Nelson Johnson did not set out to write a book when he came to Atlantic City. Nor did he know that his deep passion for the written word would cultivate and become bound up in a masterful work that exposed the truth about the city’s past and inspired a semi-fictional account in the form of a hit cable TV series, which will start its third season in the fall of 2012.
Boardwalk Empire is a story of antiheroes. Are there any characters in particular whose actions might seem more forgivable than others?
[Boardwalk Empire creator] Terence Winter tells people that his Nucky is 70% the Nucky that I wrote about and 30% the Nucky that he created. And I’ll have to take the 70/30 split. The only place where I sort of part company with Terence is the violence because what the general public, and what’s difficult to appreciate today is that Nucky Johnson was so powerful in Atlantic City and had so much support that if you crossed him, you were done! So when you went to work the next day, you were fired, open up your business the next day, it could be a laundry, everyone would come in to get their clothes and nobody brought any back. You had a restaurant, nobody came in to eat. You had a bar; nobody came in to get a drink. So you didn’t cross Nucky because he could destroy you simply by sending out word that, you know, “Bill Jones is no longer a friend of the organization. I don’t want you to patronize him. I don’t want you to hire him. I don’t want you to do anything that helps him.” That’s power. Power is not having to be violent, power is getting your way simply by saying this is what [you] want. When you have to get violent then maybe you weren’t as powerful as you think you were. So that’s the biggest problem I have with the show, but other than that it’s a heck of a lot of fun watching, it really is.
Read the rest of this great interview at How ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Found Nelson Johnson