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Who is 'Boardwalk Empire's' Eddie Kessler anyway?

Steve Buscemi in "Boardwalk Empire."

Steve Buscemi in "Boardwalk Empire." (Credit: HBO)

"Boardwalk Empire's" fifth episode of the season aired last night and -- at this point, I offer the obligatory "spoiler alert," which is to say, if you have not seen and plan on seeing it then you really won't want to read on. That is, unless maybe to see a nice clip starring Anthony Laciura, who plays Eddie Kessler and who qualifies as one of the most unusual casting choices on TV this or any season.  Because you probably didn't know that Laciura, 62, is an esteemed opera tenor who appeared in 875 performances at the Met, over nearly 30 years, beginning with "Der Rosenkavalier" in 1982, ending with "The Gambler," in 2008.

Now the spoiler: His character, Eddie Kessler, loyal manservant to Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) died last night. He jumped out a window, ravaged by guilt after having revealed to FBI agents that he had been the bagman for Nucky on a recent occasion, in which he handed money over to Ralph Capone (Domenick Lombardozzi). The feds now know that Nucky is a major crook -- amazing really that they didn't already, but that's another story -- and Eddie, whose role expanded in scope and complexity this season, assumed (rightly or wrongly) that he had sealed his master's fate. Yes, the end was operatic.

This was if not Laciura's only TV role, by far one of the most prominent. He was excellent as the deeply loyal servant who had fealty to only one, and whom Nucky found to be the only man he could trust completely.

Eddie will be missed and so will Laciura (pronounced La-SURE-ah).  As he told TVGuide.com in an exit interview, "When you go back and see all that has led up to this, it really does make perfect sense. You fatten the turkey before the kill. I just wish it would have led up to it to the 12th episode, not the fifth. [Laughs] But it is what it is. I wasn't upset that it had to happen, because it's inevitable with anything. . . ."

Now, check out Eddie in an entirely different universe. This is what Laciura is best known for -- a brilliant career on stage, mostly at the Met. I think I can safely say in  this post: There has never been a casting choice like Laciura's in the history of TV, or certainly the recent one. It succeeded admirably -- that it would only have lasted a little longer.

In this clip, he's singing the comic role of Frantz -- from Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffmann."

Tags: Eddie Kessler , Boardwalk Empire , HBO , Anthony Laciura

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