There is a direct lineage between HBO’s The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire and it is personified by Boardwalk creator Terence Winter. A lawyer who wrote on series like The Cosby Mysteries, Xena: Warrior Princess and Sister, Sister, Winter found his true calling as a writer/producer of David Chase’s groundbreaking mob saga. Winter four Emmys for writing and producing Sopranos episodes, including one directed by Steve Buscemi. Winter’s followup, Boardwalk Empire, garnered 18 Emmy nominations and eight wins its first season. It’s back for more after completing a second season with shocking doses of killings, incest, bootlegging and treachery that culminated in Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson executing his surrogate son-turned rival Jimmy Darmody, played by Michael Pitt. Here, Winter discusses the season past, and carrying The Sopranos torch that has changed cable series permanently.
DEADLINE: When Steve Buscemi played Tony Soprano’s cousin in The Sopranos, how far into that season did it occur to you he could carry your next show?
WINTER: I didn’t start developing Boardwalk until a little after The Sopranos but I’d been a fan of Steve’s literally from the second I saw him in a movie called In the Soup. He directed three Sopranos episodes for us and I got to know him first on that level. When I wrote the Boardwalk script I really didn’t have any actor in mind; we had the real Nucky in mind, from photographs. When it came time to cast, Marty Scorsese and I decided it didn’t matter what the real guy looked like because nobody knew him anyway. Let’s just pick an actor we love. I said what about Steve Buscemi and about a week later, Marty called and said, I can’t stop thinking about Steve Buscemi for this. I couldn’t either, and that was that. Some saw it as an odd choice, but Steve has covered every color in the human spectrum of emotion and there’s nothing this guy can’t do.
DEADLINE: Did you know then that in Season Two he would evolve into a stone killer?
WINTER: Yeah. I knew. Based on the research, as prohibition unfolded the game got much darker and if you were going to survive in that world you had to step up your game. After starting with a guy who was a corrupt politician who dabbled in criminal behavior of a relatively minor sort, things had to get darker for him. It was foreshadowed in the pilot w19thhen Jimmy Darmody tells Nucky, you can’t be half a gangster anymore, because there are people willing to kill for this, and that’s why you need a guy like me. Eventually we had to see Nucky cross that line himself. (more…)