Interview With Charlie Cox
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?
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.
How did his relationship with Margaret change from their first fling last season?
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.
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?
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.
Of all the different gangsters Owen deals with, do you think he has any kindred spirits?
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?"
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?
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.