Nucky Thompson reveals his inner “Tony Soprano” as HBO’s 1920s gangster series “Boardwalk Empire” locks and loads for its third season.
Nucky, of course, is the somewhat scrawny but wholly ruthless boss of Atlantic City in the Roaring Twenties in this lavish Prohibition Era series produced by the likes of Martin Scorsese, director of “GoodFellas” and “Casino,” and Terence Winter, who worked on “The Sopranos” for HBO.
They’re both New Jersey-based gangster shows, but until the final scene of the second season of “Boardwalk Empire” last year, when Nucky (Steve Buscemi) brutally executed upstart Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), you never really knew if Nucky was willing take on some of the dirty work himself.
Now, though, as Season Three gets under way this Sunday night (Sept. 16) at 9/8c, there’s little question that Nucky’s a ruthless [expletive deleted]. And he’s not the only one. In fact, a new and very violent figure makes his presence known quite early in the premiere episode — and that’s the first item in our “five things to know” preview of “Boardwalk Empire’s” new season:
1) Meet Gyp Rosetti: He’s a stone-cold psychopath from the old country (Sicily) who seems hellbent on making a name for himself on Nucky’s turf. Played by new cast member Bobby Cannavale (he’s at the bottom left in our gallery, above), Gyp has one particular character trait that gets people into trouble — it’s a propensity to take offense at even the most innocent things people say to him, and this is one guy you don’t want to anger. Watch for him — he’s a powerful addition to this already powerful cast of tough guys.
2) Speaking of characters we love on this show, we noticed that the great, villainous actor William Forsythe, who plays the Yiddish-accented butcher and bootlegger from Philadelphia named Manny Horvitz on “Boardwalk Empire,” is starring in a Fox series this fall, “The Mob Doctor” — also as a gangster. We understand, though, that Manny will be back this season in “Boardwalk Empire” anyway, but we plan on keeping a close eye on him, just in case the producers are planning Manny’s exit from the show.
3) Beware the man in the mask, and watch out for the iron salesman: And when we say “iron,” we mean “irons,” as in those devices you press pants with, because this show’s most intriguing and vexing character — the now-former federal agent Nelson Van Alden (the great Michael Shannon, seen in the middle left position above) — has now turned up in Cicero, Ill., selling irons door-to-door (and if you know your gangland history, then you may be aware that Al Capone eventually based his operations in Cicero, right outside of Chicago). We’ve seen a few episodes of the new season of “Boardwalk,” and we love what they’re doing with Van Alden this season. And we also love the disfigured war vet Richard Harrow and happen to think the actor playing him, Jack Huston, is doing the best work of anyone in the show. We are delighted to report that the man with the prosthetic face is still very much in the picture.
4) We love those real-life cultural touchstones: Among the 1920s crazes and ballyhoo on view this season: A craze for all things Egyptian following the sensational discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, the growing scandal soon to envelope the presidency of Warren G. Harding, and Eddie Cantor, the “banjo-eyed” entertainer who is played so authentically on “Boardwalk” by Stephen DeRosa. Eddie actually has some of his biggest scenes yet this season, including one with the very menacing Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams — top right in our gallery).
5) Nucky and Margaret: The estrangement of Nucky and wife Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald, top center) — the Irish immigrant he lifted up from poverty in the first season (by murdering her husband) — continues in the new season. Nucky has eyes for someone else (you’ll find out who on Sunday), but Margaret’s more focused on social change and health issues affecting women. Whether she continues to have eyes for the roguish Irish hood Owen Slater (Charlie Cox, bottom center) who she slept with last season remains to be seen. But you get the feeling it’s not entirely over for those two.
“Boardwalk Empire” starts its third season on Sunday, Sept. 16, at 9/8c on HBO.