James Gandolfini was considered for the lead role of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson on Boardwalk Empire, showrunner Terence Winter said.
Gandolfini and Winter previously worked together on The Sopranos, for which Gandolfini won three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. The late actor also won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series. The series ran from 1999 to 2007.
At a weekend event at the Paley Center for Media in New York, Winter said Gandolfini was “one of the first people we talked about” for the role of Nucky Thompson.
“Not only had we just worked with him, but he also bore such an uncanny resemblance to the actual Nucky,” Winter said. However, Gandolfini was never seriously considered for the role because he had just finished playing Tony Soprano.
Winter said Martin Scorsese, who directed the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire, suggested they find an actor they “really like and want to work with.” Scorsese already had someone in mind.
“Then Marty called me up and said, ‘I can’t stop thinking about Steve Buscemi,'” Winter said.
“I said, ‘I can’t either.’ And that was it.”
Boardwalk Empire premiered on September 19, 2010. The series is based on the book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson. The Scorsese-directed pilot cost $18 million and was the most expensive pilot episode produced in television history. The series was nominated for 18 Primetime Emmy Awards in its first season, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Steve Buscemi), and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Kelly Macdonald).
The cast won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2011 and 2012, and Buscemi won for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series in 2011 and 2012. He also won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series (Drama) in 2010.
James Gandolfini died from a heart attack on June 19 during a brief vacation to Rome. Gandolfini and four others were honored during a special tribute segment at this year’s Emmy telecast.