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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spotlight: Anthony Laciura of HBO's Boardwalk Empire


The AIAE (Association of Italian American Educators) hosted the Fourteenth Annual Educators Awards and Scholarship Celebration on Sunday, April 29th to recognize and present awards to outstanding Italian American educators. There I met, Anthony Laciura whose fun-loving and good humored spirit struck me. I thought to myself, who is this charismatic guy who is honored with a Special Award in Fine Arts? I marvelled to learn that he is an actor on HBO’s period drama “Boardwalk Empire" playing the role of Eddie Kessler, the right-hand-man to Atlantic City boss Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi.


For those of you that do not have HBO, 'Boardwalk Empire,' directed by Martin Scorsese, is an HBO television series set in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the Prohibition era and is inspired by the non-fiction book "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City" by Nelson Johnson. The series was nominated for 18 Emmys, winning eight. Based on the exploits of mobsters  in the 1920s, the design producers constructed a 300 foot boardwalk replica in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In a period show like this, the design producers had to study and research every aspect of the twenties to pull off all the costume, interior, and architectural details of the time. Intrigued? I am, especially after meeting Anthony Laciura!

(photo credit: HBO)

What is so interesting about Anthony Laciura is that he not a television actor. (it's an amazing story...) On the contrary, he is a professional opera tenor who spent 27 years with New York City’s famed Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. I asked Mr. Laciura if I could interview him for my Spotlight series.  He graciously agreed, so read on and learn more about his inspired transition from Opera singer to teacher to Actor on the amazing HBO drama "Boardwalk Empire!!"

Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln center
(image via Metropolitan Opera House)

I asked Anthony what it was like to perform on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera house? He said, “The first thought that comes to mind is the first rehearsal I had on the stage and looking out into the theatre.  In the pit stood James Levine on the podium and the entire orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera as we rehearsed "Der Rosenkavalier" by Richard Strauss.The range of emotions were overwhelming and I knew I was home.”

Anthony Laciura as Pang
in a 1988 MET production of Turandot
(photo credit: Jim Scovotti)
(image via Oberon's Grove)

After retiring as an opera singer, Laciura figured he would help budding operatic stars hone their craft so he turned to teaching as an adjunct professor in the music department at New Jersey City University in Jersey City. I asked him what he finds most rewarding about teaching?  Anthony explains, “to be part of the future of the young artist.  To share the knowledge given to me, as part of my gift.  To introduce to the student the idea of a solid Bel Canto technique and to see on the face of the student the moment of recognition when the student understands and realizes how joyful the art form can be.
I have been to a few Opera’s and I know that besides an amazing voice, expression is everything!  My interest is to understand the transition from Opera singer to Actor and how did Mr. Laciura prepare for the role of Eddie Kessler?
To me this is pure talent, pure innovation…

(photo credit: Abbot Genser/HBO)

Anthony explains, “ I know you are familiar with the expression, less is more, well that is what I did in front of the camera and relied on the line delivery and subtle facial expressions. My entire career has been as a supporting actor/singer and "Eddie" just joined the club of 80 other characters."

(photo credit: Abbot Genser/HBO)

He further describes how he was casted for the part of Eddie. “My former manager, Jim Scovotti, called and said to get in touch with Ellen Lewis, casting director for "Boardwalk Empire," and set an audition time to read for the role of Eddie Kessler. I went to her office and introduced myself using a German accent. She asked where in Germany I was from and I told her the South Bronx. We all laughed and two weeks later I read for Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter. Our meeting was very favorable and we talked and I told stories for about 30 min. I read, they laughed and two days later I became Eddie Kessler; yet another miracle in my life.

(photo credit: Abbot Genser/HBO)
(photo credit: HBO)

The design of the set and the costumes of “Boardwalk Empire” are amazing! I now understand-all the Buzz-as the show has received widespread critical acclaim for its visual style, costumes and set design based on historical figures. See the VIDEO below on how the 300 foot boardwalk was constructed for the set:

(video via youtube)

I wanted to know the magic and to be taken behind the scenes of Boardwalk Empire. Anthony adds, "If I would take you behind the magic that is 'Boardwalk Empire' the mystery would suffer.  The set designers made an exact replica of the 1920 Atlantic City Boardwalk down to the rust on the awnings outside of each building.  The costumes are vintage and copied exactly. The entire production is cared for like a new born baby and you see the magic unfold each Sunday night at 9 on HBO."  Well said, Mr. Laciura, tune in, but first see some costumes and set design images:

(photo credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO)

(photo credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

(photo credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)
Thank you Anthony for a wonderful interview!

I look forward to watching you on "Boardwalk Empire"
when it returns for Season 3 in the Fall of 2012!!!

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