Well, I had heard that Pete wanted me to play his mom and I thought, how the hell does Pete know who I am? It just seemed like such a strange, like—you know, we don’t hang out much, you know what I mean? So I was really sort of flattered that this kid thought of me for his mom. I just said, “You know, first of all—I’m not gonna play your actual mom. Like, I don’t wanna imitate your actual mom and I hope that’s not what you’re looking for.” And he said, “Oh no, not at all.” And then I saw the other people on the cast, and I thought, “Oh my god. This has so many good things about it.” There’s no reason I wouldn’t do it.
Right. And you mentioned his real mother. So there was a conscious effort to not do, like, a full-blown mimicry of his actual mom?
Well, I wouldn’t know if I was doing that or not. I didn’t necessarily want to meet her and hang out with her.
You didn’t meet her?
No, not until the end of shooting and she was so much nicer than I was. I thought, “Well, I really messed that up.” She turned out to be just such a lovely person. But no, I just thought, I’m gonna approach this the way I approach any script. I’m just kind of making it out of my imagination based on [the] writing.
A key strength to this show—and you kind of touched on it—is the chemistry between you and Joe Pesci and Pete and everyone else. Was there a conscious effort among the cast to hang out beforehand and develop that chemistry or did it come naturally on the set?
I think it came mostly naturally because, you know, there wasn’t a ton of time. Everybody’s so fricking busy. And between Pete and Pesci, they’re both flying all over the place doing things. There’s no rehearsal or hangout time, you know? Joe in real life is a father, I in real life am a mother, and Pete in real life is a son. So I guess we kind of just fell into the whole thing pretty easily. So it was easy to do.
Right, right. I’ve seen Pete talk about how he and [showrunner Judah Miller] wanted an “ego-free set,” just like—the best idea wins. Did you find that to be true of this set?
Wow. I never heard him say that but yeah, totally. I did like it, I couldn’t believe how cool they were. I would watch them just try different things and then they’d yell from [somewhere on set] “Try saying this!” and I had never worked like that before. At first, I was like, “What the heck is going on?” And then I totally got into it, totally loved it. It was so much fun.
Did you find that that contributed to the process of the show, in comparison to other things that you’ve done? Was it a more enjoyable process? How was it different for you?
I mean, I haven’t seen Bupkis [yet]. I don’t know if anything I said got into the final cut. It may have all been really stupid and they were just being nice to me. But it was, I loved feeling that I had something to add. I loved feeling like I was more a part of the creation of this show than I often feel.
In an interview with Complex, we asked Pete about you and Pesci specifically and if he had any favorite performances of either of you and he said that both of you have never missed in your entire career, which I would agree with. I’m wondering, how familiar were you with Pete and his work going into this?
Not so much. I mean, I knew who he was and I would get little tidbits on, you know, the news feed or whatever. But yeah, I mean, SNL was way too late for me at that point. I knew who he was more as a celebrity than as a talent so I didn’t, you know, I didn’t know
We’ve kind of touched on this, but as an actor doing a kind of semi-autobiographical thing, what do you think is the most important facet of making that work?
I approached it the way I would any script. If it actually happened or it’s just imagination didn’t really matter to me. It’s approached the same way insofar as telling a story. And a lot of times, we’d be shooting something and Pete would turn to me and say, “This actually happened.” And I’d be like, “Are you kidding me?” Because a lot of it is pretty out there, you know? So yeah, I didn’t find that particularly hard, the fact that a lot of it was true.
With this great cast, do you have any standout moments from shooting that are implanted in your mind as an “I’ll never forget this particular moment”?
A lot of the stuff, a lot of it. There were a couple of scenes with Pete and I that weren’t just funny; they were a little quieter and more meaningful. I mean, they had been through this huge trauma together and were trying to pick up their lives and move forward from there.
So some of these scenes, I don’t know. I felt myself really, I could really feel it. I could really feel the weight of what that must have been like for both of them. Pete was surprisingly accessible emotionally to that stuff, which, you know, it’s interesting insofar as the fact that it is actually his life.
And without spoiling anything, do you have any ambitions for this series to continue? Would you like to do multiple seasons and keep carrying this on?
Sure! I would, I would totally do it. I just had so much fun. You know, I’ve done a lot of far more serious shows and there’s an air of gravity around some of that stuff. There was no gravity on this show. There were a lot of things, it was so just an easygoing bunch of people and there’s something about showing up at a job where nobody’s taking themselves too seriously. It really is just about being funny and fun and making an audience laugh. It was a very different experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
To close things out here, if anyone is reading this and they’re an actor themselves and maybe they were approaching their first project—what’s the one piece of advice that you would give them?
Trust yourself. Just trust that you know what you’re doing and trust that there’s a reason that you’re there, assuming you got cast in this thing. You know more about acting than you realize and just stop second-guessing yourself. Just do what you know how to do and the rest will follow.
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