There are some vague spoilers in this article if you aren’t caught up on Boardwalk Empire.
On a lot of shows, getting feedback from the showrunner is probably a good thing, as it can help an actor to develop his or her character more completely. However, on Boardwalk Empire, getting a call from showrunner Terence Winter became notorious for something quite different. As the show began to move beyond its first few episodes, the cast and crew realized getting a call from “the boss” meant death was looming on the horizon.
Last night, HBO aired a behind-the-scenes look at its organized crime-related series, called Farewell Boardwalk Empire. The half-hour program featured stories from the set including the inevitable Terry Winter death calls, which the showrunner says are just a part of the show.
“Part of doing a gangster show, sadly, is that characters die. And when characters die, the boss has to call the actor portraying that character to tell them they are written off the show. “
His calls became so notorious that the actors basically got it into their heads that if Winter called, their time on the show had come to an end. Here’s a great story from Winter himself about one of the calls that he made.
“When I called Bob Clohessy, who played war boss Jim Neary. I said, ‘Bob, it’s Terry Winter.’ He said, ‘Oh, I guess I’m dead.’”
Some of the show’s biggest characters also go the call. Jack Huston, who played Richard Harrow on the series, saw a section of a script from the end of Season 4 and just felt he’d reached the end of his run. A call from Winter confirmed it.
“I was lying in bed next to my girlfriend at 1 in the morning and I got the sides and I turned to her and I was like, ‘Yeah I die.’ She was like, ‘What do you mean, does it say that.’ I go, ‘No, it doesn’t say that, I just know I die.’ Couple of days later, I got a message from a friend saying can you call Terry and that’s the phone call everyone knows. So, I was like, 'Ah, I definitely die.'”
Many actors on the series speak out in the documentary about the call, with Anthony Laciura, who played Eddie Kessler, and Michael K. Williams, who played Chalky, both stating that Winter seemed to take breaking the news worse than they did. It isn’t all bad news, however. Shea Whigham, who plays Eli, and Kelly MacDonald, who plays Margaret Thompson, both spoke out about rare occasions when Winter called and they knew they had bitten the dust, only to find out later that he was simply calling to invite them to events.
It’s tough to be a showrunner on a gangster show, where deaths come left and right. However, these phone calls prove that knowing death may around every corner can be hard on the actors, as well. Luckily, everyone who has been killed off seems to be in good spirits, stating they had a good time on the show.
There’s only one episode of Boardwalk Empire left. As such, more death is almost certainly on the horizon. As for who is going to die, you’ll have to tune in to find out. HBO’s Boardwalk Empire airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET.