Owen Sleater

played by Charlie Cox

Nucky's right-hand.

Character Bio

Nucky's right-hand, Owen arrived in America as an assassin for Irish revolutionaries. His connections and skills proved to be invaluable to Nucky, just as his charms have been to Margaret.

Interview with Charlie Cox

HBO

What brought Owen to Atlantic City?

Charlie Cox

When John McGarrigle comes over, he asks Nucky if he'll look after him. Owen says he's fed up with the war, but you discover that that's not necessarily true. He had some work to do over here.

HBO

Some pretty brutal work.

Charlie Cox

One of the things he's been doing in Atlantic City is tracking this man, Del Grogan. Owen's actually a member of the IRA, a particular sect of the IRA that Michael Collins set up known as the Squad. It was a group of young men who were hired to assassinate the Brits and eventually, the Irish who were favorable towards the British. 

Who this guy is, and what he's done, we don't know. But it's obviously very important to Owen and I would assume, John McGarrigle and maybe Michael Collins. But the fact that he's been tracking this one man for five months I think says a lot about the kind of man that Owen is. I think he's been chosen to come over and do this because he's single-minded and ruthless when he needs to be. He could have shot Grogan. But he doesn't - he garrotes him.

HBO

How does being Irish affect Owen's transition to his new surroundings?

Charlie Cox

Owen probably lived in pretty extreme poverty for periods of his life. I think the way that Owen views the Americans he's surrounded with, particularly the Irish that he comes across like Margaret, is with some level of contempt. He feels like some of these people have betrayed their country or left people high and dry back at home where there are major problems.

HBO

And yet he adapts.

Charlie Cox

What's interesting is as time goes by, I think he becomes accustomed to and even starts to crave some of Nucky's wealth and the lifestyle.

HBO

Owen has already come a long way from cleaning glasses at a bar for Nucky.

Charlie Cox

There's a scene in Episode 15 where Owen does something almost to prove that he is reliable and capable [by stopping Lolly Steinman from buying liquor from Richard Harrow]. And after that, he starts working closely with Nucky. Now there are times when Nucky will turn to Owen for - I don't know if "advice" is the right word, but there are times where that boundary is blurred. At times, there's something more there than just employer-employee. And I think it's a very delicate area for Nucky. Because Owen certainly has information and knowledge now could be damaging to him. So there has to be a level of trust.

HBO

But not enough to stop Owen from sleeping with Margaret?

Charlie Cox

He's in a completely new world, one that he's very unfamiliar with. And I think he senses in her a similar feeling. He's been quite forward with her and disrespectful, in a way that he probably shouldn't be to his boss's wife - or, sorry, his boss's mistress-girlfriend. And he certainly takes liberties. But there's also an attraction there.

HBO

If Margaret hadn't put the moves on Owen, would he have taken the lead?

Charlie Cox

In my mind, the catalyst for what happens between them is in the episode prior. She's cleaning up some oats that have spilled on the floor and he walks in to help. Up until this moment, she's been very distant with him and quite clear that she doesn't really enjoy his company. And he moves in to help her sweep up the oats - and she doesn't move away. It was Kelly's choice, and I thought it was brilliant. There's no dialogue, but it's very telling. That's the moment where Owen knows that this is going to happen.

Interview with Charlie Cox

HBO

From the first episode of Season 3, Owen seemed like a slightly different man - what changed in him while he was working with Nucky in Atlantic City?

Charlie Cox

As we've rejoined ‘Boardwalk Empire' this season and skipped the year and a half coming into New Year's 1923, I think over the time we've missed, Owen has remained very faithful to Nucky - certainly in a business sense. He has more responsibility, and people in the world who want to get to Nucky know to go through him. I think that last year, after growing up in Ireland during the war, Atlantic City seemed like child's play. But I think as time passes and we get further into Season 3, Owen starts to think this is a lot more dangerous than it appears to be. He's witnessed Nucky killing his kind-of son, and then in the fourth episode this season, he sees Nucky kill another young kid, almost to prove a point. People's lives are a lot more dispensable than he at first thought.

HBO

How did his relationship with Margaret change from their first fling last season?

Charlie Cox

He's fallen in love with her - it's the only way to explain what he's doing now. Because if he got caught, he knows it would be game over. In the first season, he was chasing her around, kind of trying to f**k her, and thinks that would be fun, like, "Can I get the boss's wife?" When it comes about this season, it's a much bigger decision, and there's even a point where he says, "I don't think this is a good idea." I think it started off as a game to him, but as he's been away from home, I think he's gotten lonely, and they have that old-country bond a little bit.

HBO

You mentioned the scene where Nucky kills Rowland Smith to prove to Owen that he's willing to go all the way. Did that impress Owen with the respect for his boss that Nucky wanted him to have?

Charlie Cox

I can only talk from how Owen views Nucky - I don't know who Steve thinks Nucky is deep down. I think Owen has probably seen more real suffering than many of the people in this show. What he went through in Ireland has given him a grasp on the important things in life and an ability to value them more than a lot of the people who are in this world. In that scene, Nucky shoots that guy partly to prove a point to Owen, "Now you understand what happens if you f**k me over." I think the Owen of 1923 doesn't doubt for a second that Nucky would put a bullet in his head. He probably thinks it'll happen anyway, and that at some point it's part of Nucky's plan, since he already knows too much. He's got to get out before that happens.

HBO

Of all the different gangsters Owen deals with, do you think he has any kindred spirits?

Charlie Cox

I think if Owen could work with anyone or for anyone, it would be Arnold Rothstein. I think they're of similar mentalities. Owen's still maturing, but if he were there already, he wouldn't have slept with Katy or Margaret. He has a stoic nature about him and an ability to remain cool and remove ego. He reveals less and plays his cards very close, so I think he really respects the way Arnold Rothstein does business. There's a coldness to Rothstein's relationships - he doesn't have personal relationships, just business relationships - and I think Own respects that immensely. I think he looks at Nucky some of the time and thinks, "What the f**k are you doing with this chick in New York?"

HBO

So it all ends for Owen in "A Man, a Plan..." What did you think when you saw how his story was coming to a close?

Charlie Cox

Hey, it's an amazing, beautifully written episode. It was a shock to me, so it'll probably be shock to the viewers. I mean, Owen was never safe - he's not one of those characters. But it still comes unexpectedly. I feel like you think, "If Owen is going to die, it's because Nucky is going to discover something and shoot him in the face." So, because we're not quite there and he's killed by Joe Masseria on a job ... It's kind of beautiful how it happens. Owen finds out he's going to be a father and that he and Margaret are going to run away with each other, and I think that's why he died. I don't think he'd get this wrong; I think he got distracted. In one of the earlier scripts there was a fight scene we didn't end up filming. But the hit wasn't well scouted-out, and Owen wasn't on his game. He was thinking about other things, and the beautiful irony is that discovering how his life would turn out ended up killing him.