There's a reason why the 1920s are referred to as "The Roaring '20s." Gangsters, flappers, and bootleggers - characters we might channel for costume parties nowadays - were commonplace, often dangerous presences decades ago. The few years after The First World War, but before the Stock Market crash represent a unique period in American history, one epitomized by excess and transformation, greed and glory, and it's all there to be ogled at in HBO's Boardwalk Empire.
In his Archive interview, creator Terence Winter stated that after The Sopranos ended (he was a writer on the show) he secured a development deal with HBO and needed to decide on his next project. HBO Executive Carolyn Strauss presented Winter with the book "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City" by Nelson Johnson, and informed Winter that Martin Scorcese was attached to the project. Winter read the book, knew there was a TV show in the story, and with Scorcese on board as an Executive Producer, agreed to pen the series.
The book tells the true-life tales of kingpin Enoch L. Johnson, politician/gangster/head honcho of Atlantic City in the 1920s. Winter fictionalized the character as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi) brought on Kelly Macdonald as Margaret Schroeder/Thompson, Nucky's mistress and later wife; Michael Shannon as Nelson Van Alden/George Mueller, former Prohibition Agent turned bootlegger; Michael Stuhlbarg as Arnold Rothstein, New York gangster; and Shea Whigham as Elias "Eli" Thompson, Nucky's younger brother. Other major players include a young Lucky Luciano (played by Vincent Piazza), a fresh-faced Al Capone (played by Stephen Graham), African-American gangster Albert "Chalky" White (played by Michael K. Williams), bootlegger "Mickey Doyle" (played by Paul Sparks), and Nucky's assistant/butler Eddie Kessler (played by Anthony Laciura).
Scorcese directed the pilot episode, and as of September 2013, Boardwalk Empire is entering its fourth season. Winter revealed to us that he may or may not take the show into the 1930s at some point (Prohibition ended in 1933). And as for how the series will end? Winter joked, "A very elderly Nucky will walk into a diner and kill Tony Soprano." Finally, answers!
Creator: Terence Winter
Programming history: September 19, 2010 – present
Sunday nights, HBO
- by Adrienne Faillace