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'Boardwalk Empire': Michael Shannon on Van Alden's future

September 29, 2011 | 10:14 am

Michael Shannon of 'Boardwalk Empire'

Michael Shannon, who plays the volatile Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden on “Boardwalk Empire,” has managed to stay plenty busy while not busting bootleggers and fighting corruption. We recently caught up with Shannon about his two new films, “Take Shelter” (which opens Friday) and “Machine Gun Preacher” (in theaters now), but Show Tracker couldn’t resist asking him a few questions about Van Alden and what’s in store for his character in Season 2 of the acclaimed HBO drama. [Updated at 2:35 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that "Take Shelter" was already in theaters and has been corrected.]

Do you consider Van Alden to be a good guy?

I think he’s a tragic character because I really do believe he has good intentions. I think he comes from a very difficult upbringing. I think his father was probably a monster, basically. And before he comes to Atlantic City, I don’t think he has much experience of the world. He’s not a very worldly person. I think he grew up in a very small community, ultra-religious, and then he’s exposed to Atlantic City. That’s one of the themes of the show: This city, you come into it one person and you leave someone else. It’s just this cauldron of sin and temptation. And I think that’s the point of it, to see how Van Alden’s going to deal with that.

How would you describe the character's mind-set at the beginning of this season?

I do think Van Alden realizes that he’s made a lot of mistakes and that he’s gone against a lot of his own principles, the principles that led him to Atlantic City in the first place. I think Season 2 is about him trying to redeem himself. He’s trying to make gold out of the straw he’s been given.

What does that mean for his marriage with Rose?

I think Van Alden loves Rose dearly. The night he spent with Lucy in Season 1 was a very dark night of the soul. He was trying to self-destruct, basically. But I think he actually really enjoys being with Rose.

What about his relationship with Lucy?

He wants to keep an eye on her to make sure that the baby’s OK. I think he cares about the baby more than anything. Lucy is an attractive woman, and Nelson’s a man — I don’t think he’s unattracted to her, but I just don’t think he’s in love with her. They have absolutely nothing in common. They have nothing to talk about, really, except this baby. I don’t really see there being much of a future with them, but who knows? It’s still early in the season.

What else can you tell us about what's ahead in Season 2?

The less you know, the better, I think.

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-- Oliver Gettell

Photo: Michael Shannon as Nelson Van Alden in "Boardwalk Empire." Credit: HBO.

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