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Interview with Charlie Cox

15: Nucky and Owen

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.

19: Peg of Old

Season 2