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Jeffrey Wright Talks Valentin Narcisse

Published on September 11, 2013 by   ·   6 Comments

Jeffrey Wright makes his first appearance as Dr. Valentin Narcisse in the second episode of Season 4 of Boardwalk Empire, “Resignation.” His character, he says, is “based on a guy named Casper Holstein, very loosely based or a distorted version of Casper Holstein with a lot of the benevolence sucked out of him.”

In an interview with Ron Bennington on Interrobang.com, Wright explains: “Casper Holstein was the biggest numbers runner in Harlem in the early 20′s and was making millions of dollars a year — was a philanthropist on the level of the Carnegies and advocating on behalf of the rights for the Virgin Islands.”

Holstein is sometimes called “The Bolito King” and credited with inventing the numbers game in Harlem, which is where he made his money. There is a segment devoted to Holstein in Playing the Numbers: Gambling in Harlem between the Wars, which says that he was not an ostentatious kind of guy — quite the opposite. He went to great lengths to stay out of the public eye. He was a generous philanthropist and did do an awful lot to improve educational opportunities for Harlemites. Langston Hughes wrote that one of the first poetry prizes he won was financed by Holstein.

Wright goes on to explain why someone like Valentin Narcisse would think he was superior to a man like Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams).

He says that Caribbean immigrants had an advantage over American blacks because of a better educational system. “He’s not someone who is rural. He’s not someone who is uneducated. He has expectations about his place in society, whether he’s in Harlem or he’s in Atlantic City or, frankly, whether he’s dealing with black folks or white folks.”

Be that as it may, Chalky White is a pretty popular character on Boardwalk Empire and we’re not too sure his fans will cotton to any character treating Chalky like a peasant. Chalky’s insecurities in that area have been shown in prior seasons with his interactions with his daughter’s suitor, so it should prove to be more than an interesting dynamic. You might say it could turn out to be a deadly dynamic.

Valentin Narcisse and Marcus Garvey

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Readers Comments (6)

Inflammatory, disrespectful and spammy comments will be deleted.

  1. vj says:

    @chowhound – thanks for posting this. I found this very interesting story about heavyweight champ Joe Louis, Julian Black and John Roxborough.

  2. chowhound says:

    even though this story for some is viewed as fiction,,,,history is something i majored in and i started doing a little more research in the history of organized and unorganized crime in this country… what HBO has done is open up the lanes of history of the people that had little or no mention in the rise of organized crime… i welcome the experience to see who many of these people were…there was a member of my family that was very involved in the numbers running in chicago. my family didnt mention it and when i started digging up the history even though they didn’t want to elaborate on it my father told me not to go digging up old bones….but this has a big story in it self and because my fam didn’t want to talk bout this stuff, they took it to the grave with them…my aunt,,my grandfathers sister was married to jullien black look him up,,, this story may be added never know , he ran numbers in chicago dayum near went to war with capone til he gave up a piece of the pie..

  3. vj says:

    Thanks Rosie, they have had more in the episodes showing that Narcisse is an evil elitist. I still thoroughly detest him! I’ve gotta say Jeffrey Wright does a helluva job with those evil sideways glances!

  4. Rosie says:

    ["I agree, it will be explosive at the least. I thoroughly detest Dr. Narcisse and I don’t understand why he took such a dislike to Chalky since he’s all about elevating his race. Chalky’s done all right for himself and he should respect that, but instead he wants to take Chalky down."]

    It’s called good old fashioned bigotry. A great deal of bigotry exists even between people of the same group – whether in regard to race, gender, class etc.

  5. vj says:

    I agree, it will be explosive at the least. I thoroughly detest Dr. Narcisse and I don’t understand why he took such a dislike to Chalky since he’s all about elevating his race. Chalky’s done all right for himself and he should respect that, but instead he wants to take Chalky down.

  6. Nickalus T. holt says:

    I’m sure it will be deadly! Excellent piece of working finding out who this Valentin character is based. Stay tune!

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