It’s been two weeks since Boardwalk Empire whacked Charlie Cox‘s Owen but fans of HBO’s period drama are still mourning the shocking demise of Nucky’s right-hand man. If it’s any consolation, series creator Terence Winter insists the decision to off the character was not an easy one.
“It’s so hard,” confesses the EP. “It’s one of the challenges of doing a gangster show; people die. People tend to meet unfortunate ends. Obviously, Charlie is somebody we loved and loved working with, and is a terrific actor and a terrific character. But we made a promise to ourselves early on that we wouldn’t keep a character alive because we like the actor. You really have to divorce yourself from the personal side of it and say ‘OK, Does it serve the story?’”
Winter recalls that he faced the same dilemma last season when he killed off Michael Pitt’s Jimmy. “I went through all kinds of mental gymnastics trying to determine whether we could keep Jimmy alive,” he notes. “Ultimately, it kept coming back to the idea that it just feels phony. It feels like a TV show if you keep him alive. It feels like you want to keep the actor alive. And we essentially came to the same conclusion as Owen. If he’s going to make this move on Joe Masseria he’s not going to be successful and ultimately that’s how Nucky finds out that Margaret has been in love with somebody else.”
Regarding the decision not to show Owen’s actual death scene and instead have his bloodied body turn up in a crate on Nucky’s doorstep, Winter reveals that the original plan was to show his Turkish bath house extermination. “There was an accident on the set where we were about to shoot [that sequence] — a big plaster rosetta fell from the ceiling — and we pulled the plug on it and decided to shoot it another day,” he explains. “But then we got back to the office the next day and [director] Tim Van Patten said, ‘Do we really need to see it? It might be more powerful to not see it.’ So we decided to wait until we got the entire episode done and watch a cut of it and see what it felt like. And it was actually more powerful without it seeing it. Because now, [the audience] opens that crate along with Margaret. And it was almost more gut-wrenching to not know in advance what happened [to Owen].
“So, it turned out we didn’t shoot it because of a mishap on the set and it actually worked out,” Winter adds. “Sometimes, that’s how magic happens.”
Boardwalk Empire‘s Season 3 finale airs Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.
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- Terence Winter