Erik LaRay Harvey in a scene from Boardwalk Empire.
One of Boardwalk Empire's biggest ticking time bombs, the character of Dunn Purnsley was originally only written into one episode of season two. But the career criminal from Baltimore, otherwise known as Chalky White's right hand man, ended up being a regular throughout the hit series' subsequent seasons. Purnsley's elongated presence on the show is due in full to actor Erik LaRay Harvey, who plays the part to fist-clenching perfection. A Washington, D.C. native and graduate of New York University's prestigious School of Drama, Harvey paid his quintessential actor dues doing theater, coveted Law & Order episodes, and the audition circuit.
As season four of Boardwalk Empire approaches the halfway mark, we spoke with the actor about what's in store for his character, what he's learned by playing a "bad guy," and more.
Can you give us a taste of what's to come in season four? ERIK LARAY HARVEY: We have six more episodes left and the story lines are really starting to gel. We have three African American guys on the show this season, between Jeffrey Wright, Michael Kenneth Williams, and myself, and we each have separate story lines this year, which is really great . . . Chalky and I began in season two, in the jail scene; a lot of that issue is going to be played out in the future episodes of this season. They're definitely going to come full circle with that story line.
What was it like to have your role extended after season two? ELH: It was just a blessing! I was just originally contracted for that one episode, but loved the character—even though I got beat down viciously.
What is it like to play a so-called "bad guy"? ELH: He's just so much fun to play. I love the character. When I first got the material for the first episode, I was in love with the words, you know, the writing was just so beautiful. I was like, Who speaks like this? They just continually made him a bold, aggressive, and fearless guy. And I love that.
Speaking of fearlessness, what have you learned about yourself by playing Purnsley? ELH: He's taught me to have a bit more of a backbone. He just really doesn't back down from anything and he's unafraid to stand up for what he believes and what he stands for, despite the consequences.