Jack Huston Explains Why 'Boardwalk Empire' Is a Worthy Binge-Watch 10 Years Later (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
If there was one actor who was supposed to be having a big month, it was Jack Huston. The English actor, most well-known for his role as Richard Harrow on Boardwalk Empire, had just come off playing American terrorist Eric Rudolph on Manhunt: Deadly Games in February and had two anticipated projects -- Fargo season 4 and the film Antebellum -- set for back-to-back debuts this week before the coronavirus outbreak forced both to delay their release.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t a bit bummed because I’m really proud of these projects,” Huston tells ET by phone from his Los Angeles home, where he’s now busy homeschooling his two young children. “I mean, Fargo and Antebellum, are just two things that I really just put my heart and soul into.”
His role as Odis Weff on season 4 of Noah Hawley’s FX anthology series reminded Huston most of his experience on Boardwalk Empire, the HBO series created by Terence Winter and executive produced by Martin Scorsese that chronicled the rise of politician Enoch Thompson during the 1920s Prohibition era. “It was an amazing character that we managed to create,” he says of Weff, a detective with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder in a time when they didn’t really understand or even know what the condition was. The upcoming season, which has been pushed back to the fall, is set in postwar-1950 Kansas City, Missouri, as a crime syndicate of African-American migrants and an Italian-American mafia family come to blows.
While normally not a fan of watching himself onscreen, Huston is especially excited to watch the show “because I want to see all the other actors,” he says of the ensemble cast, which includes Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw and Jessie Buckley. “It's such brilliant writing and it's so wonderful. When we were reading it, I was like, ‘I can’t wait to see this person do that.’”
As for Antebellum, the horror film from the producer of Us and Get Out about a woman (Janelle Monae) seemingly trapped in the mind of a slave, Huston can’t say much without spoiling anything. “It has a very Jordan Peele vibe,” he teases, adding that certain films are meant to be experienced with other people and that this one is worth the wait until theaters around the country open up again. “The one thing about Antebellum is it will have you talking at the end of it. And it really provokes conversation.”
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In the meantime, fans can catch up on Deadly Games, which is now available on demand via Spectrum. The second season of the true crime anthology series chronicles the events surrounding the 1996 bombing during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, when a local security guard, Richard Jewell, became the FBI’s lead suspect. Huston plays the actual bomber, Eric Rudolph, who eventually took responsibility for the attack and was behind several others throughout the Southern United States.
“I’ve never played someone who I truly can say was just reprehensibly bad,” Huston says. In fact, the more research he did on Rudolph, the less the actor understood the reasoning behind his actions. “He was a true sociopath.”
Comparing him to his Boardwalk Empire character, who was a disfigured former Army marksman who works as a hired hand, Huston says he always understood Harrow’s motivations. “Whereas with Eric, I never understood... I was like, ‘This man is actually void of a soul, of human goodness.’”
In addition to being able to binge-watch the tru-crime series, Huston also says Boardwalk Empire is worth diving back into 10 years after it first premiered on HBO. “People say it’s a slow burn, but it’s really an opportunity to jump back into a completely different time,” Huston says, adding that the best part about rewatching it is that fans can keep going back and always find something new.
But for Huston the series gave him so much more, setting him on a path to playing Eric Rudolph in Deadly Games or Odis Weff on Fargo. “Boardwalk Empire gave me permission to be an actor,” he says. “Before, I think I was dabbling. I was trying to find my way. I don’t think I had the confidence to go as far as I wanted to. The reason Richard stays so strong or fresh with me is because it was the first time I jumped off the deep end with a character.”