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October 25, 2012 3PM EST

Q&A with Paul Sparks

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  • Q

    Please welcome Boardwalk Empire's Paul Sparks. Paul, What's it like playing Mickey Doyle?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    It's sort of like driving a really fast car with a very small steering wheel.

  • Q

    Is there a particular scene that you are most proud of?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    You know when I shot Season 3, when I go to pick up Eli from prison, I have to drive a car from the 1920s which is like wrestling a dinosaur and I didn't run over anybody when I was doing it. That was a big victory for me! I had to start it and do the whole thing!

  • Q

    Every time you get a script do you scan through to see if you get shot in the face

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Yes, although I'm not looking to just get shot in the face. There are several ways to die.

  • Q

    Did you do any research before auditioning or beginning the role of Mickey?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Yeah there's a guy Mickey Duffy that he's loosely based on. He was a bootlegger at this time and originally he was even called Mickey Duffy probably so they could kill me whenever they wanted because Mickey Duffy doesn't die until like 1931. There's not a lot of info on him but he was a degenerate kid. Most of the research I did was from the scripts and what was going on in the 1920s.

  • Q

    How do you think Mickey's botched delivery through Tabor Heights will affect Mickey's relationship with Eli?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I think that Eli will someday regret his scorn towards me. I think his idea of not going to Tabor Heights was an absolutely unrealistic idea. Mickey Doyle manages to choose the one way that he will still survive. He chooses the one good choice and the fact that it's botched...these things happen. It's not all Mickey's fault!

  • Q

    What made you want to play Mickey Doyle? And were you chosen for the role, or did you go after it?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    It's very rare in this business that you have a chance to play a character that is so outrageous. I though that Mickey seemed to be so complicated because here's a guy that is surviving in some kind of a tough guy culture and has been when people get killed all the time. He doesn't just fade into the woodwork, he's a butterfly! It's a challenging role and it's so much fun and he's written so well. If i had known how good he was I would have gone after it but I was very fortunate that the casting director went after me and I just auditioned like everybody else.

  • Q

    Do you have a friendship with Steve Buscemi and the other cast members?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I do! We're been working on this for almost 3 years and I've been very fortunate that I've worked with everybody in the show before. I'm really close with Shea and Michael Shannon. I've become friends with the ones I didn't know like Steve but a lot of those guys are also from the NY theater community so I know them from there. I'm also close with Kelly MacDonald. She and her husband live in my neighborhood and I see them all the time. It's a family.

  • Q

    Are you working on anything else right now? What’s next?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I just finished this indie movie called "Trust Me" that Clark Greg from the Avengers wrote starred and directed. I just finished that and now I'm sitting and thinking about Mickey Doyle 24 hours a day.

  • Q

    that answers my question about Mickey's nine lives. he survived getting thrown over a balcony! who else could do this?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Wow maybe spiderman? superman? There are various superheroes that could have survived it but a mortal man very few. That's how tough Mickey is.

  • Q

    Do you feel like a badass in the costumes? I know I would. I love the 1920s style.

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Yeah it's hard not to. Those suits are amazing and Mickey is particularly fancy I think. So yes. One should buy themselves one if feeling like a badass is something they long for.

  • Q

    Is it fair to say that Mickey Dole is beginning to lose respect for 'Nucky'?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Interesting. Actually I think it's the opposite. In the first two seasons, I think Mickey saw Nucky as someone who is pretty soft and didn't want to get his hands dirty. Mickey is looking for alliances for people who won't shoot him and he saw Nucky that way. In Season 3 though, Nucky's a different dude and Mickey is much more respectful of Nucky's capacity to have him killed or to kill him. So yes, he's gotten Mickey's attention.

  • Q

    Do you think that Poles are treated in this show with a dose of contempt ?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    The immigrants all felt like they were being mistreated and the fact that Mickey changed his name to sound more Irish to get respect, I'm not sure if they were being treated much better! In Mickey's mind a Pole is underneath an Irishman. That's a good question but I don't know! To all my Polish fans, yes. To all my Polish enemies, yes.

  • Q

    What do you do when you're not working?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I like to do crossword puzzled. I have to run a marathon in 2 weeks, which should be interesting. I like to watch competitive cooking show. I am originally from OK and follow the OK University football team. I like to be with my family, my wife and my son. Those are the things I do!

  • Q

    What has been your favorite acting role?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Mickey is right up there at the top. I think anytime something is well written and is multi-faceted and is surrounded by great characters and a great script but great actors, directors, crew and everybody involved....it's all of that stuff that makes it fun. It's not just all about the role.

  • Q

    Mickey's a good character. What did you do to prepare yourself for this role in the life of gangsters?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I think probably in the beginning I had more of a ritual and things to think about. But truthfully once I put on that hat, I'm ready to go.

  • Q

    Do you and Michael K. Williams get along off set?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Yeah, that guy is so famous and so cool! I think he may be the most beloved person around and I'm included in that group of people who love him. He's a really special guy and we're all so fortunate to work with him and know him.

  • Q

    This character is brilliantly funny. Do we get to see more depth to this guy? It seems like you're going deeper.

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I've always though theres a lot more to Mickey than his laugh and his absurd sense of humor. He's a very calculated guy and is smart. According to the scripts that i've read, Mickey is responsible for a lot of mayhem on the show and it's all in the name of protecting himself and surviving. He's not just a moron, morons don't live long in this world of gangsters.

  • Q

    what do you think is Mickey's biggest strength? There's obviously a very good reason why he's survived so much through the past seasons

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I don't think he's a loyal to anybody but himself. He never gets caught up in retribution and all those things people do to come back to haunt him. He doesn't do all that. He has a short memory, is able to suss out the situation. If he feels safe he stays, if it doesn't he leaves. He will turn on anybody and is not loyal to anybody at least as a gangster. I'm sure he has a dog or cat that he's loyal to.

  • Q

    Will we ever get to see what Mickey does in his private life when he's not bootlegging?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I hope so because I bet it would be entertaining. I don't know that's Pandora's box right there so who knows if Terry Winter will open it!

  • Q

    How long do you think that Mickey will survive in the series?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    It's hard to say. If my guess is he'll either die next week or be there till the end of the show. I have no idea!

  • Q

    I laugh everytime i hear your character laugh, have you ever laughed at your own laugh?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I think as actors, for me you have to really enjoy the people that you're portraying and I really enjoy Mickey. I think that his sense of humor is so twisted and so brazen. I find it extremely funny. So yes, I do think it's funny that he laughs at the things he laughs at. I love it when he irritates people!

  • Q

    If you could be any other character on the show, who would you be and why?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    That's hard! I don't want to be anybody else, I want them to all be who they are and I want to be who I am on the show.

  • Q

    How far in advance do you get the scripts for the show? Are you allowed to know whats going to happen in future episodes?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    No we get the scripts usually a couple of days before. They don't tell us anything.

  • Q

    Do you think Doyle finds it a struggle trying to balance himself, being in a world with the likes of Rothstein, Thompson ect?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I think that's the beauty of Mickey. He doesn't feel like he doesn't belong with them. I don't think he thinks about it that way. I don't know if his venicular is turned off or what but...no I don't think it's hard.

  • Q

    Are there any similarities that Paul Sparks has with Mickey Doyle? And what are the biggest differences between Paul and Mickey?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Well we look a lot alike! We do thinks a lot of times things are funny that other people don't find funny. As far as differemces I'd say I'm more handsome than he is. He probably more ballsy than I am.

  • Q

    Did you get to pick out your character's wardrobe? What kind of hat are you wearing?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Nope. John Dunn and Lisa padovani are responsible for mickey's impeccable style. As for the hat, I believe it is a bowler hat. And according to Wikipedia it is also known as a coke hat, derby (US), billycock or bombín, is a hard felt hat with a rounded crown originally created in 1849 for the British soldier and politician Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester. The bowler hat was popular with the working class though it came to form the official work uniform of bankers. Later in the United Kingdom, it would come to be worn as work dress by the officers of the Queen's Guards.

  • Q

    Was Bert Lahr an inspiration for Mickey Doyle? I love the Snaggelpuss-esque tone you use on lines such as - "Bow....before the king"

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I am afraid not. although i can't completely rule out his influence, as I am a fan. But I will admit that there are some shades of bugs bunny in there.

  • Q

    Is there a serious side to Micky? Do you think he is aware that he not taken to serious as a gangster?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Serious? Oh yes. Mickey is a very calculated person. And i think mickey is precisely aware of how he is perceived. This trait has served him well. I don't think he gets mired in other people's opinions of him.

  • Q

    Do you ever apply any of Mickey's quirks in your life when not acting? Is it hard to step out of the role? You do play it well !

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Thank you for saying that but I am not acting, Mickey and I are exactly alike.

  • Q

    Mickey, how the $%&! are you still alive?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    "Giggle"

  • Q

    Was Mickey's trademark snicker a part of the script or something that you improvised as you began portraying the character?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    It was both I guess. When I was auditioning for mickey the script inspired the seeds of who he is today. The snicker was always a part of him for me even if it wasn't expressly written into the text. All i had read was his very first scene in the funeral home and I was just trying to imagine what kind of guy would create a bootlegging operation in the basement of a funeral parlour, make jokes about a dead woman, and trick a man with a gun into drinking formaldehyde. He seemed amused by the whole thing until he has a bottle shattered over his head. For me the laugh was inevitable and also mr Scorsese said I could do it.

  • Q

    Do you think Mickey will make it through this season? Doesn't seem like anyone is happy with him. (I still love you though!)

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Do i think he'll survive? No. I don't think he will. "Snicker" but I'm not in charge of that kind of stuff. Ask terry. And as for no one being happy with him. I'm not entirely sure why. If you are speaking to the tabor heights massacre, I don't really see what choice he had. Nucky was being unrealistic about the route to take. Rothstiein wanted his shipment and is definitely not to be trifled with. And Eli's suggestion to just not go would, i suspect, be met with a very serious consequence from nucky, a man who has started shooting people himself. Better to try and buy the new sheriff in tabor heights, send out the trucks, stay home and hope for the best. Live until tomorrow, see how things play out and adjust accordingly. Also, thanks for the love. Don't worry, I won't tell anybody.

  • Q

    What do you think about your caracter ? Would you like to play the tough guy ? by the way i love your laugh :)

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    Paul Sparks says:

    Mickey is without question, for me, one on the most fascinating and complicated people I have ever tried to portray. I am indebted to HBO and terry winter and all the people at boardwalk empire who make decisions about what an actor can and can't do. It's not lost on me that they have chosen to trust me even though I have made some pretty outrageous decisions about who mickey is. As for tough, I've had a bottle shattered over my head, been slapped, choked, strangled, thrown off a balcony, and mocked or threatened in almost every episode I've been in. Yet mickey always shows up again with his absurd sense of humor intact. You don't think that's a tough guy? "Giggle-giggle" (that one was just for you)

  • Q

    Thank you Paul Sparks for participating in today's Q&A. Anything else you'd like to say to your fans before we go?

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    Paul Sparks says:

    I wasn't aware that I had fans! It's really nice to have people that are interested in what I'm doing and what we're doing on the show. I'm in awe of people being fans of Mickey that's a nice thing, so Thank You! Call Me!

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