On a recent Thursday night in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, N.Y., a huge fireball lit up the night sky. Whatever else happens during Season 3 of HBO’s Prohibition-era drama “Boardwalk Empire,” which launches Sunday, Sept. 16, there are going to be some serious fireworks at some point.
“I think Greenpoint is still there,” series executive producer/creator Terence Winter tells Zap2it the next morning, “so we’re all good. We were on the news and everything. It was great.”
As to whether it startled the locals, Winter says, “I don’t think so. There was a lot of advance notice, and the police department said they didn’t really get any more calls than they usually get on any given Thursday night. So no, I think New Yorkers are so jaded, a giant fireball goes up in the sky, and nobody really noticed.”
According to Winter, the new season picks up after a gap of 14 months. Atlantic City wheeler-dealer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) has moved beyond pulling political strings while dealing illegal booze on the side to becoming a full-fledged bootlegger behind the facade of a philanthropist.
On the personal side, he is already straying in his marriage to mistress Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) with new mistress Billie Kent (Meg Chambers Steele).
Before 1923 can even get under way on New Year’s Eve, Nucky makes a resolution that irritates Sicilian-born New York gangster Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale). On the other hand, it doesn’t take much to irritate Rosetti.
“When his business gets messed with by Nucky,” says Cannavale, “he takes it very personally. He just gets very angry and starts doing very bad things. But beyond that, what’s fun about the part is he’s a guy who takes things way too personally.
“That’s why I love the part so much. He’s the kind of guy who almost shouldn’t be in this business, because anything anybody says to him, he takes the wrong way. He’s very, very sensitive, and it’s very, very dangerous to criticize him in any way or form. Even joking is a chance with this guy.
“As you’ll see in the first episode, I show that ugly side very quickly in the series. It’s the first scene in the show. In that scene, it’s written very well to show just how easily that switch can just flip and how nuts this guy can be.”
If Cannavale is enjoying playing the character as written, Winter is equally enjoying putting something new on the page.
“It all feels so new,” Winter says. “It really was like reinventing the show. Everybody was in a different place psychologically — in many cases literally and physically in different places — so we got to introduce this new character, which was really fun.
“Bobby Cannavale being a perfect segue. Getting to work with Bobby, getting to know him and getting to marvel at his amazing performance, for us, was really fun. It’s like injecting new energy, new personality, and just this new kind of really edgy, crazy character into the show. We hadn’t really had anything like that character before.
“Not taking anything away from writing the other characters, but we already knew who all of these people were. Bobby came in as a new and different energy, and that was challenging.”
Cannavale is happy to be able to start with guns blazing and keep going that way.
“I’ve never had a part where every single scene I have is kick-ass. If you’re only on for one season, they’ve got to be pretty excited about writing for that character. So I like playing those kinds of parts, knowing that they wanted to write this character.
“By year two, he’d fade into the woodwork more. So you do one year and get out, and make your impact.”