Boardwalk Empire

Fans of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire will be keen to know that Season 3 will pick up “15 months in the future from the end of season two,” as executive producer and series creator Terence Winter confided to a nearly packed house at the Leonard Goldenson Theatre tonight at the TV Academy in North Hollywood. “It’s New Year’s Eve 1922, going into 1923,” Winter teased the crowd. “The world has changed quite a bit,” Winter noted of the ongoing Prohibition era. “Things have gotten quite a bit more violent as Prohibition has gone on and people are running out of liquor. Hence Nucky’s world’s going to change.” Winter added that the upcoming season slated to begin in September will see a rise of gangsters like Al Capone and lots of “consequences and ramifications from what went on at the end of Season 2.” The young, now-orphaned son of the dead Jimmy Darmody who was played by Michael Pitt, will continue to be a part of the series, Winter added.

Is there a trumpet player in Boardwalk‘s future? Alluding to an earlier possible slip of tongue by actor Michael Shannon, Winter also jokingly promised that they’ve “got the band going.” Shannon, who plays disgraced Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden, elicited sharp looks from Winter and star Steve Buscemi during the Evening With Boardwalk Empire event when he interjected, “Time to be someone else.” He quickly added, “Luckily I can play the trumpet,” to which Winter mockingly observed, “Oh. Thanks for giving it away.”

The liquor may not have been flowing speakeasy style, but the Atlantic City gang was all there. In addition to Buscemi, Shannon and Winter, the acclaimed Prohibition era series’ Kelly Macdonald, Vincent Piazza, Gretchen Mol, Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Kenneth Williams took the stage at the Television Academy’s Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre to discuss the past and, many hoped, the future of Boardwalk Empire. While recently announced Season three regular Bobby Cannavale was not there, former series star Pitt was very much in evidence.

MacDonald got the first laugh of the night with her “I was asked very nicely” in response to the question of why she decided to be on the show. Pitt got even a louder response when he nonchalently answered, “I wasn’t really doing anything better at the time.” Looking like an all-in-black Johnny Cash version of the Jack White bowler hat ensemble, Pitt initially seemed disconnected from the rest of the cast but quickly warmed up.

Pitt’s Jimmy Darmody character was unequivocally killed off by Buscemi’s corrupt politician Nucky Thompson in the Season 2 finale December 11, 2011. Winter told the TV Academy crowd that the death of Pitt’s character was inevitable. “I knew eventually it would happen, I just didn’t know when,” Winter explained as Pitt and the rest of the cast looked on. “It wasn’t done for shock value, it was being honest. Unfortunately, we lost a great character.” Pitt conceded, “I suspected it, maybe I provoked it.” The actor talked about bringing the character’s doomed nature up to Winter from the beginning of the show. Discussing the scene where Nucky killed the Jimmy character, Buscemi made a point of saying how much he liked Pitt and how much he hoped they would work together on other projects in the future.

Buscemi’s dad must be proud of his critically acclaimed son for many things, but according to the actor tonight politics made him really happy. “My dad’s favorite scene in the show,” said Buscemi, whose character is a blatantly corrupt politician, “was when I was walking down the boardwalk asking people to ‘vote Republican’.”

The sudden demise of Darmody helped bring the series season-high ratings for that finale but it also raised a lot of speculation about what was going on behind the scenes – especially with Pitt being “fired” by UTA as a client in late October 2011. Pitt is now at WME.

Tonight’s appearance before TV Academy members was the opening salvo in Empire’s Emmy 2012 campaign. The first season of the show, which debuted on September 19, 2010 garnered 18 Emmy nominations including Outstanding Drama Series and actor nods for Buscemi and MacDonald. Eighteen nominations and eight wins. Besides some technical wins, the only trophy that Empire ended up taking home at the 63rd Primetime Emmys on September 18, 2011 was given to Martin Scorsese. The Goodfellas director, an executive producer of the show along with Winter, Tim Van Patten, Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson, won for Outstanding Direction for the series’ pilot.