Eddie Kessler

played by Anthony Laciura

Nucky's beleaguered assistant.

Character Bio

Nucky's beleaguered "Man Friday," Eddie Kessler is there for Nucky around the clock. A German immigrant, he stands ready to provide whatever Nucky needs. Over the course of their years together, Eddie has proved to be a loyal servant, protecting Nucky from harm, as well as taking a bullet meant for his boss.

Bio

Anthony Laciura is known internationally for his work as an operatic tenor, having appeared with the Metropolitan Opera in more than 800 performances and debuting roles internationally in Geneva, Amsterdam, Montreal, Mexico City and Tokyo. Born and educated in New Orleans, Laciura got his start at age 12 in the cameo role of the newsboy in a staging of Charpentier's 'Louise.' Following his music and academic studies at Loyola and Tulane, Laciura performed feature roles with the New Orleans Opera in 'Madama Butterfly,' 'Die Zauberflote,' 'Andrea Chenier' and 'Le Nozze di Figaro,' roles he would later perform at the Met.

Having conquered the stage as an operatic actor and singer, Laciura is now transitioning into directing, having recently staged productions of Verdi's 'Otello' with the Vero Beach Opera and Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas' at New Jersey City University.

Interview with Anthony Laciura

HBO

Eddie gets his moment in the spotlight in Episode 16. How did you select the opera?

Anthony Laciura

Terry [Winter, series creator] called and said, "I think we figured out a way to get you to sing in one of the episodes. It's at Mayor Bader's birthday party. We would like you to sing something from a German opera." He set the scene for me and I thought anything from the Wagner school would be too heavy. But I knew there was a comic aria from 'Der Zigeunerbaron' [The Gypsy Baron] about a pig farmer with the "oink, oink, oink" and all that.

HBO

So you wanted something light all along?

Anthony Laciura

Yes, I kept thinking about the scene and I just knew it had to be something playful. There were others, 'The Abduction From the Seraglio' by Mozart, but when Terry was talking about the spanking, I thought about the little piggies and the farmers, because of all the double entendre - the little pink skin. In Eddie's aria, the farmer comes out and he's carrying a pig. He's so happy to be a pig farmer, because that is what he's meant to do. His father was a pig farmer, everyone in his family has been a pig farmer. It's very German!

HBO

Was filming the scene as much fun as watching it?

Anthony Laciura

I mentioned to people I would be singing in the fourth episode. But I also told them, "You're really not going to pay attention to me singing." Because of what's happening, there's no man in the world that's going to be paying attention to the guy singing.

HBO

So it's good to have a light moment like Mayor Bader's party.

Anthony Laciura

You have to. Moliere got it from Shakespeare, who got it from the Greeks: There must be a clown. There must be a character who comes from nowhere, says something totally ridiculous, everybody looks, laughs and then you go on slitting people's throats.  From the beginning Marty Scorsese wanted that, someone in the cast who retains the Old World feeling. Someone walking around tipping his hat, making way, making sure the person he worked for is as protected as much as he can be protected.

HBO

Does being an opera singer make it easier for you to speak with a German accent?

Anthony Laciura

I've been working with Europeans my whole life, especially Germans. If you have an ear, you pick it up. In opera, I've always been the second banana. Now I'm doing the same thing, but I don't have to sing, I just have to speak with a German accent!

HBO

How much of Eddie is based on fact?

Anthony Laciura

There was a real Eddie, Lou Kessel, and he was always there. From the research I did, and from becoming friends with the family of Lou Kessel, I know he was my height and had my hair, but he was 260 lbs. We found out he was a wrestler in Austria. He had a house with his wife and he had an apartment in the Ritz. He was on call 24-7, but let's face it, Nucky [Johnson] didn't get up 'til 4-4:30. And Lou was right there. Lou would dry him off after his bath, shave him, massage him, the works. And after he dressed him, he and Nucky dressed to the nines, they would go down to the Boardwalk.

Anthony Laciura

[The real] Nucky wrote that his biggest regret was that when he was in prison, they would not release him to go to Lou's funeral. He considered him to be the finest man he knew. The watch in the first episode this season is Lou's real watch. It was a gift from Nucky Johnson.

HBO

So they were always close.

Anthony Laciura

Yes. Out of the blue a man hires him and says, "I trust you so much, you will shave me and hear everything that's happened." And Lou/Eddie - will never say anything. He's someone who keeps his head forward while he's got three in the backseat ... and then cleans up afterwards.

HBO

Is there anything then Eddie wouldn't do for Nucky?

Anthony Laciura

We've always discussed, Is this too much? People did all this in the 1920s? All this carrying on, the S&M, women around with bustiers with nothing on the top and nothing on the bottom, carrying whips? I would guess every man - every person - has his limit. But I don't know what it would be for Eddie.

Interview with Anthony Laciura

HBO

There's a tense moment in Sunday's episode: Nucky demands to know what Eddie knew about Margaret and Owen. Can you explain his answer?

Anthony Laciura

Eddie's not an unintelligent man. He sees things. But he says, "I tend only to you." Is that an answer? Does that mean Margaret is an indirect aspect of Nucky's life? Did he see and then put it out of his mind because it's not for him to comment? Or did he not know anything?

HBO

It's a non-answer answer then. Is it further proof of Eddie's unfailing loyalty?

Anthony Laciura

I really believe in Eddie's eyes, Nucky can do no wrong. If you look at it as a European coming to the land of opportunity, where every man can come here, get a job and build himself to a certain level, this is what he did with Nucky. He found solid, regular work. He is getting a salary, but that means nothing to Eddie. He's doing his work because he's totally dedicated to this one person.

HBO

In fact, Eddie literally takes a bullet for Nucky. But why suffer in silence?

Anthony Laciura

He would. For that old European stock, especially the Germans, the Austrians, you don't show weakness -- you just don't. It's: "I was shot, but I'm not dead, so therefore I can stand the pain."

HBO

Does it take an old-world mentality to serve someone like Nucky?

Anthony Laciura

A strong leader like Nucky Thompson needs to have someone with old world strength and security so that whatever happens, he never looks bad or loses face. Eddie takes care of that. There's a loyalty. Look at Lucky and Lansky -- what are they doing? Cutting out Rothstein. And even though Lansky says to wait, Lucky goes off and does the heroin deal without him.

HBO

Can you discuss the filming of your scenes in this episode? Were they scripted or improvised?

Anthony Laciura

The scene was scripted. But it did say where the sounds were: "He screams like a dying animal." So I utilized all of that. But when the cut is being made into the prosthetic, you need a great partner like Steve [Buscemi] to make sure you know when to react and feel the pain. We devised a system -- he mostly devised it -- and it worked really well. I'm not going to tell you how. We had a communication that no one will ever know.

HBO

And what was it like shooting Eddie's state of delirium?

Anthony Laciura

We were at the farmhouse for those scenes for five days. Allen Coulter, the director, tried to get as much non-stop footage as he could. There was something continuous about it, like live theater. When I was in that little bed and Steve held my hand, everybody held their breath. There was a reverence about it. Nucky says they'll look up the poem and Eddie says, "When we are home." Each take got a little more intense, it was exhausting but exhilarating. Howard Korder wrote the scenes that every actor in the world wants to do. I have been practicing for this scene since I was four.

HBO

Eddie mentions he has a family, but doesn't tell Nucky where he lives. What do you know about his wife and sons?

Anthony Laciura

The real life Eddie Kessler, Lou Kessel, had, I think, one son and three daughters. But does Eddie? Or is he hallucinating about when he was younger and he's reciting the poem every father would tell his son? They write for me as if I'm translating from German into English. They put the verb at the end of the sentence, as it would be in German. Eddie is hallucinating and going in and out of English and German. He's going into his native language because that expresses his frustration more.

But like Eddie said, "This is my life." So it doesn't matter about the other family. I think someplace deep in his subconscious, he feels that he is the father that Nucky never had. Ethan was really no father.

HBO

Nucky not only stays with Eddie, he assists in the surgery. What expectations do you think Eddie had of Nucky?

Anthony Laciura

Eddie's not a high-powered business man. He's Nucky's man Friday. But when Nucky tells him, "I want you to leave," and I think it's because Nucky believes: Everything I touch I destroy. You really got to see the true philanthropic nature of Nucky Thompson in this episode. He could have pushed Eddie out at the hospital, but he didn't. He could have said, "Don't stitch him up," to keep him quiet. And later, when the trucks are coming in, he tells Chalky, "That's my nephew." It shows the extent of how he feels about his "children." You remember how he played with Emily when she first got her braces?

HBO

What are some of your other favorite moments from this season?

Anthony Laciura

I liked the moments from Episode 33, "The Milkmaid's Lot," when Nucky refuses to take his medicine. It's unfortunate that the camera wasn't on the both of us, because he shoots me this look: You tattle tale. Shut up and get out of the room.

In 32, "The Pony," there's a moment when Eddie walks up and says, "I don't know how to say this ... Jimmy Darmody is dead." After everyone reads the paper, he says "I'm terribly sorry for your loss." We did one take and when the director said "Cut," everybody broke out laughing. Steve said I looked like I was going to cry.

HBO

Presumably Eddie knew what really happened to Jimmy?

Anthony Laciura

We talked a lot about that. The formal announcement has been made and because it's a death notice, the proper thing to do is to say, "I'm very sorry for your loss." Maybe Eddie never said it before because Jimmy was murdered. But now that it's printed, he has to say it. Good manners above all.