Simon Columb looks at the top eight supporting characters in Boardwalk Empire….
Today I pick up the pieces from the Boardwalk Empire pie. As the final episode was devoured here in the UK last night, I cannot help but recall the memorable moments in the series. The exceptional finale closing of Season 2; the ace marksmanship of veterans from the Great War; the family ties and the legacy it has left behind. Boardwalk Empire had many flaws, but the acting was not one of them. It attracted the top crop of actors working today. In addition to lead-actor Steve Buscemi, it included Oscar-nominees and award winners in Michael Shannon, Kelly MacDonald, Stephen Graham and Michael Kenneth Williams. The whiney Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) was the man you loved to hate and Sheriff Eli (Shea Whigham) seemed to go from the top and drop to the very bottom by the final season. Even the corrupted young-Mum in Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) lasted the entire five-season run, with a character arc that seemed to changed so rapidly a Tommy-gun could barely keep up. Vincent Piazza and Anatol Yusef as Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky respectably, led the charge from New York – from small-time hoodlums in season one to major players setting up ‘The Commission’ in the final episode. But those were only the ten actors who lasted all five seasons! Apart from them, a further roster of supporting actors were of an equally high standard (if not higher) and it is surely important for us to acknowledge their crucial input in a show that should have been the greatest television series ever…
8. Leander Cephas Whitlock (Dominic Chianese)
Boardwalk Empire was made following the success of The Sopranos. Other than Buscemi who appeared in Season 5 of The Sopranos, Dominic Chianese not only appeared in the mob hit drama, but lasted throughout the entire six-season run. He is also the sole actor who additionally appeared in The Godfather Part II, as Johnny Ola, Hyman Roth’s consigliore. His vital part in Nucky’s change into villainy was revealed in Season 5, but Chianese’s appearance at the end of Season 4 sealed Gillian’s fate to the mental hospital and showed how unscrupulous he was (as if we didn’t know already). Leander was part of the support network that ensured The Commodore’s continued abuse of young girls was hidden from sight, while he held an air of power and authority that hinted at darker demons in his own closet. Leander was fully invested in The Commodore – and Uncle Jun’ would never have had the stomach for the self-serving motivations of the rich investor Leander Whitlock.
7. Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox)
Though I failed to appreciate the Margaret-having-an-affair plot that dominated the second-through-to-third season, I can appreciate Charlie Cox’s Irish charm and rogue personality. I’m sure his likability is what led him to the lead-role in Netflix and Marvel’s upcoming Daredevil series. Behind his cheeky grin was a murderous skill that involved gunpowder and wire. It’s just a shame that the more complicated romances was reduced to soap-opera dramas and passing glances of (for the majority of his story) unrequited love.
6. Lucy Danzinger (Paz de la Huerta)
Initially, Lucy was Nucky’s squeeze behind closed doors. She was originally a dancer at the club and, clearly, a vixen between the sheets. Enjoying the lap of luxury Nucky bestows upon her, Paz de la Huerta portrays her as the complete opposite to the prim and proper Margaret Schroeder (the woman who would become Nucky’s wife). Her bolshy attitude and confidence in her sexuality proves how, to get to the top, she will happily cut others down to size – as she often tried to with Margaret. She moves like a lioness stalking the room and, by the time Van Alden meets her, he is eaten for breakfast. Paz appeared in The Limits of Control shortly afterwards.
5. Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright)
Chalky White was introduced in the first season. The depiction of racism and KKK was shocking and horrific to see in Boardwalk Empire, but it only serves to remind us of the sins of the past. Rather than the small sub-plots that littered the early seasons, we all desperately waited for it to become front and centre. Beginning in Season 4, we meet Valentin Narcisse. Established as the villain of Season 4, his awareness, intelligence and arrogance is what we despise and Jeffrey Wright – a.k.a. James Bond’s pal from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace – plays it with smart confidence. It is merely a shame he was introduced so late and, despite his final moments in Season 4, only survived to appear in very few episodes of Season 5, with a death that surely owing a debt to The Godfather.