Boardwalk Empire/Characters

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The Main Trio

Enoch "Nucky" Thompson

"We all have to decide how much sin we can live with."

The primary Villain Protagonist of the series. He is the corrupt treasurer of Atlantic County and ends up somewhat accidentally in the world of organized crime after he begins investing in bootlegging. Played by Steve Buscemi.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Abusive Parents: His father was horribly physically and emotionally abusive to him.
  • Affably Evil
  • Aloof Big Brother: To Eli.
  • Anti-Villain: While he's certainly corrupt, Nucky is also motivated by a desire to help his constituents and is a very sympathetic figure because of his kindness to others and tragic backstory.
  • Arranged Marriage: To Margaret, in order to avoid jail since she couldn't be forced then to testify against him.
  • Badass Boast:
    • "Wanna be a gangster in my town? You pay me for the privilege"
    • "Want to see how I do business? Show your face in Atlantic City!"
    • "I will ruin you. All of you."
  • Beware the Nice Ones: He can be a pretty nice guy, just don't cross him.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: One of them in the Old Man's funeral, no less.
  • The Chains of Commanding: His enemies think that his job could be easily done by anyone. They are so very, very wrong.
  • The Chessmaster: Nucky is trying to become one following Rothstein's advice. Since he has no real options left at the moment, he will retreat, put all his pieces back on the board, maneuver them into position and then strike back.
  • Clothes Make the Legend: Colorful shirts and suits, red flower and bowler hat.
  • Deadpan Snarker: And a master of the Stealth Insult.
  • Equal Opportunity Evil: While not without prejudice, he's one of the least bigoted characters in the series.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Despite being fine with political corruption among many other crimes, he strongly disapproves of spousal and child abuse.
  • Expy: Based on the real historical figure Enoch "Nucky" Johnson, with the name changed so the writers have more leeway for telling his story. The character also seems to be older than his real counterpart, who was 37 in 1920.
  • Friend to All Children
  • Grammar Nazi
  • Honorary Uncle: To Margaret's children.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Although sometimes it can be really deep.
  • Karma Houdini: The show's plot could be summed as "watch Nucky Thompson weasel out of the problems he's getting into."
  • Kavorka Man
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: When Eli comes crawling back to him in "Gimcrack & Bunkum", Nucky tells him to "get on [his] knees, bend down to the ground, and kiss [his] fucking shoes, you piece of shit." They then get into a knock-down, drag-out brawl. It's a long time coming.
  • Lonely at the Top: While he has wealth and prestige and is known for his charm, he manages to alienate Jimmy and his brother Eli, and has no friends except for Margaret.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Mayors, senators and even presidents owe him their position in some way.
  • Mangst: Childhood abuse, dead wife, and infant son.
  • Manipulative Bastard
  • Nice to the Waiter: He is nice to constituents who he patronizes, but he's a pretty big jerk to Eddie.
    • He also gets more and more jerkish to Harlan after he begins working directly for him. This pretty much confirms that Nucky has a problem dealing with people on a regular basis, and that after a while he begins to take them for granted and stops being polite altogether - thus his problems with Eli, Jimmy and even Margaret.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname
  • Parental Substitute: First to Jimmy and later to Margaret's children.
  • Promotion to Parent: In "Two Boats and a Lifeguard", when he asks Teddy to call him "Dad", and in "Georgia Peaches", when Teddy casually does.
  • Redemption Rejection: Just a few scenes after basically telling Margaret he'll make a Heel Face Turn, he tells Jimmy "You don't know me, I'm not looking for forgiveness. Right before shooting Jimmy in the head.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: Usually, Nucky is the connection that people call on to get out of trouble. However, when he gets into legal trouble himself, he is not shy calling up his connections in the White House and later, New York, to get out of it.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: This has become something of a personal philosophy as a result of all of his experience with corrupt pols and the benefits of graft. It's also probably Nucky's Fatal Flaw, as he's very prone to throwing money at friends and loved ones in circumstances where he should be taking an active emotional interest.
  • Sleazy Politician
  • Thicker Than Water: Proves that Eli means more to him than Jimmy.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Nucky himself pulls the trigger to end Jimmy's life.
  • The Unfavorite: His father constantly expresses scorn toward him, yet secretly feels that he's the only son who can handle himself.
  • Villain Protagonist
  • Wicked Cultured
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Although comes perilously close to it in "Under God's Power She Flourishes".

James "Jimmy" Darmody

"I'm nothing but a murderer. I'm going to Hell."

Smart and resourceful, Jimmy was the product of a relationship between his teenage mother and the Commodore. He was more or less raised by Nucky, who pressured him to pursue an education in Princeton, during which he also met his fiancée and later wife, Angela. However, he abandoned all of them to join the army during World War I and came back different - and a lot more ambitious. Played by Michael Pitt.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Abusive Parents: The more is known about his relationship with Gillian, the more that it looks like an evident case of this.
  • Affably Evil: He's an intellectual who is a good friend and tries to be a good father and husband, but he's also a cold-blooded killer.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Mother: Oh boy.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit
  • Berserk Button: People lying about military service/expressing "chickenhawk" attitudes seems to be this for him.
    • Never make lewd comments about Jimmy's mom. Don't assault her, either. In fact, just be very polite to her in his presence.
  • Blood Brothers: With Richard Harrow.

Richard: Would you fight for me?
Jimmy: Down to the last bullet.

Gillian: Did you talk to your father?
Jimmy: Which one?

  • Dark and Troubled Past: And not just World War I, either. We don't realize until "Under God's Power She Flourishes" just how dark.
  • The Dead Have Names
  • Decoy Protagonist
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Don't hit him. You'll regret it.
  • Driven to Suicide
  • Face Death with Dignity: Seeing as he knew what was going to happen when he told Harrow he didn't need him and went to meet Nucky without a gun.
  • Genius Bruiser: Nucky and Angela remind him constantly that he has brains to be something better than a gangster, but he won't listen.
  • The Gump: He's a completely fictional character who has an important role in the development of organized crime in America.
  • Guns Akimbo: In "The Age of Reason".
  • Hazy Feel Turn
  • Hookers and Blow: Pushed Up to Eleven in "Under God's Power She Flourishes". When the hooker part is played by your mother, you really have gone off the deep end.
  • Hot-Blooded: A bit of a hothead since the beginning, but gets more and more so as the series goes on.
  • Hot Dad
  • Hypocrite: Probably because of the attitudes of the time, he has no problem cheating on Angela while he is away and even considers abandoning his family altogether and moving to California before his lover dies, but he reacts violently when he merely suspects that Angela was having a relationship with a photographer while he was in the army. He is, however, surprisingly cool when he learns that she was actually seeing the photographer's wife.
  • It's Personal: Pearl's death, which makes him decide to take down Sheridan's entire gang and kill the mook that personally targeted her.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope/Took a Level in Jerkass: As soon as the Commodore is paralyzed and Jimmy takes the reins, he gets a lot more vicious and assholish.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: In "Under God's Power She Flourishes", when drunk, he attempts to choke Gillian after she insults and belittles the late Angela's memory. FINALLY.
  • Killed Off for Real
  • Mommy Issues: Probably the understatement of the century.
  • Mugging the Monster: He is the "victim" of one in "Ourselves Alone", and it ends exactly like you'd expect.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In "Under God's Power She Flourishes".
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Pretty much any time a fight devolves into physical violence. Once he lays out the first punch, he just can't stop himself.
  • Oedipus Complex: He and Gillian are very close, and he only wants to take out his adopted father, Nucky, because Gillian insists he do so.
    • Played up during "Under God's Power She Flourishes" when we flashback to Jimmy's time at Princeton to see that he and Gillian once had a drunken night of sex which drove Jimmy to join the army. The present day storyline of the same episode has Jimmy stabbing his biological father, the Commodore, and finishing him off at his mother's request.
  • Parental Incest
  • Punch Clock Villain
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue, to Al Capone's Red.
    • He's becoming the Red to Richard Harrow's Blue.
  • Returning War Vet
  • Sacrificial Lion
  • Self-Made Orphan: Halfway. He kills the Commodore when he tries to stop Jimmy from killing Gillian.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran
  • Slashed Throat: Does wonders with a combat knife.
  • Son of a Whore
  • The Starscream: To Nucky, and later the Commodore (arguably).
  • Start of Darkness: The second season episode "Under God's Power She Flourishes" flashes back to his time at Princeton culminating in an incestuous experience with his mother, which lead him to join the army.
  • The Strategist: To Torrio in Season 1. He tries to be one for Nucky, but Nucky's actually a better planner than Jimmy is.
  • Suicide by Cop: After doing the best he can to settle things in his life, he goes unarmed to a meeting with Nucky, knowing that it's a set-up.
  • Villainous BSOD: Hits this three times in "Under God's Power She Flourishes". First, he hits it in flashback, he was thrown out of Princeton, slept with his mother, and joined the army, then hits it after being informed of Angela's death in the present day, then again after attacking his mother and killing his father.
  • Villain Protagonist

Margaret Catherine Sheila Rohan Schroeder Thompson

"Is this to be our life?!"

A poor, young Irish mother of two and (thanks to Nucky) widow. She is initially aided by Nucky only out of pity, but they fall in love with each other and begin a relationship as the series progresses. Margaret begins a luxury life as a kept woman and is probably Nucky's closest emotional connection. Played by Kelly Macdonald.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Other Fictional Characters

Elias "Eli" Thompson

"What am I? The repudiated?"

The corrupt sheriff of Atlantic County and Nucky's younger brother. Through the series he develops an increasing desire for recognition which he feels denied because everyone else only sees him as Nucky's muscle, and that eventually leads him to betray Nucky for the Commodore. Played by Shea Whigham.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Eli: You are one nasty prick.
Nucky: And you're a frightened little boy with no place else to go.

  • The Dutiful Son: Cares for his aged father and generally does whatever his brother says.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He is devoted to his father and children.
  • Hazy Feel Turn
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Sometimes comes across as this because of how desperate he is for respect and often out of his depth. On the other hand, he's also frequently a reprehensible brute.
  • Karma Houdini: Advocates Nucky's murder in Season Two; gets forgiven by Nucky and back in his good graces.
  • Kick the Dog: Most prominent in Season 2, where almost, if not every time he does something nice is immediately followed by him doing something terrible.
  • Malaproper
  • Officer O'Hara: Doesn't have the stereotypical accent, but he is Irish-American.
  • Politically-Incorrect Villain: Unlike Nucky, he is pretty racist and frequently uses ethnic slurs, and by his commentary in one scene where he advises Nucky on how to deal with Margaret, it's implied that he beats his wife.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Tells Jimmy to simply shoot Nucky, to Jimmy and Harrow's horror.
  • Ten-Minute Retirement: A scandal breaks out after he is shot while collecting bribes for Nucky, forcing Nucky to suspend him until the upcoming election is over. Although he is restored immediately, the relationship between the two brothers is considerably damaged.
  • Thicker Than Water: Nucky certainly proves so in "To the Lost".
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Eli realizes that his father, while seeming to favor him, doesn't have any respect for his intelligence. His relationship with Nucky also sours because of Nucky's lack of respect for him.
  • You Have Failed Me...: He has Halloran beaten up to dissuade him from testifying against him. It fails, at first, because Halloran does testify against him, but Halloran will be spending much more time in jail than Eli, with his connections to Nucky, will.
  • You Never Did That for Me: In Season 1, he feels that Nucky gives Jimmy more slack than he ever got, and it is one more thing added onto a long list of things he resents Nucky for.

Gillian Darmody

"You know me. There is always a man."

Jimmy's surprisingly-young showgirl mother to whom he is a bit too close. While certainly an unconventional parent, she'll do everything for her son's well being. Played by Gretchen Mol.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Albert "Chalky" White

"Dis here ma Daddy tools."

Nucky's political connection to and equivalent in Atlantic City's black community, and also partner in the bootlegging business. He often makes clear how much Nucky owes him and he treats Nucky as an equal rather than his superior. Played by Michael K. Williams.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Richard Harrow

"How does it feel to have everything?"

A shy, socially stunted former World War I sniper who lost half his face in the battlefield and carries a tin prosthetic mask to hide what is missing. Very desensitized to violence, but at the same time craves human relations. He meets Jimmy at a military hospital in Chicago, and becomes his right-hand man. Played by Jack Huston.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Eddie Kessler

"Mister Thompson is a very nice man."

Nucky's bumbling and put-upon German butler who is extremely loyal to him. Played by Anthony Laciura.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:


  • Undying Loyalty: When he is concerned, Nucky is always innocent and always means well.

Nelson Van Alden

"This is a godly pursuit."

One of the primary antagonists, an overzealous Prohibition agent who vows to bring down Nucky. As stoic and ruthless in his private life as he is in his professional life, he and his wife are extremely Christian and trying to have children. Secretly lusts after Margaret Schroeder, but finds himself disgusted when she sets up house with Nucky. May possibly be the father of Lucy Danzinger's baby. Played by Michael Shannon.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Abusive Parents: Or at least fanatical ones that were the source of his preoccupations. In "A Dangerous Maid", he reveals total ignorance about the concept of theater. When questioned about it, he reveals that an aunt once took him to a Christmas pageant, which enraged his fundamentalist parents, who subsequently cut off all contact with her
    • Reveals in "Under God's Power She Flourishes" that his parents were followers of a fanatical reverend who believed in the Rapture. His father sold (or just "gave away") their farm and they lived penniless for two years, waiting for a Rapture that did not come. Apparently, his father somehow blames Nelson for all of this.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Something seems to be wrong with him, given his excessive stoicism.
  • And Call Him George: He kills Sebso while trying to baptize him.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap
  • Bad Boss
  • Chew Toy: Nothing goes right for him. Ever.
  • Clean Up the Town: His main aim, at least before the task breaks him emotionally.
  • The Comically Serious
  • Cowboy Cop: A Knight Templar variant - he's good at his job, just maybe too zealous.
  • Expy: A Holier Than Thou Hero Antagonist with a secretly vicious and sinful nature, who flagellates himself over his inappropriate desires for a red-headed woman? Hi there, Justin.
  • Family Values Villain
  • The Fundamentalist
  • Give Me a Sign: At the end of the first season, he decides to leave Atlantic City unless God gives him a sign. Then Lucy shows up pregnant.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Inverted. Van Alden is shown to be sexually repressed, which is the cause of some of his corruption. He has a stiff relationship with his bland wife and has to go through some pretty extraordinary lengths to get them both in the mood.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: His hot-bloodedness frequently contrasts to Nucky and Rothstein's more cool, collected natures.
  • Hero Antagonist: Briefly, although he soon becomes just a Knight Templar.
  • Holier Than Thou
  • Hookers and Booze: "The Emerald City".
  • Jerkass
  • Karma Houdini: Two victims and counting...
    • Averted in "Under God’s Power She Flourishes" when his karma catches up to him and he is charged with murder.
    • Or not, seeing how he manages to escape in the last minute and start a new life under a secret identity in the Midwest.
  • Kick the Dog: In the third episode, he tortures a wounded witness to death to get information and it mostly goes downhill from there.
  • Knight Templar
  • Oh Crap: Michael Shannon turns these into a form of art, but the golden award goes to the scene where Van Alden sees that Deacon Cuffy has brought Sebso's belongings to the post office in "Under God's Power She Flourishes".
  • Pet the Dog: He's somewhat humanized in "A Dangerous Maid" and does something nice for Lucy. He also shows his wife a nice evening in "21", although besides her, no one else would probably find his behavior very sympathetic.
    • The scene where he first holds his infant daughter and names her Abigail - after asking her opinion on various names is tremendously humanizing for him.
  • Politically-Incorrect Villain: Is shown to have some pretty racist attitudes towards Jews, and refers to Nucky's black supporters as "darkies". Plus, he considers Chinese food "filth" without even tasting it.
  • Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny
  • Stalker with a Crush: Toward Margaret.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The other Prohibition agents working in Atlantic City don't seem very competent and Van Alden does not really trust them. He even walks in on two of them wrestling on the office floor during business hours. When Prohibition started the government was not picky when it came to hiring agents and the low pay did not attract many competent candidates.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist
  • A Taste of the Lash: His back is completely scarred because he whips himself when he has impure thoughts.
  • The Un-Smile: Done when he tries to "seduce" Margaret.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: He is proven to be a murderer, divorced by his wife, and becomes a fugitive at the end of Season 2.

Louis "The Commodore" Kaestner

"Look around, boy. I didn't get any of this by being stupid."

Nucky's mentor and predecessor as city boss before being imprisoned as part of a PR campaign by Woodrow Wilson in the 1910s. He is the victim of a poisoning attempt during the first season and breaks with Nucky after he refuses to take action against the person responsible, deciding to take Atlantic City back for himself. He is also Jimmy's father. Played by Dabney Coleman.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Anticlimax Boss: He suffers a paralyzing stroke after being built as the next Big Bad for a bunch of episodes.
  • Badass Grandpa: After he recovers from his illness, he exercises to the point of being able to lift a heavy elephant tusk over his head.
    • Despite still recovering from the stroke, he nearly manages to kill Jimmy, a man thrice younger than him and a war veteran, in melee combat. Granted, he did get the advantage by ambushing Jimmy.
  • Call It Karma: He gets so overexcited at the prospect of having sex with the adult Gillian that he suffers a stroke. This renders him mute and paralyzed, and then Gillian decides that it's time to get her vengeance.
  • The Collector of the Strange: Live and stuffed animals, weapons, Asian statues...
  • Dirty Old Man: When he was in his 50s, he impregnated a 13 year-old Gillian.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Want to know his real name? Check the HBO website. Nucky, Eli, Gillian, and Damian occasionally call him "Lou", though it's very rare.
  • Evil Mentor: To Nucky and later Jimmy.
  • Evil Old Folks
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: He stops shaving and combing his hair as he gets sicker in Season 1. Then he feels healthier in Season 2, so he dyes it.
  • Foreshadowing: His speech about the stuffed grizzly bear.
  • Great White Hunter: Was one when he was younger.
  • Grumpy Old Man
  • He-Man Woman Hater
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Tries to do this to Jimmy. Fails.
  • Jerkass: In the first season, he's unpleasant to pretty much everyone, and is one of the most bigoted characters in the show. It does seem that this had something to do with his illness, since when he's recovered in the second season, while not a better person, he's rather avuncular.
  • Killed Off for Real: By Jimmy, no less.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ironically, some of the people he wins to his side are convinced by his claim that Nucky is a Manipulative Bastard.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Averted. His nastiness is showcased by the deplorable treatment of his maid who in revenge was poisoning him, causing his illness during the first season.
    • Strangely, his will leaves most of his estate to the maid. He did not even change the will after he found out that she tried to poison him and she fled.
  • Perfect Poison: Averted. His food, clothes and even toothpaste are poisoned with cyanide for almost a year and while his health worsens considerably he still survives.
  • Politically-Incorrect Villain: He's a vocal misogynist and white supremacist.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Arguably. He keeps secret the fact that Gillian abused him after he got paralyzed, suggesting that he was ashamed of what he did to her, and he dies trying to save her when a drugged, emotionally broken Jimmy tries to choke Gillian. Ironically, Gillian is the one that convinces Jimmy then to finish the Commodore.
  • Right-Hand-Cat: Averted with Jerry, his little pet dog.
  • The Scrooge: Supposedly, he took care of Gillian, but she still needed to sell her jewels to pay for a roof.
  • Sir Swearsalot: He is probably the worst in a very bad mouthed cast. This could be due to his illness, his age, or most likely because he was always that way.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: He doesn't want Nucky killed, but to go to jail like he did.

Lucy Danziger

"What's your name, handsome?"

A former Ziegfeld Follies dancer, she is Nucky's lover at the beginning of the series but is destitute in favor of Margaret in the course of Season One. She later has a one night stand with Van Alden, and ultimately informs him that she is pregnant and he is the father (which may or may not be true). Played by Paz de la Huerta.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Angela Ianotti Darmody

"At least we're finally being honest with each other."

Jimmy's wife and the mother of his son, Angela finds herself torn in many ways. She loves Jimmy, but his extensive trips away lead her to cheat on him with a female painter. She loves her son, but frequently has tension with Gillian, who lives with them. Played by Aleksa Palladino.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Acceptable Feminine Goals: Painting isn't one of them; both Jimmy and Gillian discourage her talent and urge her to pay more attention to taking care of Tommy.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: After her attempt to leave Jimmy at the end of Season One is busted, he threatens her indirectly to take Tommy away. By the beginning of Season Two, they have married.
  • Bi the Way
  • Break the Cutie: The downward spiral of her relationships with Jimmy and Mary. Evolves into Kill the Cutie later.
  • Bury Your Gays
  • Good Adultery: In her defense, Jimmy did not bother to write even once while he was in the most destructive war seen by the world up to that point, and he's still an occasional jerk after his return. He is also an adulterer although she doesn't know it.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Speaks it in "A Dangerous Maid" with Al.
  • Hot Mom
  • Housewife
  • Important Haircut: She cuts her long hair at the end of the first season to punish Jimmy.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Her relation with Jimmy sours further while he is in Chicago because Van Alden is intercepting their mail.
  • Kill the Cutie
  • The Pollyanna
  • The Quiet One: On account of her rather depressing situation.
  • Sacrificial Lion
  • Shallow Love Interest: Her "friend" Mary has been accused of this.
  • Slap Slap Kiss: When Jimmy basically forces himself on her after returning from Chicago.
  • Stuffed Into the Fridge: Murdered by Manny to get back at Jimmy.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: She prefers to concentrate on her artistic career rather than seeking a job while Jimmy is away. Later, she accepts fleeing to Paris as soon as Mary proposes it, and she still retains a soft spot for her just because Mary sent her a postcard a month after dumping her in the last minute.
  • Woman in White: Fittingly enough, she wears a white dress throughout "Under God's Power She Flourishes", after she dies in "Georgia Peaches". Her last appearance is a flashback.
  • Women Are Wiser: More so in Season Two than Season One, though she's still the one to worry about the practicality of things.

Michael "Mickey Doyle" Kozik

"You wanna dance, you pay the piper."[1]

A highly unlikable bootlegger who is not actually Irish, but gives himself an Irish name because "it sounds better". Yes, the other characters also roll their eyes when they meet him. He is also a rival to Chalky. Played by Paul Sparks.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Annoying Laugh: Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...
  • Butt Monkey
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: To be fair, the people he betrays have all done him wrong and/or threatened his life. He is simply a tad quicker slipping the knife in their back.
  • Dirty Coward
  • Fake Irish: In-universe: a trait he takes from his inspiration, Mickey Duffy.
  • Harmless Villain: Only directly.
  • The Hyena: In every scene he appears in, he's always laughing in an annoying way.
  • Jerkass: Quite possibly the biggest in the series, as everyone who meets him hates his guts.
  • Karma Houdini: He brings the D'Alessios to town and makes them target Nucky. The worst that happens to him for that is somebody spitting in his drink.
    • A season later, Jimmy dishes up a little payback, but it's because Mickey pissed him off, not over Nucky. Even this proves to be a blessing in disguise since Mickey used his injuries to prove that he wasn't a willing ally of Jimmy. This saved him from being killed by Manny Horvitz.
    • And then Lucky and Lansky use the life insurance policy he signed for Rothstein during the D'Alessios incident to cheat him into giving away his part of their shared business in Season 2. Call It Karma, indeed.
    • Not that the life insurance has stopped him - in "To the Lost", he turns around and sets up a meet between Nucky and Manny Horvitz, which facilitates Jimmy's murder.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Not many people feel sorry for him when Jimmy tosses him over the balcony at Babette's in "Two Boats and a Lifeguard".
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: While he often seems Too Dumb to Live, he's smarter than he looks and continues to live and succeed due to his amazing talent for backstabbing his associates at the right time.
  • The Stool Pigeon: "A Dangerous Maid" reveals he has become one for Van Alden.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: He is regularly the intended target of this trope and barely manages to avert it each time. People are just not interested in having him around once he is no longer useful.

Owen Sleater

"What's the sense in doing something half wrong?"

A former bodyguard for a Sinn Féin politician named John McGarrigle who decides to stay in America and work for Nucky rather than go back to Ireland. He used to work as an enforcer for the IRA. Played by Charlie Cox.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Affably Evil: He's a cheeky, likable guy whose back story (as discussed in this interview) is that he was a member of some fairly ruthless IRA partisans and is in America because he's wanted in Ireland for his involvement in the 1920 Bloody Sunday.
  • Badass
  • The Casanova: He admits that he has a history of entering houses through the balcony and loses interest in Katy altogether after he gets in her bed.
  • The Driver: Becomes one for Nucky in Season 2.
  • Expy: Seems to be one for Furio of The Sopranos. Both are from "the old country" and are sent to aid the ethnic-American gangsters, and are characterized by being likable Mr. Fanservice but also more ruthless than their American counterparts. That Margaret seems to have some Belligerent Sexual Tension with him is not a good sign.
  • Genre Savvy: It does not take him long to figure out what the situation in Atlantic City is and how to make himself useful to Nucky. He also immediately identifies Harrow as a former soldier during their first confrontation and points a gun at him rather than trying to lay a punch.
  • The Irish Question
  • Mad Bomber: Revealed to be one in "What Does the Bee Do?".
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red to Harrow's Blue.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In-universe. "To the Lost" has Owen and Jimmy commenting on how he's taken over for Jimmy.
  • Western Terrorists
  • Worthy Opponent: Recognizes Richard Harrow as one and is likewise recognized by Richard as this.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Well, he could, but it's implied he's a wanted criminal there. When he is later given a choice to return to Ireland, he declines and says that America is his home now. He can spot the growing schism in the IRA and does not want to take sides.

Manny "Munya" Horvitz

"We got a deal. But just so we're clear, my icebox is filled with pieces of fellas who tried to fuck me over."

A part time kosher butcher, part time capo of Philadelphia's Jewish quarter who has a personal feud with local gangster Waxey Gordon. He becomes Jimmy's partner in crime after Mickey Doyle introduces them to each other in Season 2. Played by William Forsythe.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Badass Grandpa
  • Bait the Dog: He initially comes across as a likable Alter Kocker who loves jokes and is an "old school" man of honor, and then he begins to talk about stuffing the pieces of the guys that cross him in his fridge...
  • The Butcher: Both literally and figuratively.
  • Determinator: In "Battle of the Century", he grabs his attacker through a crystal window during an assassination attempt, overpowers him and sinks a meat cleaver on his head, all after taking a bullet to the shoulder!
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Do not betray him. EVER.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: If we believe him, he's pretty deferential to his wife.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He's a kosher butcher... he won't kill an already-injured man in the same freezer as his meats. Injuring that man himself and then telling a non-believer to kill him is fair game, though.
    • Also in line with Kashrut standards, when he sees the Commodore's hunting trophies he shows immense disapproval of killing animals purely for sport/status.
  • Faux Affably Evil
  • Holier Than Thou: "What? We all have to live by (some) rules..."
  • Hot-Blooded
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Brutally subverted when after an attempt on his life okayed by Jimmy he shows up at Jimmy's house to murder him and instead finds Angela and her lesbian lover... and kills the both of them; the lover right after coming out of the bathroom - thinking it was Jimmy - and in Angela's case after she pleaded that I Have a Family which places this firmly into Kick the Dog territory, if not outright Complete Monster.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Played seriously. Jimmy tries to restrain him at one point, telling him that "You can't kill everyone."
  • Only Known by Their Nickname
  • The Rival: To Waxey Gordon.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules: In an evil version of this, after an attempt is made on his life, he considers no amount of blood money sufficient to stop him from taking revenge.
  • We Have Ways of Making You Talk
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: You better believe it, boychik.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: While he dislikes killing for sport he is even more offended when someone claims the kill of another man. He believes that the only way for Jimmy to really take over Atlantic City is for Jimmy to personally kill Nucky. He seems impressed by the fact that Nucky personally killed Jimmy rather than having Owen or Eli do it.

Minor Fictional Characters

Agent Eric Sebso

"You can trust me, goddamit!"

Van Alden's Jewish partner at the beginning of the series and The Mole in the Prohibition Unit for Nucky. He is murdered by Van Alden at the end of the first season. Played by Erik Weiner.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Hans Schroeder

"You sit down or you'll get the belt!"

Margaret's abusive husband, an unemployed baker assistant with a gambling addiction. He is killed under orders of Nucky at the end of the pilot and used to pin the Woods Massacre on. Played by Joe Sikora.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:


"Who is going to love me now?"

A 18-year-old prostitute from the brothel that Torrio runs his operation out of, who wishes to move to California and become an actress. She and Jimmy have a relationship and plan to run away together until members of a rival gang disfigure her as a message to Jimmy, and she kills herself. Played by Emily Meade.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Ethan Thompson

"Look who's here: the big shot."

Nucky and Eli's old and progressively more senile father. He was abusive to the first and protective of the second during their childhood, and still remains more attached to Eli in the modern day - in part, however, because he knew that the more intelligent Nucky was more capable of making his way into life. Played by Tom Aldredge in his last role.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

The D'Alessio Brothers

A violent gang formed by six out of nine brothers from Philadelphia (not counting sisters). They are brought to Atlantic City as associates of Mickey Doyle's bootlegging business and lead to conflict with Nucky after Doyle is arrested and Nucky gives his business to Chalky.

Tropes exhibited by these characters include:

Isabelle Jeunet

"Do you bathe?"

The French owner of the haute couture dress shop La Belle Femme, set next to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Nucky forces her to fire her long time assistant and give the job to Margaret in order to help her, and she doesn't take it well at all (nor makes any attempt to hide it). Played by Anna Katarina.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:


"Us girls all help each other here. You know, the concubines."

A long-time mistress for rich men, she becomes Margaret's neighbor and sort of friend after she accepts to move to a mansion paid by Nucky. Played by Megan Reinking.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • False Friend: She ceases all contact with Lucy after she's thrown out and only hangs out with Margaret because she's with Nucky now, showing she holds friends in the same esteem as boyfriends.
  • Five-Finger Discount: She has amassed almost $4000 by stealing whatever is in Harry's pocket when he is sleeping. Unfortunately for her, he discovers her stash and invests it in the original Ponzi scheme.
  • Gold Digger: It doesn't take her long to find a new sugar daddy after breaking up with the previous one.
  • The Mistress: For Harry, Nucky's overweight friend. Formerly for Nucky.
  • Pink Haired Girl: She loves wigs.
  • Single Mom Stripper

Rose Van Alden

"I want to give you a son, Nelson."

Agent Van Alden's very proper, very Christian wife. She wants to be a good woman and desires a child more than anything in the world. She also worships the ground her husband walks on, at least for now. Played by Enid Graham.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • All Women Are Prudes: She dresses conservatively and only has sex with the lights off.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Rose is not okay with Nelson getting Lucy pregnant and intending to keep her baby and pass it off as theirs, no matter how desperately she wants a child. She slaps and bites him in a confrontation after Abigail's birth, and two episodes later, serves Nelson with divorce papers.
  • Extreme Doormat
  • The Fundamentalist
  • Law of Inverse Fertility
  • Women Are Wiser: Though a conservative Christian, she has the common sense to put her beliefs aside when the situation requires. She considers surgery in order to cure her sterility and she takes care of Lucy right after she gives birth instead of trying to blame her for her husband's infidelity. She also has an easier time displaying her emotions and showing preoccupation for her husband's well being, in contrast to her spouse's icy demeanor.

Lenore White

"Albert, you have a family waiting that loves you."

Chalky's wife, a highly-educated and well-spoken woman. She tries her best to "civilize" him and further the educations of their three children. Played by Natalie Wachen.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Esther Randolph

"I can make your life very difficult, Mr. Neary. In fact, I might enjoy it."

The current Assistant US Attorney prosecuting Nucky for election rigging. Unlike her predecessor, who was on the take, she represents a challenge to Nucky because of her professionalism and the fact that she can't be bought by the usual means since she is a teetotaler and a woman. She is also assigned the same room where Van Alden has his office, causing conflict with him. Played by Julianne Nicholson.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Raymond "Ray" Halloran

"You killed Mary Pickford?"

Eli's trusted, big, and dumb as a brick Number Two in the AC Police Department. Played by Adam Mucci.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Dunn Purnsley

"What I don't like 'bout you?"

A large and intimidating Baltimore criminal that Chalky meets in jail. After being on the receiving end of a beat-down from Chalky and his men, he becomes Chalky's Number Two. Played by Eric LaRay Harvey.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Historical Figures

Chicago Gangsters

Al Capone

"I'm makin' a statement."

Introduced as a low-ranking thug, he will soon become a notorious crime boss. He develops an odd friendship with Jimmy and is Torrio's right-hand man. Played by Stephen Graham.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Giovanni "Johnny" Torrio

"Let's say the whole thing was a series of misunderstandings."

The current Italian crime boss of Chicago, he was the Number Two to Big Jim Colosimo before he made the error of not getting into the illegal alcohol business and was forcibly retired. Torrio is, however, far from being ruthless and always tries to use diplomacy first when dealing with other gangsters. Played by Greg Antonacci.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Affably Evil: Easily the nicest mafioso seen in the series.
  • Benevolent Boss: For a mob boss, he's pretty nice to his employees. He treats the girls at the bordello well, and takes Al under his wing.
  • The Don
  • Dragon Ascendant: Is one to Colosimo, and Al also will become his.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: He wanted to get in the alcohol business. Big Jim didn't. So now there is no more Big Jim.
  • Equal Opportunity Evil: He makes no distinction between Italians and Irish in his gang, and at some point invites Al to respect the Jews and learn from them.
  • Evil Mentor: To Al.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Occasional, although some dubs exaggerate it.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: As shocking as it is, he does suggest this to Nucky. When Nuckys asks Torrio and Rothstein what he should do about Jimmy, Torrio immediately snaps "Kill the prick". Doubly surprising because Torrio likes Jimmy too.
  • Non-Action Guy
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He accepts Jimmy's advice while conducting the war against Sheridan when he could easily blame losses on him and Al.
  • Team Switzerland: For now, at least. In season one, he spent most of his time mediating between New York (Rothstein and Luciano), Philadelphia (the D'Alessios), and Atlantic City (Nucky). In season two, he seems to be staying out of things entirely, and the Young Turks seem to regard him as less of a threat than Nucky or Rothstein - probably due to Capone's protectiveness.

Giacomo "Big Jim" Colosimo

"You should all come to my restaurant. If you like to eat, you eat. If you don't like to eat... uh-hu-hu."

An old style mafioso and mob boss of Chicago till he retired in early 1920 on account of a bullet to his head. Played by Frank Crudele.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

New York City Gangsters

Arnold Rothstein

"Reputation takes a lifetime to build and only seconds to destroy."

A high-level Jewish gangster with his fingers in every pie in New York. He rigged the 1919 World Series and is being investigated for it, but is a much more level-headed crime boss than any of the others. Played by Michael Stulhbarg.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Charlie "Lucky" Luciano

"I'll fucking bury this in your fucking head!"

Rothstein's number two, an angry, hot-blooded young man prone to violent outbursts. Really doesn't like Jimmy, especially when his plan to sleep with Jimmy's wife goes sideways and Lucky ends up having an affair with Jimmy's mother instead. Played by Vincent Piazza.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: He's just starting this aspect of his business, but he spends most of season two trying to get Jimmy and Capone to sell heroin. He succeeds in bringing Rothstein into the heroin trade in "To the Lost".
  • The Brute
  • Butt Monkey
  • Cluster F-Bomb
  • The Dragon: To Arnold Rothstein.
  • Foil: To Jimmy. Number Two to a powerful man, hot-tempered, and involved with Gillian. Unfortunately, they're also both holding a grudge over the Gillian thing.
  • Friendly Enemy: He and Jimmy team up at the end of "Age of Reason", due to Lansky's suggestion. He has aspects of this with Capone, too.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper
  • Hot-Blooded
  • I Have Many Names
  • Jerkass: Unlike his more polite (and intelligent) boss.
  • Likes Older Women: Doesn't actually mean to be this, as he initially slept with Gillian thinking she was Jimmy's wife, not his mother. Although that doesn't stop him from continuing to sleep with her...
  • Male Frontal Nudity: In "Family Limitation", so far the only male character to have shown as much.
  • May-December Romance: With Gillian Darmody.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Very few people get to call him "Charlie" (Rothstein, Lansky, Gillian); everyone else uses "Lucky" or "Mr. Luciano".
    • Even fewer people (Capone among them) call him by his birth name - Salvatore. Not that he particularly enjoys it:

Luciano: What are you, my priest? Back off.

Meyer Lansky

"Nobody wants to be in school forever."

Rothstein's other main enforcer, he instead relies upon his intelligence and guile (as opposed to brute force) to get ahead in the world of bootlegging. Played by Anatol Yusef.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:


Eddie Cantor

"Lovely girl. Lovely family. Her father died of a throat ailment: They hanged him."[2]

A prominent Vaudeville actor and comedian of the era. He is also a personal friend of Nucky and Lucy. Played by Stephen DeRosa.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Frank Hague

"I'm just proposing we call a spade, a spade."

The corrupt mayor of Jersey City. Unlike his homologues in Atlantic City who are just pawns of Nucky, he is in full charge of his town and deals with Nucky himself. Played by Chris Mulkey.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Nan Britton

"He loves me. And he loves his baby daughter. But America needs him, and so I have to sacrifice."

Former mistress of Senator and later President Warren Harding and mother of a baby daughter, she is completely deluded that Harding is in love with her and that he will dump his wife and take her to the White House as soon as he wins the 1920 election. She meets Nucky during a Republican convention in Chicago, who decides to take her to Atlantic City and place her in Margaret's house until the election is over in order to avoid a scandal. Played by Virginia Kull.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:

Harry Daugherty

"Suppose I play ball."

The massively corrupt campaign manager of Warren Harding and US Attorney General after his presidential election. Nucky uses his connections to help Harding get the nomination in exchange for some favors in the future, but when he finally needs them Daugherty just keeps making excuses. Played by Christopher McDonald.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • I Lied: He phones Nucky twice to tell him that, in essence, he is not saving his ass.
  • The Man Behind the Man: To Harding.
  • Sleazy Politician: And almost open about it. Nucky is baffled to find that he has already things to hide when he has been in office for less than three months.
  • Visual Metaphor: He puts on green shoes when he decides to sell Nucky down the river in order to save himself.

George Remus

"Remus owns the trucks that hijack his own liquor."

George Remus is a prominent Cincinnati lawyer and major supplier of "legal" alcohol, as Remus exploits a loophole in the Volstead Act that permits its trade for medicinal purposes. Played by Glenn Fleshler.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Amoral Attorney
  • Double-Speak: Remus is a master of it.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: Remus sells alcohol for medicinal purposes only. Now, if somebody "steals" that alcohol while en route, it's not Remus's concern - after all, that somebody is either Remus himself, or someone that has paid Remus beforehand.
  • Loophole Abuse
  • Rules Lawyer: Remus has studied all the Prohibition laws and is a master in exploiting the loopholes.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: Remus has powerful political connections and is thus unafraid of prosecution.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: While Remus is deservedly influential, Remus is incredibly smug and his Third Person Person shtick makes Remus rather insufferable. As a result, Remus' verbal tics get increasingly mocked by everyone who deals with George Remus (generally behind Remus' back, although at least once to Remus' face).
  • Third Person Person: In case you didn't notice, Remus has a habit of referring to himself in the third person, constantly.
  • Verbal Tic

William "Bill" Fallon

"$80 per hour. Which also will buy you my uncanny ability to make friends with judges."

Arnold Rothstein's silver-tongued lawyer, tasked with keeping him out of being prosecuted for rigging the 1919 World Series. He returns in Season 2 to take Nucky's defense in his election-rigging case. Played by David Aaron Baker.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • Amoral Attorney
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Expy: Fallon himself isn't an expy, but he is the basis for Billy Flynn and indeed, the entire silver-tongued, amoral lawyer archetype.
  • Hyper Awareness: Unlike Nucky, he notices that Harlan has something important to say, which turns out to be the key to destroy Randolph's attempt to use Van Alden as a witness. Granted, Nucky could have realized it by himself if he wasn't a Jerkass, but it's notable that Harlan had been working in the house for almost a month by then and no one else had bothered to ask him either.
  • Only in It For the Money
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: Fallon has all the judges in New York in his pocket, and has a self-described "talent at winning over juries."

Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel

A teenaged hoodlum, working as a gofer for Lansky and Luciano. He's a bit strange, but he hasn't started shooting people yet. Played by Michael Zegen.

Tropes exhibited by this character include:
  • The Artful Dodger: Is most likely all of 15, yet hangs around gambling dens and gangsters.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The kid making chicken noises? He's going to become one of the most feared mafia hitmen in history.
  • Hot-Blooded
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The kid is witty, from his nonchalant inquiry of what Lansky and Luciano want him to do about Rothstein ("oh, so I should tell him to fuck a duck?") to his mother-henning Lansky when told to go out and pick up some hulvah ("that stuff'll rot your teeth"). His sense of humor is lost on Jimmy, however.
  • Young Future Famous People