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?
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?
It's a non-answer answer then. Is it further proof of Eddie's unfailing loyalty?
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.
In fact, Eddie literally takes a bullet for Nucky. But why suffer in silence?
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."
Does it take an old-world mentality to serve someone like Nucky?
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.
Can you discuss the filming of your scenes in this episode? Were they scripted or improvised?
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.
And what was it like shooting Eddie's state of delirium?
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.
Eddie mentions he has a family, but doesn't tell Nucky where he lives. What do you know about his wife and sons?
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.
Nucky not only stays with Eddie, he assists in the surgery. What expectations do you think Eddie had of Nucky?
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?
What are some of your other favorite moments from this season?
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.
Presumably Eddie knew what really happened to Jimmy?
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.