When prepping for her role as Angela Darmody on "Boardwalk Empire," Aleksa Palladino found herself inundated with material from pilot director Martin Scorsese.
"He'd send me file after file after file of things he thought it was important for me to know," she says. But it was something more personal that may have resonated most for the 29-year-old actress.
In the series, Angela is the common-law wife of Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt). They have a young son together. She also is a Bohemian painter.
As it happens, Palladino is extremely close to her grandparents. Her grandmother's name? Angela. She was a painter.
You try to ingest all the information you can when playing a role. But you never really know what you'll remember. Having that family connection, though, allowed the actress to channel someone she knew.
Palladino first popped onto "Boardwalk Empire" creator Terence Winter's radar when he was working on "The Sopranos." She played one of Meadow's college roommates on the hit HBO series. In an e-mail, Winter described the attributes Palladino brings to Angela:
"In whatever role she inhabits," he said, "she brings an intelligence, sexiness and underlying sweetness, while at the same time making it clear that she's a strong woman."
And, in at least the early going on "Boardwalk Empire," she brings to the role a sense of sadness.
Her husband is just back from World War I; having learned to live without him, Angela is struggling to merge the life she forged without him with having him home.
"When they're brought together again it's just complete confusion. How do you pick up where you left off?" she said.
As for her character's creative side, Palladino can relate. When not acting, she plays in the alternative band Exitmusic with her husband, Devon Church. On screen, she's appeared in such films as "Storytelling," "Find Me Guilty" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."
Casting director Ellen Lewis cast her in that last film, and remembered her when it was time to populate "Empire."
"This is the first time I've ever really wanted to be a part of something this long running," Palladino says. "You constantly want to be challenged and try different things. For the most part, I think, you feel if you're not constantly moving, things can be old. ... But the writing on this is so amazing, the writing is so good you don't ever feel that you're not going to be challenged."
Now she's just waiting to see how it all turns out. As of a week ago, she still hadn't seen any of the finished episodes, just snippets here and there as she re-recorded dialogue. She knows one thing. Fans hooked by the season's early episodes won't be disappointed with her character's arc as it progresses.
"She's got secrets that she's concealing," Palladino said. "And they don't really become apparent until later."
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