'Boardwalk Empire' actress talks to Atlantic City Weekly about her acting technique, how she helped her character evolve and how she never read Nelson Johnson's book.
Without actually coming out and saying so, it’s pretty clear that actress Paz de la Huerta has used some form of method acting to create the character she portrays in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
But it’s obvious de la Huerta’s idea of method acting isn’t what legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg had in mind when he was developing the technique 70 years ago. In method acting, actors try to place themselves inside the mind of the character they’re playing to capture that person’s thoughts and emotions, which can result in a more honest performance.
De la Huerta, who plays Nucky Thompson’s love interest, Lucy Danziger, said she didn’t draw her inspiration for the character by reading the book that inspired the series. Although many characters in the show are based loosely on real people, Lucy isn’t one of them.
During the first four episodes of Boardwalk Empire, Lucy has emerged as a sexually uninhibited young woman with a colorful vocabulary who’s more comfortable parading around nude than clothed and shows a jealous streak when she thinks another woman is flirting with her boyfriend.
Because Lucy is mostly a figment of series writer Terence Winter’s imagination and a vision of executive producer Martin Scorsese, De La Huerta, 26, had plenty of flexibility when it came time to bring Lucy to life.
“What’s interesting is that I did a lot of history on my own that didn’t have to do with reading the actual book,” de la Huerta told Atlantic City Weekly during a recent appearance with the Boardwalk Empire cast at Caesars Atlantic City. (See video and photos here)
Above: De la Huerta at the Atlantic City premiere of HBO's Boardwalk Empire held Sept. 16, 2010, at Caesars Atlantic City.
De la Huerta essentially conjured Lucy out of thin air. She gave the character a troubled childhood and created her career as a showgirl to serve as a vehicle for escape.
“I do something called EMDR [Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing], which a lot of trauma therapists use for opening the subconscious to remember traumatic experiences,” she says. “I use it in my own acting work when I’m creating the history of a character. And since nothing was written about her history, I created this path for Lucy.”
In de la Huerta’s mind, Lucy came from a broken home in Pennsylvania. She was raised by her father, a single parent, and suffered from both physical and sexual abuse. Finally, at a very young age, she runs away from home to become a showgirl before eventually latching on to Thompson, the czar of the Boardwalk.
Before principle photography began on Boardwalk Empire, de la Huerta went to Scorsese and told him of her vision for Lucy. Scorsese asked if she had read the book upon which the series is based.
She hadn’t, she told Scorsese, who directed the pilot episode.
“Well,” he told de la Huerta, “that’s exactly what happens. Nucky falls in love with a showgirl.”
In real life, Nucky Johnson, Atlantic City’s Boardwalk emperor during the 1920s, did eventually marry a former showgirl and actress, a local woman named Flossie Osbeck. But that didn’t happen until one day before Johnson began serving a four-year prison term for tax fraud in 1941. There’s little historical evidence to support the fact that Lucy is patterned after Osbeck.
De la Huerta, who took acting lessons starting at age four and has been acting professionally since she was a young teenager, called the entire Boardwalk Empire experience “very clairvoyant, it was meant to be.
“Marty Scorsese cast me, which is like a dream come true,” adds de la Huerta, who has been romantically linked to everyone from actors Jack Nicholson and Orlando Bloom to rock star Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.
“When you step onto his set, it’s so quiet you can heard a needle drop,” she says. “You can just be present and that’s what acting really is. It’s not acting, it’s just being. It’s living, and I really got to live as Lucy.”
The moment she first read for Lucy, she knew she could play the part. The product of an American mother who works for the United Nations and a father who lives on a ranch in Spain, de La Huerta was raised in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood and says she identifies with Lucy.
“I really understood Lucy and I really knew I could play this complex character,” she says.
De la Huerta has divided her time as an actress between full-length feature films and television. She has appeared in films like The Cider House Rules, The Guitar and Enter the Void and in guest-starring roles on TV series like Law & Order and The Practice.
In addition to her acting, de la Huerta is also a sought-after model and has appeared on the covers of the New York Times Sunday magazine and Trace magazine and has been featured in ad campaigns for Albert Ferretti, Uniqlo and Wolford.
Casual conversations with the stars. Watch the Emmy-winning Curtain Call with David Spatz, Saturdays at 6pm on WMGM-TV NBC40.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE CAST ON SPECIAL EDITION OF CURTAIN CALL
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (Oct. 14) - Cast members from the critically-acclaimed new HBO series Boardwalk Empire will be among the guests on a special edition of the Emmy Award-winning entertainment series Curtain Call with David Spatz.
The program airs at 6 pm Saturday, Oct. 23 on WMGM-TV NBC40. The show will be re-broadcast at 2:30 am Monday, Oct. 25.
“Boardwalk Empire has struck a nerve with a lot of people, not just locally but all over the country,” says Curtain Call producer Jake Glassey, Jr. “Audiences can’t seem to get enough of it, and we were fortunate to be the only show with exclusive access to the cast during the Atlantic City premier at Caesars Atlantic City last month. We’re excited to bring this special edition of our show to NBC40.”
Among the cast members who chat with Curtain Call host David Spatz are Dabney Coleman (who portrays Commodore Louis Kaestner), Michael Pitt (Jimmy Darmody), Kelly MacDonald (Margaret Schroeder), Michael Kenneth Williams (Chalky White), Paz de la Huerta (Lucy Danziger), Anthony Laciura (Eddie Kessler), Shea Wigham (Sheriff Eli Thompson) and Michael Shannon (Agent Nelson Van Alden).
“It was interesting to hear the actors explain how they ‘found’ their characters, many of whom were patterned after people with actual ties to Prohibition-era Atlantic City and its benevolent dictator, Nucky Johnson,” Spatz says. “Boardwalk Empire is historically accurate fiction, and the actors said it was a challenge for them to flesh out fictitious characters who still had a core of reality to them.”
Also featured on this special edition of Curtain Call is Terence Winter, the creator, writer and executive producer of Boardwalk Empire.
Winter, an Emmy-winning writer and producer of the HBO series The Sopranos, developed the entire series from one chapter of author Nelson Johnson’s book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City.
After the pilot show aired last month, HBO announced it was picking up the series for a second season.
Author and Atlantic City historian Vicki Gold Levi, who serves as a historical consultant to the series, also shares her perspective of Boardwalk Empire and its impact on her hometown.
Airing weekly on WMGM-TV NBC40 for the past six years, Curtain Call takes viewers behind the scenes for casual but revealing conversations with popular entertainers, actors, celebrity chefs and other high-profile members of the entertainment community.
The show was honored with a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award in 2007 for outstanding interview-discussion series.
In addition to Spatz and Glassey, who serve as the show’s producers, Thomas Morgenweck, Jr. is associate producer and editor of Curtain Call, while David Pashuck is the show’s production supervisor.
The program is produced by Atlantic Coast Productions, LLC, a full-service video production company based in Northfield, N.J.
"The game has changed quite a bit. Things have gotten a lot more violent, a lot more competitive, and Nucky has sort of had to up his game as well in order to survive. "
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A selection of films will feature celebrated actors such as Martin Sheen, Jenna Fischer, Demián Bichir and Topher Grace. Among the award-winning films screened will be The Giant Mechanical Man directed by Lee Kirk; The Runaway directed by Ian Power; 388 Arletta Avenue directed by Randall Cole; and Stella Days directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan.
“It’s been my love and passion ever since I was five years old and I think this music moves people. People who come to see us, they say, ‘When I got here I was in kind of a blah mood, not so good, or depressed, or whatever and I come out in just a whole different place. I’m laughing, my spirits are lifted, it’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist!’”
Laciura also learned that “Nucky would get up around 4:30 in the afternoon and Lou — Eddie — would make sure that he had his dozen eggs, pound of bacon, coffee and toast — that’s what he had every ‘morning.’
Terry Winter, the executive producer, creator and one of the chief writers for the award-winning, Martin Scorsese directed HBO drama series Boardwalk Empire, has finally wrapped filming on the second season's last episode as of Wednesday, Sept. 7.
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"There have been so many great performances by guys like Stanley Tucci and Andy Garcia. And they play him as this slick guy and you see what he became. And you certainly don’t want to betray the popular image. But through the research you have to kind of work backwards. You have to go back to the beginning and try to understand where he came from and all the events that shaped his life."
It was a windy and rainy mid-September night for the Atlantic City premiere of the much anticipated new HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Regional storms pounded the beach and Boardwalk with crashing ocean waves and assaulting wind gusts. We're talking not only hold onto your hat, but everything else, too.
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With Sunday’s debut of Boardwalk Empire fast approaching, let’s look back on the period during which the series takes place, specifically the year 1920, the dawn of the Prohibition era.
The free and open-to-the-public AC Weekly partnered event, "Conversations & Storytelling - Plus Viewing Party," will feature a riveting panel discussion and Q&A segment with local historians and Atlantic City experts including Vicki Gold Levi, Allen "Boo" Pergament," Ralph Hunter, Pinky Kravitz, Israel Posner and James Waltzer on Sunday, Sept. 19, with doors opening at 6:30pm.
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Answer the following trivia questions correctly and be entered to win a large Boardwalk Empire poster. We have two available. Participants must be 18 or older and provide correct e-mail address when answering (in the comments portion below) so we can contact you for shipping of the winnings. OK, here they go: 1. What did Senior Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden claim to be the cause of death of his partner Agent Sebso? 2. Which of the following six themes have not yet been presented in the multi-part Atlantic City Weekly web video series "Atlantic City History: Conversations & Storytelling"? The web video series was filmed at Caesars right before the viewing party for the debut episode of HBO's Boardwalk Empire on Sept. 19 and included a panel discussion of the following topics by Atlantic City authors and historians including Vicki Gold Levi, Allen "Boo" Pergament, Ralph Hunter, Jim Waltzer, Pinky Kravitz and Israel Posner. a. "Entertainment & Nightlife" b. "The Boardwalk" c. "Nucky Johnson" d. "Gambling (Legal or Otherwise)" e. "The African American Experience" f. "Sports in AC and Camp Boardwalk" Leave your answers below in the comments portion. Two winners will be contacted....
Here are the Golden Globe nominations for 'Boardwalk Empire,' and what they face as challengers. The Golden Globes will air live on NBC on Jan. 16, 2011 at 8pm.