Emmys 2012: 'Boardwalk Empire's' Michael Pitt on Saying Farewell to Jimmy
"It was a really powerful decision," the actor tells THR of the HBO drama's decision to whack one of its two leads. "I could have done it another year."
Michael Pitt's Jimmy Darmody learned the hard way what happens when you cross Atlantic City's dirty golden boy, Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) in the Season 2 finale of HBO's Boardwalk Empire.
After two seasons of evolving into a gangster in his own right, Nucky's one-time right-hand man faced off with his mentor of sorts for one final time, only this time, he didn't make it out alive. Likely heading for what he knew was a certain death, the rainy confrontation came after two seasons worth of mommy issues were revealed when flashbacks provided a window into Jimmy's tortured soul -- and incestuous past -- with a night that forever changed the future war hero.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Pitt to discuss when he knew Jimmy's days were numbered, filming the rain-soaked scene and what's next -- reuniting with Boardwalk's Martin Scorsese.
The Hollywood Reporter: What was the moment like when you found out that Jimmy would meet his maker?
Michael Pitt: It was something we talked about as early as the first season, so it wasn't a surprise for me. They tried calling me and I basically called Scorsese, and he was like, "So Jimmy isn't going to make it." My response was, "OK, so let's make a movie."
What was your first thought? Were you relieved to be finished playing such a flawed character?
I thought it was a really powerful decision. I loved working with everyone, but it was a strong start and a strong end. That's good for me. The ratings, apparently, go up the more you piss off the audience. It feels good to know that Jimmy's death upset some viewers. I felt like I was cheering everyone else up on the set -- like I was the one who everyone should have been the one being cheered up. Stephen Graham, who plays Al Capone, took it pretty hard. A lot of the crew, I really loved that crew and all the PAs and security guys. I'd tell them it was going to be all right. It's just pretend; Jimmy isn't real. It's great, you see people really identify with the characters, and they feel for the character. It's exciting to be on the other end of that.
What was shooting Jimmy's final confrontation with Nucky like?
It was really cold. They were raining on top of us, and we'd do the scene then run into a tent and we'd all strip down and stand in front of the heater and then get dressed again and do it all over again. There were some problems with the rain, and I know the scene was hard for Steve, as it was for everyone else.
After two seasons, were you done playing Jimmy, or did you want to continue on?
I could have done it another year. When I play a character, I really immerse myself in that character, so it was really difficult for me to do anything else. People say there's a hiatus, but I'm so immersed in the character that I wouldn't take other jobs while I was doing it and I wouldn't do other characters while I was doing it. It's the same way I wouldn't do another character while I'm shooting a film. I had an amazing experience, and we did really good work. I really just feel blessed all around.
After your character wrapped, how did you let go of playing Jimmy?
I'm shooting a movie [You Can't Win] that I'm starring in, co-wrote and producing, so I went to Costa Rica for a little bit and sat on the beach and then went straight to work.
Have you spoken with Steve about how Season 3 is shaping up?
I talk to Steve all the time; they threw me a surprise birthday party, and a lot of the cast was there. It was maybe seven months after we wrapped. Most likely I'll still be seen around town with them partying in New York when they're around.
How similar is your movie character to Jimmy?
He's a West Coast character, he's from Kansas and Seattle and it predates Boardwalk a bit; it's 1890s, the death of the Wild West. He's a guy who wrote a book in the '20s who greatly influenced Jack Kerouac and William S. Burrows, and it should be pretty exciting for people.
How do you think Boardwalk Empire will fare without Jimmy in Season 3? Hit the comments with your thoughts.