Boardwalk Empire (TV series)
Genre Drama
Created by Terence Winter
Starring Steve BuscemiMichael PittKelly MacdonaldMichael ShannonShea WhighamAleksa PalladinoMichael StuhlbargStephen GrahamVincent PiazzaPaz de la HuertaMichael Kenneth WilliamsAnthony Laciura Paul SparksDabney ColemanJack Huston[1]
Opening theme "Straight Up and Down" by The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 12 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Terence WinterMartin ScorseseMark WahlbergTim Van Patten Stephen Levinson
Location(s) Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 50–60 minutes
Production company(s) HBO, Leverage Management
Original channel HBO
Original run September 19, 2010 (2010-09-19) – present


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Boardwalk Empire (TV series)

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Boardwalk Empire is an American television series from cable network HBO, set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the Prohibition era. Starring Steve Buscemi, the show was adapted from a chapter about historical criminal kingpin Enoch "Nucky" Johnson in Nelson Johnson's book, Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City, by Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and producer Terence Winter of The Sopranos.The first episode was directed by Martin Scorsese and was the most expensive pilot episode produced in television history. He won the Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series. On September 1, 2009, HBO picked up the series for an additional 11 episodes. The series debuted on September 19, 2010.Boardwalk Empire has received widespread critical acclaim since its premiere and has been nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards, for Best Writing in a Dramatic Series and Best Writing in a New Series, and won a Golden Globe for best Dramatic Series. In addition at The 2010 Golden Globes, Steve Buscemi won for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series and Kelly MacDonald was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television.


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Boardwalk Empire is a period drama focusing on Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (based on the historical Enoch L. Johnson), a political figure who rose to prominence and controlled Atlantic City, New Jersey during the Prohibition period of the 1920s and 1930s. Nucky interacts with several historical figures in both his personal and political life, including mobsters, politicians, government agents, and the common folk who look up to him. The federal government also takes an interest in the bootlegging and other illegal activities in the area, sending agents to investigate possible mob connections but also looking at Nucky's lifestyle – expensive and lavish for a county political figure.

Cast and characters

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Main cast

  • Steve Buscemi as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson – the corrupt treasurer of Atlantic County and its most powerful political figure, based on Enoch L. Johnson.
  • Michael Pitt as James "Jimmy" Darmody – Nucky's protege, he is haunted by his experiences fighting in World War I. He killed several people in the first season.
  • Kelly Macdonald as Margaret Schroeder – a young Irish widow and mother, she turns to Nucky for help before eventually becoming his mistress.
  • Michael Shannon as Nelson Van Alden – a zealous Federal Prohibition agent, he identifies Nucky as a key bootlegging figure.
  • Shea Whigham as Elias "Eli" Thompson – Nucky's younger brother and sheriff of Atlantic County
  • Aleksa Palladino as Angela Darmody – Jimmy's common-law wife and the mother of his young son
  • Michael Stuhlbarg as Arnold Rothstein – a powerful and intelligent New York gangster who enters into business with Nucky
  • Stephen Graham as Al Capone – a violent low-level Chicago gangster with ambitions of entering the bootlegging trade
  • Vincent Piazza as Charles "Lucky" Luciano – a Sicilian-American gangster and close associate of Rothstein
  • Paz de la Huerta as Lucy Danziger – Nucky's temperamental mistress and a former Ziegfeld Follies dancer
  • Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky White – Nucky's counterpart in Atlantic City's black community
  • Anthony Laciura as Eddie Kessler – Nucky's bumbling and often overwhelmed German assistant and butler
  • Paul Sparks as Michael "Mickey Doyle" Kozik – an Atlantic City bootlegger. Doyle is based on Mickey Duffy.
  • Dabney Coleman as Commodore Louis Kaestner – (based on German American hotelier and politician Louis Kuehnle) – Nucky's mentor and predecessor in Atlantic City. He is revealed to be Jimmy's biological father.

Recurring characters
  • Gretchen Mol as Gillian Darmody – Jimmy's mother and an old friend of Nucky's. She is also Luciano's lover.
  • Greg Antonacci as Johnny Torrio – Capone's boss in the Chicago crime world.
  • Jack Huston as Richard Harrow – a former Army marksman who allies with Jimmy and later Nucky. Heavily scarred in the war, he wears a tin mask over half his missing face. The character might have been inspired by that of William Bartholomew, in Frederick Busch's novel, The Night Inspector (1999). Bartholomew is a disfigured Civil War sniper who wears a mask on his return from the war. E! Online confirmed that Jack Huston will be upgraded to series regular in season 2.
  • Erik Weiner as Agent Sebso – Van Alden's Jewish partner, murdered by Van Alden towards the end of season one.
  • William Hill as Alderman George O'Neill – one of Nucky's political cronies and ward bosses.
  • Robert Clohessy as Alderman Neary – one of Nucky's political cronies and ward bosses.
  • Anna Katerina as Isabelle Jeunet – a French woman who owns an haute couture shop on the boardwalk.
  • Max Casella as Leo D'Alessio – a Philadelphia gangster Doyle owes money to. Based on the real life character Leo Lanzetta, a Philadelphia gangster.
  • Edoardo Ballerini as Ignatius D'Alessio – Leo's brother and another Philadelphia gangster. Based on the real life character Ignatius Lanzetta, a Philadelphia gangster.
  • Joseph Riccobene as Frankie Yale – Brooklyn Boss and assassin of "Big" Jim Colosimo.
  • Anatol Yusef as Meyer Lansky – a young gangster who is a protege of Rothstein.
  • Kevin O'Rourke as Edward L. Bader – Atlantic City mayoral candidate and (as of the season one finale) Mayor.
  • Josie and Lucy Gallina as Emily – Margaret Schroeder's daughter.
  • Declan and Rory McTigue as Teddy – Margaret Schroeder's son.
  • Michael Zegen as Bugsy Siegel - a young Jewish gangster and childhood friend of Meyer Lansky. Known for losing his temper when called Bugsy


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Steve Buscemi plays Enoch "Nucky" Thompson.


"Scorsese is an actor magnet," commented Winter. "Everybody wants to work with him. I had all these pictures on my wall and I thought, 'I'd really better write some good stuff for these people.'" In casting the role of Nucky Thompson (based upon real-life Atlantic City political boss Enoch L. Johnson), Winter wanted to stray from the real life Johnson as much as possible. "If we were going to cast accurately what the real Nucky looked like, we'd have cast Jim Gandolfini." The idea of casting Steve Buscemi in the lead role came about when Scorsese mentioned wanting to work with the actor, whom Winter knew well having worked with him on The Sopranos. Winter sent the script out to Buscemi, who responded very enthusiastically. "I just thought, 'Wow. I'm almost sorry I've read this, because if I don't get it, I'm going to be so sad.' My response was 'Terry, I know you're looking at other actors'... and he said, 'No, no, Steve, I said we want you.'" Explained Scorsese, "I love the range he has, his dramatic sense, but also his sense of humor."

The casting of Buscemi was soon followed by Michael Pitt, best known for his roles in the Sandra Bullock film Murder by Numbers and in the television series Dawson's Creek. He was soon joined by Kelly Macdonald, Vincent Piazza and Michael Shannon, who had just received an Oscar nomination for his role in the Sam Mendes film Revolutionary Road.

Filming for the pilot took place at various locations in and around New York City in June 2009. In creating the visual effects for the series, the company turned to Brooklyn-based effects company Brainstorm Digital. Says Glenn Allen, visual effects producer for Boardwalk Empire and co-founder of Brainstorm, "It's our most complex job to date. Everything is HD now, so we have to treat it like a feature film." "Anytime you get to work on a period piece, it's more fun," comments visual effects artist Chris "Pinkus" Wesselman, who used archival photographs, postcards, and architectural plans to recreate the Atlantic City boardwalks as accurately as possible. "We got to explore what the old Atlantic City was really like. The piers were one of the toughest parts because every summer they would change—new houses, new advertisements." It took two months for the firm to complete all the visual effects for the pilot.

Costume design
Designed by John Dunn and tailored by Martin Greenfield, Boardwalk Empire's costumes were based on 1920s tailoring books from the Fashion Institute of Technology's research libraries and examples found at the Brooklyn Museum and the Met. The costumes have also been rented from the Daybreak Vintage Company located in Albany, NY which also exhibits at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show. Dunn's designs were meticulously detailed, including a collar pin for Nucky's shirts and even going so far as to incorporate specially ordered woolens for suiting. Dunn told Esquire magazine in a September 2010 interview, "With Marty and Terry Winters, I developed the feel for each of the characters. We all wanted it to be very, very accurate and specific to the period.... I don't like to do boring clothing, but you also have to make sure that you're not suddenly putting somebody in something that isn't going to make sense four episodes from now."

Martin Scorsese's contribution
Martin Scorsese was involved in the filming even before creator Terence Winter. He directed the pilot and established the look of the show, which other directors later emulated to make the show feel seamless. He is also one of the executive producers of the show. Winter stated that Scorsese weighs in on the casting decisions, watches all the cuts and dailies. Up until the shooting of the show's first season, Scorsese and Winter would meet every Sunday afternoon to review what went on during the week where Scorsese would have comments and suggestions. Martin Scorsese is expected to continue to be creatively involved in the ongoing production and if the series continues—with proper scheduling—he would like to direct more episodes.


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The American Film Institute named Boardwalk Empire one of the ten "best television programs of the year".

Since its premiere, Boardwalk Empire has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregate Metacritic awarded the series a score of 88%, based on 30 reviews, indicating Universal acclaim.

David Hinkley of the New York Daily News awarded the series five stars, saying "Watching HBO's new "Boardwalk Empire" is like sitting in your favorite tavern and hearing someone say, 'Drinks are on the house.' Friends, it does not get much better.". Paige Wiser of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "... an event not to be missed," and praised Buscemi in particular, calling his performance "fascinating."TV Guide's Matt Roush praised the marriage of Scorsese and Winter, saying it "... brilliantly marries Martin Scorsese's virtuosic cinematic eye to Terence Winter's panoramic mastery of rich character and eventful story," and finished his review by stating "It's the most purely—and impurely—enjoyable storytelling HBO has delivered in ages, like a movie that you never want to end."Variety's Brian Lowry praised the show for returning network HBO to top form, saying "This is, quite simply, television at its finest, occupying a sweet spot that—for all the able competition—still remains unique to HBO: An expensive, explicit, character-driven program, tackling material no broadcast network or movie studio would dare touch ... For those wondering when the channel would deliver another franchise to definitively put it on top of the world, Ma, the wait is over: Go directly to 'Boardwalk.'" "One of the unexpected joys of 'Boardwalk Empire,' though, lies in the way the show revels in the oddities of its time, peeling back the layers of polite society to reveal a giddy shadow world of criminals and politicians collaborating to keep the liquor flowing," says online magazine Salon's Heather Havrilesky who went on to call the pilot "breathtaking." Roberto Bianco from USA Today said in his review that Boardwalk Empire was "Extravagantly produced, shockingly violent and as cold and hard as ice, Boardwalk Empire brings us back to the world's former playground at the start of Prohibition—and brings HBO back to the forefront of the TV-series race."

However, not all critical reviews were favorable. Nancy Franklin of The New Yorker felt that the series too closely echoed The Sopranos, and went on to say that "... the first episode alone cost nearly twenty million dollars—and it looks authentic in a way that, paradoxically, seems lifeless. You're constantly aware that you're watching a period piece, albeit one with some vivid scenes and interesting details." Chris Barsanti from PopMatters affords the show six out of ten, remarking that the series "... doesn't begin in the most thought-provoking manner ..." and added that the character of Jimmy Darmody is a "dud" and Michael Pitt gives "a one-note performance." Aaron Riccio of Slant praised the series overall (awarding it three and a half stars), but commented that the show was "too big" and had too many subplots. "The plots that Boardwalk Empire does settle on are too complex for a single episode," he said. "... While this style of drawn-out, season-long storytelling can work, the writers don't establish enough tension up front to carry the back-heavy narrative."

Along with critical acclaim and high ratings, HBO renewed Boardwalk Empire for a second season.


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Boardwalk Empire won a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Writing in a New Series and was nominated for Best Writing in a Drama Series. In addition, the show won a Golden Globe for best Dramatic Series, Buscemi won Best Actor in Dramatic Series and MacDonald was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television. The Cast won the Screen Actor's Guild Award for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series, while Steve Buscemi won the Screen Actor's Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series and Martin Scorsese won the Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series. Boardwalk Empire was in The American Film Institute's Top Ten List for TV in 2010.

Boardwalk Empire also won two awards at the 9th Annual Visual Effects Society Awards. The first for "Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program" and second for "Outstanding Models & Miniatures in a Broadcast Program or Commercial". The former was received by Richard Friedlander (of Brainstorm Digital), Robert Stromberg, Paul Graff and David Taritero; the latter was received by Brendan Fitzgerald, John Corbett and Matthew Conner of Brainstorm Digital. Boardwalk Empire received the Costume Designers Guild 2010 award for Best Period/ Fantasy Series. The award went to John Dunn and Lisa Padovani.

International syndication

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CountryNetworkSeries Premiere
United Kingdom
Sky Atlantic
Sky Atlantic HD
February 1, 2011
AustraliaShowcase Australia
Showcase HD
March 27, 2011
GreeceNovacinema 1
Novacinema HD
June 3, 2011

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