|Birthplace||Near Atlantic County, New Jersey|
Enoch Malachi "Nucky" Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi, is the protagonist of the series Boardwalk Empire. He is very loosely based on the real New Jersey politician Enoch L. Johnson (1883-1968), who was in control of Atlantic City for three decades, between 1911 and 1941.
Nucky is a corrupt Republican politician and gangster. He begins the series as the Treasurer of Atlantic County, New Jersey. His brother, Eli Thompson is the Atlantic County Sheriff. Nucky, following on the steps of his predecessor and mentor, Louis Kaestner, is the boss of a political and criminal organization that controls every business (whether legal or illegal) and aspect of life in Atlantic City. Nevertheless, the shrewd and charming Nucky is as beloved by the people of Atlantic City as he can be, shaking all the right hands, kissing all the right babies, and investing no small part of his money back on those same businesses, parties and charity alike. His popularity is particularly high among Irish immigrants (himself being the eldest son of one) and the African-American community, which he controls through his ally Chalky White. Very little happens in "The World's Playground" that he doesn't know about. In addition, Thompson's political influence extends well beyond his official jurisdiction in Atlantic County, as he managed two successful election campaigns for Walter Edge sending him to the US Senate, and he is reputed to have the last say among the New Jersey's delegation when it is time to nominate a new Republican presidential candidate.
Nucky has had a troubled personal life. His sister Susan Thompson died of tuberculosis when they were children. His father Ethan Thompson was physically abusive during his childhood. He became involved in politics during his teens under the wing of Commodore Louis Kaestner, whom he eventually succeeded when he was convicted of election fraud in 1912. Nucky's first wife Mabel Thompson killed herself in 1913 after losing their infant son. He has been consumed by his work since but has had superficial relationships with girlfriends. He had a casual relationship with former Ziegfield Follies dancer Lucy Danziger for three years by 1920. He also treated Jimmy Darmody as a surrogate son and protégé when he was growing up, partly out of guilt in his role in exposing his mother Gillian Darmody to being raped by The Commodore when she was only 13, which resultedd in Jimmy's conception.
Half corrupt politician, half gangster, and all greedy, Nucky senses the opportunity to further increase his fortune and power through bootlegging when Prohibition becomes official nationwide on January 16, 1920. His expectations are proven right, but at the same time the new business turns out to be more challenging than expected, and consumes his personal life as the gangs competing for a share of the profit become more and more violent.
Most likley born in the 1870s, Nucky is the first son of Ethan and Elenore Thompson. He has a younger brother, Eli, and a sister, Susan. Susan was a sickly child and died of tuberculosis during Nucky's childhood. He and Eli were jealous of the attention Susan got from Elenore because of her illness. Ethan was alcoholic and abusive, though apparently only to Nucky. When Nucky was a child and his baseball glove was stolen by a group of four older children, his father forced him to challenge them to a fight. They were twice his size and Nucky ended up in the hospital for 11 days. On his ninth birthday, Nucky went to reach for food before his father and his father responded by searing the flesh of Nucky's right palm with a hot poker before reminding him that "Daddy eats first."
Nucky began working in politics in the 1890s under Commodore Louis Kaestner's wing. Like Kaestner, Nucky is nominally a Republican but his politics are dominated by self-interest and maintaining a stable economy for Atlantic City. Kaestner was the boss of the political and criminal organization that controlled protection rackets, informal welfare, and election rigging in the city. He held the post of Atlantic County Treasurer but controlled the Mayor, the City Council, and the Atlantic County Sheriff's Office, and had influence in state and federal government.
Nucky worked to procure women for The Commodore's parties and was responsible for setting The Commodore up with 13-year-old Gillian Darmody after he saw her in a May 1 parade in 1897. Gillian was raped by The Commodore and became pregnant with his child. She named her son Jimmy. Nucky felt responsible for the boy and made an agreement with Gillian to always look out for Jimmy. He was an active figure in Jimmy's childhood taking him on hunting trips and preparing him as an eventual successor to lead the organization.Nucky was the Atlantic County Sheriff from 1908 to 1912. During this period he married Mabel Thompson. In 1912, the Atlantic City organization was the target of a campaign of depuration lead by the then Democratic Governor of New Jersey Woodrow Wilson; Nucky and The Commodore made a deal under which The Commodore would take the fall and go to jail for a number of years, while Nucky would succeed him as County Treasurer and take control of the organization, ensuring that things continued the same and The Commodore still received a share of the profits.
Shortly after Nucky took over, Mabel gave birth to their first and only child, a son named Enoch Jr., on December 16, 1912. Enoch Jr. was a small and frail child and Nucky was terrified of holding or even looking at him. Being busy with his new appointment, Nucky opted to leave the baby alone with his mother for days. It wasn't until several days later when Nucky returned home and finally decided to hold him. To his horror, he discovered that Enoch Jr. had been dead for days and that Mabel, in complete denial, had continued to dress him, wash him, and act as if he were alive. After Enoch Jr.'s funeral Mabel fell into a severe depression and ultimately committed suicide on January 19, 1913, severing her wrists with Nucky's shaving razor.
Nucky immersed himself in his work and built up the financial ties of the organization to the community, ensuring that all residents and businesses paid their dues. His brother was elected Sheriff after he became Treasurer. In 1916 he paid for Jimmy to attend Princeton University. He was shocked and disappointed when Jimmy dropped out of Princeton and enlisted in the US Army. Jimmy did not discuss his reasons for leaving and Nucky assumed that he was unable to handle the academic pressure. Jimmy's college girlfriend Angela Ianotti moved to Atlantic City and gave birth to his son Tommy in 1917. Nucky helped to support the family while Jimmy was fighting in World War I. Meanwhile, Jimmy was injured by shrapnel from a German grenade near the end of the war and did not return to Atlantic City until January 1920. Nucky hired him as a driver upon his return.
- Main article: Nucky Thompson Season 1
Just as Prohibition begins in January 16, 1920 Nucky makes preparations to enter bootlegging and profit from what he correctly predicts to be an extremely lucrative business. However, his first deal to supply alcohol to New York City crime boss and gambling legend Arnold Rothstein is thwarted by the ambitions of Jimmy Darmody. He steals the alcohol as it passes through Hammonton, New Jersey and sells it to Chicago crime boss Johnny Torrio instead. The hijacking is bloody and ends with four of Rothstein's men killed and one badly wounded, who identifies Jimmy before he dies. The incident results in a feud between Nucky and Rothstein, who blames Nucky for the hijacking, and in a political scandal that compromises the Republican prospects in the 1920 Atlantic City local election. Nucky responds by exiling Jimmy, who takes refuge in Chicago under the protection of Torrio.
Nucky begins a serious relationship with Margaret Schroeder, a poor Irish immigrant and mother of two, pregnant with her third child. Nucky meets her when she approaches him for help regarding her abusive husband, Hans Schroeder. After Margaret suffers a miscarriage as a result of one of Hans' beatings, Nucky has him murdered and framed for Jimmy's hijacking. Although Nucky is not initially interested in a romance with Margaret, she impresses him with her wit, education, energy, and conviction in the following months, in contrast to his much more dull current girlfriend, Lucy Danziger. Margaret moves into a house paid for by Nucky and he enjoys the chance to play the family man with her and her children. However, she struggles to come to terms with his criminality, and after Rothstein retaliates by having his associates, the D'Alessio brothers, pull a failed hit on him, they separate. The D'Alessios also shoot Nucky's brother Eli and threaten to bring down his organization, prompting him to recruit Jimmy back as an enforcer.
Nucky also plans to improve road links to Atlantic City in order to facilitate the arrival of tourists and alcohol to town, and is incensed when Senator Walter Edge does not give him the funding he needs. He forges connections to the Warren Harding presidential campaign by delivering the New Jersey delegation at the 1920 Republican National Convention and concealing Harding's mistress in Atlantic City during the election season. In return he asks that Edge not be made Vice President and the Congress approves the road funding he wants.
By the end of the year, Rothstein finally agrees to a truce in exchange for Nucky's assistance in escaping prosecution over his involvement in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Nucky accepts on the condition that Rothstein pay him $1,000,000 and give up the D'Alessio brothers. Nucky uses a variety of well practiced election rigging techniques to ensure his incumbents retain their positions in the local elections and is pleased when Harding simultaneously takes the White House. He also reconciles with Margaret and they move in together. However, his aloofness and perceived arrogance alienate The Commodore, his brother Eli, and Jimmy, and the three begin a plot to usurp his position.
- Main article: Nucky Thompson Season 2
Nucky responds by forming a partnership with his past nemesis, Arnold Rothstein, and his connection in Philadelphia Waxey Gordon. They use Philadelphia's ports to land Nucky's shipments. Nucky also makes donations to Sinn Fein to maintain the support of his Irish American voting base. He employs ex-Irish Republican Army soldier Owen Sleater to replace Jimmy as his driver, bodyguard, and enforcer. He forms a plot to have the charges against him made at the federal level and then use his influence in the government to avoid conviction.
The Commodore is incapacitated by a stroke but Jimmy and Eli continue to act against Nucky. He retaliates by having Owen blow up their bootlegging warehouse, destroying their stock. Eli fears that the coup will fail and attempts to betray his co-conspirators but Nucky rejects his overture. Enraged, Eli responds by pushing for Nucky's assassination and another unsuccessful attempt is made on his life.
Nucky feigns retirement, needing time to regroup and money to fund retaliation. Meanwhile, Margaret's daughter Emily is paralyzed by polio. This causes the (until then lapsed) Catholic Margaret to fear that she is being punished by God for her relationship with Nucky. His plans to avoid prosecution are thwarted when Senator Edge puts pressure on the Harding administration to assign a new prosecutor out of Nucky's reach, and this comes in the form of the feared Esther Randolph.
Ethan Thompson dies suddenly and Nucky, free of his position as County Treasurer, pretends to take his father's body to Ireland for burial in order to trade weapons for whiskey with the IRA. Nucky subsequently floods Atlantic City with cheap but high quality liquor, thwarting Jimmy's fledgling bootlegging efforts. Nucky also triggers a citywide strike by African-American workers that undermines Jimmy's leadership credentials. This, coupled with Jimmy's wife being murdered by a disgruntled bootlegging partner, Manny Horvitz, drives Jimmy to attempt to reconcile with Nucky. Nucky allows Jimmy to end the strike in exchange for Jimmy convincing the key witnesses against him to drop their testimony -- and failing that, to murder them. However, the guilt-striken Margaret also begins to seriously consider testifying against him. Nucky assures her loyalty with a marriage proposal, which she accepts.
A mistrial is declared as all witnesses recant or fail to give their testimony. Nevertheless, Nucky still murders Jimmy personally, unable to forgive his betrayal. He arranges for Eli to plead guilty to the charges in his place so that they cannot be tried again. Realizing that she was conned into marrying him and that his pretense to leave the criminal life was not real, Margaret gives the deed to all of Nucky's land to the Church.
- Main article: Nucky Thompson Season 3
Meanwhile, the distancing caused by the land deal fiasco has turned Nucky and Margaret's marriage into a farce. While they pretend to be a couple in public, Margaret lives with the children in the house (all while limiting their contact with Nucky as much as she can) and Nucky in his suite at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Nucky finds consolation in a young vaudeville actress from New York, Billie Kent, and even though she is a well known "free spirit" who does not promise Nucky fidelity or even to talk him about her personal life, he becomes increasingly obsessed with her, using Billie simultaneously as a substitute for Margaret's affection and as a way to shut out his guilt over killing Jimmy. Nucky's infatuation gets to the point where he neglects business to spend time with her and further her career. This has dramatic consequences when Rosetti takes over the strategic small town of Tabor Heights and uses it to block Nucky's liquor shipments to Arnold Rothstein. Eli also gets out of jail, and while Nucky is reluctant to give him another chance, Eli begins to earn his respect when he deduces an ambush on a convoy by Gyp Rosetti ahead of time, even though he fails to stop it resulting in several of Nucky's men killed and their cargo stolen.
Nucky makes a deal with a beefed up but reluctant Rothstein to take out Rosetti, who he knows is under the protection of feared NYC mob boss Joe Masseria. The attempt fails to kill Rosetti but drives him out of Tabor Heights, restoring the liquor trade for the moment. Daugherty also tries to save his own skin by using Nucky as a scapegoat and indicting him for bootlegging, but Nucky makes alliances with Gaston Means, Esther Randolph and US Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon to arrest the even bigger bootlegger George Remus instead, getting to run the great Overholt distillery on Mellon's behalf in the process. When Means informs Nucky that Daugherty's aide Jess Smith might implicate him in the case, he pays Means to murder Smith.
Rosetti successfully convinces Masseria to back him and he provides guns and men in an attempt to wrestle Atlantic City from Nucky's hands. Gyp takes over Tabor Heights again, this time arranging boats to unload liquor there directly, and plants a bomb at Babette's that fails to kill Nucky or Rothstein, but causes the death of Billie Kent. Injured and shaken by the loss, Nucky appeals to Rothstein and other mobsters to back him in a war against Rosetti and Masseria but they all turn him down. He also sends Owen Sleater to kill Masseria but the mobster, having been tipped off, kills Owen and sends his body back in a liquor crate. Margaret's heartbroken reaction reveals to Nucky that the two had an affair, and she leaves with the children for Brooklyn. Mere minutes later, Gyp goes on a rampage through town beginning at the Ritz, injuring Nucky's butler Eddie and forcing the two to seek refuge with Chalky White. Eli, who was previously sent to Chicago to make an alliance with Johnny Torrio, cuts a deal with Al Capone instead and brings him and several of his men to Atlantic City.
A gang war sweeps the town for a week, leaving several bodies behind. Nucky then has Mickey Doyle call Rothstein and inform him about Overholt. Rothstein catches the bait and demands a 99% share of the production in exchange for convincing Masseria to withdraw his support, which he achieves by offering him a partnership dealing heroin. However, Nucky gets revenge on Rothstein twice by denouncing his takeover of Overholt to Mellon, who orders Rothstein's arrest, and killing all of Masseria's men as they are leaving to ruin their just-forged alliance. He and Eli then go to Gyp's base in Gillian Darmody's brothel but find that most of the men have been already killed off by Richard Harrow; they capture Gyp's second Tonino alive and pardon him in exchange for killing Gyp and leaving Atlantic City forever. Margaret refuses to go back to him, and Nucky decides to drop his public persona entirely, confessing his brother that they won't get involved with people they can't trust anymore.
- Main article: Thompson family
- Ethan Thompson: Father (deceased)
- Elenore Thompson: Mother (deceased)
- Elias "Eli" Thompson: Younger brother, former Atlantic County Sheriff, traitor
- Susan Thompson: Sister (deceased)
- Mabel Thompson: First wife (deceased)
- Margaret Schroeder: Second wife
- Enoch Thompson Jr.: Son (deceased)
- Teddy Schroeder: Stepson
- Emily Schroeder: Stepdaughter
- Lucille "Lucy" Danziger: Former girlfriend
- Annabelle: Former girlfriend
- Ukulele Girl: Lover
- Billie Kent: Lover (deceased)
- Commodore Louis Kaestner: Former mentor, rival (deceased)
- Gillian Darmody: Former prostitute, rival
- Chalky White: African American Community Leader and bootlegging partner
- Edward Bader: Atlantic City Mayor (Republican) and construction magnate, ally
- Harry Bacharach: Former Atlantic City Mayor (Republican)
- Damien Fleming: Atlantic City Alderman and Republican Ward Boss, ally
- Frank Hague: Jersey City Mayor (Democrat), ally
- Harry Daugherty: Attorney General (Republican), ally
- Jess Smith: Department of Justice aide, ally (deceased)
- Walter Edge: New Jersey State Senator (Republican), enemy
- Edward Edwards: Governor of New Jersey (Democrat), enemy
- George O'Neill: Atlantic City Alderman and Republican Ward Boss (deceased)
- Jim Neary: Atlantic City Alderman and Republican Ward Boss, traitor (deceased)
- Al Boyd: Atlantic City Alderman and Republican Ward Boss, traitor
- Paddy Ryan: Chief Clerk of Atlantic City's fourth ward, traitor
- John McGarrigle: Sinn Fein fundraiser, ally (deceased)
- John Keating: Order of Ancient Celts, Atlantic City businessman, ally
- George Baxter: Regional cutlery salesman and associate
- Harry Prince: Atlantic City businessman, friend
- Ray Halloran: Former Atlantic County Sheriff, Department of Justice informant, convicted murderer
- Main article: Nucky's organization
- Arnold Rothstein: New York crime boss, bootlegging partner
- Waxey Gordon: Philadelphia crime boss, bootlegging partner
- Bill McCoy: Bootlegging supplier, ally
- Lolly Steinman: Casino manager, ally
- Mickey Doyle: Bootlegging manager, former rival
- Elias "Eli" Thompson: Current bootlegging soldier, Mickey Doyle's employee
- Manny Horvitz: Bootlegging manager and enforcer (deceased)
- Owen Sleater: Bootlegging manager and enforcer (deceased)
- Tunney: Bodyguard and driver (deceased)
- Johnny Torrio: Chicago crime boss, ally
- Daniel Fitzgerald: Irish whiskey exporter
- Bill Neilan: Irish Republican Army leader, arms dealing customer
- George Remus: Former bootlegging customer and rival (arrested)
- Richard Harrow: Former enforcer, former bootlegging rival
- Al Capone: Former bootlegging rival
- Lucky Luciano: Former bootlegging customer and rival
- Meyer Lansky: Former bootlegging customer and rival
- Frankie Yale: Former customer
- Gyp Rosetti: Former customer and enemy
- Tonino: Gyp's lieutenant
- Victor Sickles: Corrupt Tabor Heights Sheriff and ally (deceased)
- Edward "Eddie" Kessler: Assistant
- Isaac Ginsburg: Ex-attorney
- Bill Fallon: Attorney
- Prudence: Housemaid
- Katy: Former housemaid
- Pauleen: Former cook
- Lillian: Nanny
- Harlan: Shoe care professional, one time butler
- Phillip: Footman
- Nelson Van Alden: Former prohibition agent, fugitive
- Eric Sebso: Prohibition agent, mole (deceased)
- Esther Randolph: Prosecutor on election rigging charges
- Charles Kenneth Thorogood: Former prosecutor on election rigging charges, mole
- Solomon Bishop: Former prosecutor on election rigging charges
- Clifford Lathrop: Department of Justice investigator
- Agent Sawicki: Prohibition agent, mole
- Hans Schroeder: Ordered death, killed by Eli Thompson and Ray Halloran.
- Billy Winslow: Ordered death, killed by Eric Sebso.
- Pius D'Alessio: Ordered death, killed by Richard Harrow.
- Ignacious D'Alessio: Ordered death, killed by Richard Harrow.
- Leo D'Alessio: Ordered death, killed by Jimmy Darmody.
- Sixtus D'Alessio: Ordered death, killed by Al Capone.
- Jim Neary: Ordered death, killed by Richard Harrow.
- James "Jimmy" Darmody: Murder victim, one time friend and pupil, shot in the face and head for betraying Nucky.
- Nate: Ordered death, killed by Manny Horvitz.
- Rowland Smith: Murder victim, thief, shot in the back of the head for stealing booze from Nucky.
- 3 of Gyp Rosetti's unnamed gunmen, shot during a break-in.
- Random unnamed Rosetti gunman, shot in the back of the head.
- Gyp Rosetti: Ordered death, killed by Tonino Sandrelli.
- "First rule of politics, kiddo: never let the truth get in the way of a good story." ("Boardwalk Empire")
- "In just a few hours liqour will be declared illegal by the distinguished gentlemen of our nation's congress... to those beautiful ignorant bastards!" ("Boardwalk Empire")
- "Do you know who dies for their countries? Fucking rubes." ("Boardwalk Empire")
- "You young fellas... no appreciation for the art of conversation." ("Boardwalk Empire")
- "Did the envelope catch on fire?" (receiving a roll of cash from the fire chief) ("The Ivory Tower")
- "You want to see how I do business? Show your face again in Atlantic City!" ("The Ivory Tower")
- "I used to think you'd own the world one day. You were like that kid in the Alger story, 'Ragged Dick'. You did everything right. And then..."
- "That imbecile is going to be the next President of the United States!" ("Hold Me in Paradise")
- "You know it's a shame you didn't see Hardeen last night. It's an entertaining act, but if he weren't Houdini's brother nobody'd give a fuck!
- "We all have to decide how much sin we can live with." ("A Return to Normalcy")
- "Success breeds enemies, which you'll discover soon enough after women win the vote."
- "You can tell me what ever you want, but don't scream, don't cry and don't throw anything..."
- "I do expect to have everything" ("Anastasia")
- "Seven years ago- almost eight- I'd just become treasurer. I was new to the job. Very busy. My wife had just given birth. We named him "Enoch"- after me. She wanted that. He was tiny, frail, and I was terrified to hold him. A week passed. I had my hands full with some county business or another. An audit... I was busy. Very busy. I came home one night. It was late. She was in the nursery rocking him in her arms. I crossed to them... She looked so calm, so contented. It gave me the courage to finally want to hold him. I pulled back the blanket... ... ... I looked at his face and I could tell right away he had been dead for days. She'd been caring for him nearly a week. Bathing him... changing his diapers, his bedclothes. I took him from her and cradled him in my arms. That was the only time I ever held him. We buried him in the churchyard, but she couldn't accept it. She'd completely broken with reality. Melancholia. I saw it, I knew it. But the doctor said time would heal her. And I was very...very busy. A few weeks later she slashed her wrists with my razor. The times with you and the children in the house... eating breakfast- just that- I've never been happier or more terrified in my life. And now you know more about me than any other person on earth." ("A Return to Normalcy")
- "I keep my promises, James. And I'll make one now. I will ruin you. All of you." ("A Dangerous Maid")
- (to Jimmy about his parents) "He never even asked her name. Just pointed to the one he wanted. The rest was understood." ("A Dangerous Maid")
- (to Eli, after he comes asking for a reconciliation) "Alright... we'll sort it out... But there is something I have to ask of you. I need you to get on your knees... Bend down to the ground... And kiss my fucking shoes, you piece of shit! You come crawling back here because you don't have the balls to finish what you started! [Slaps Eli] Fuck that little cocksucker you call a partner! Fuck his conniving cunt of a mother! Fuck that [slap] old man! I'll see his corpse in a ditch! [Double slap] AND FUCK YOU BROTHER!!" ("Gimcrack & Bunkum")
- "You don't know me, James. You never did. I..am not..seeking..forgiveness." ("To the Lost")
- "If we only elected good men, we'd never have leaders."
- (to Eli) "You think I'm bottomless don't you? You just keep reaching in. And no matter what you do it's alright. No. Matter. What. You sit down with my enemies. You make choices you can't ever take back. And still... still you call yourself 'my brother'. Don't you know how that hurts me?" ("Sunday Best")
- "What's that mean?" (repeated line)
|Season one appearances|
|Boardwalk Empire||The Ivory Tower||Broadway Limited||Anastasia|
|Nights in Ballygran||Family Limitation||Home||Hold Me in Paradise|
|Belle Femme||The Emerald City||Paris Green||A Return to Normalcy|
|Season two appearances|
|21||Ourselves Alone||A Dangerous Maid||What Does the Bee Do?|
|Gimcrack & Bunkum||The Age of Reason||Peg of Old||Two Boats and a Lifeguard|
|Battle of the Century||Georgia Peaches||Under God's Power She Flourishes||To the Lost|
|Season three appearances|
|"Resolution"||"Spaghetti and Coffee"||"Bone for Tuna"||"Blue Bell Boy"|
|"You'd Be Surprised"||"Ging Gang Goolie"||"Sunday Best"||"The Pony"|
|"The Milkmaid's Lot"||"A Man, A Plan..."||"Two Imposters"||"Margate Sands"|