Going under the skin of Daughter Maitland: AConversation with Margot Bingham for season 4 of Boardwalk Empire | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

Going under the skin of Daughter Maitland: AConversation with Margot Bingham for season 4 of Boardwalk Empire

18 August 2014

As season four of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD, The Fan Carpet had the opportunity to interview one of the shows newest cast members – Margot Bingham more commonly known to fans of the show as Daughter Maitland.

In an immersive conversation Bingham spoke about losing herself in the 1920s, her admiration for the show’s levels of creativity and took us under the skin of Daughter Maitland... 


Prior to being cast as Daughter Maitland how familiar with Boardwalk Empire were you?

I was a fan, and I had a lot of friends who had been on and off the show. With it being New York based they use a lot of New York actors, but I had only watched pickpocketed episodes. My brother however was a huge fan, and he told me that I couldn’t come home until I’d got the part – not that I even lived at home. But he said, “You can’t come and visit until you get this – you have to get this.” So no pressure! He helped me out a lot, and once I got the part my family and I binge viewed the whole series, on which I became totally addicted. But it’s one of those series that you have to watch all of it in order to get it, and so I was excited to start from season one and see how it evolved in terms of cast, crew as well as plot wise. It’s incredible where it has gone from the pilot to where we are now.


What does it mean to be working on a Martin Scorsese show?

In general there is obviously a golden ribbon on the show. I haven’t had a chance to meet Martin, but I know he’s still a part of the show, and there are a lot of the writers and producers that I don’t get to see or meet. So it’s like this phantom God that’s there - I know he’s working in many different ways, but I don’t know to what facet. I would love to be able to meet him one day, but because he has stamped his mark on it, then it automatically puts this mark of respect on it. It says a lot that he would put his name on it, because he doesn’t put his name on anything that he doesn’t approve of, and all that he approves are incredible projects. Boardwalk is just that - it’s such an unbelievable world and I’ve been so spoilt.


The show is set during a fascinating period of American history, but how much attention was given to achieving an historical accuracy?

It’s really nice that they stayed true to the historical boundaries, down to the fact that I wanted to do the Charleston one day and they said, “No, that’s later on in 1927.” So they are precise about everything – the architecture of the set, the type of hosiery I wear and whether it was too progressive. The specifics on the show are impeccable, and it’s a treat to play in this realistic world they have made. There were a lot of days that I didn’t want to leave the set because I wanted to immerse myself in that world, and by doing such a great job creating it, it was hard not to feel that you were there.



Does that make it easier when they are so rigorous in the creation of the world or is there still an emphasis on the need for you to go away and find the authenticity of your character?

Between my costumes, the set and the rooms I am in, it definitely makes a big difference to where Daughter is at. So the times that I did go away it didn’t ruin anything because I was already living through Daughter, but I didn’t enjoy those moments as much as when I was on set.


You’ve previously spoken of how you found the character through the music. Speaking to Bill Sage for We Are What We Are, he explained how he found his character through the walk, and so it seems that it is not necessarily always about research, but discovering little character traits.

It’s true. What I was taught with dialogue and accent work was to sing the words, to actually make up a melody so that you can find the flow of the dialogue and the voice. Her music starts with performances to these Gershwin tunes that are very presentable and boxed in, and then as the season progresses move into this bluesy, jazzy and darker world. The season sort of became the soundtrack for her character, and it was interesting that as the music evolved and started to grow a little bit deeper and more rooted, then so did she. 

She became a little more aware of some of the issues with Chalky – of the different worlds, and being tied into so many different places, and of all the different pieces of every puzzle within Atlantic City. So I think the music definitely helped me find the character, and I would walk around the streets of New York throughout the day listening to Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters or Josephine Baker wail. The passion of their voice and the arrogance of their vocals definitely set me for Daughter. 

A lot of the great actors are very intelligent, and just like Jeffrey Wright who’s so smart, he could do history exams, lessons and projects to the tenth degree, and find out as much as he could historically about his character. But sometimes it just takes that one simple thing that cracks open that character for the rest of time, and for Daughter it was the music.


It is a musical show in which at the end of each episode you have music that is the final word. For my generation it introduces us to the past, whilst for another generation it is nostalgic, and that is an interesting musical dynamic that the show possesses.

It’s funny because our generation we were never placed around it, nor would we go out of our way to hear it. But when we do this beautiful lost music that you have never heard before is exciting to the ears, and once we are exposed to it is something we yearn for. There’s a fan base that wants this kind of music who are starting to hear it and search for it. I have a lot of fans coming up to me to ask, “Where can we buy this? Where can we get this from?” It’s a shame that there is not more of it out there for them to listen to. There is so much of the past and they don’t even know where to begin looking. It is this lost age of music, and it’s unfortunate, but there is room for it to grow again.


Boardwalk Empire is filled with characters who we would struggle to sympathise with in real life, and yet they make for compelling viewing. Cinema and TV is almost a moral playground where we can discard our morals and engage with these characters in a way we cannot in real life because of narrative fictions safety net.

It creates that lack of a boundary that you need, where you can live with looking at the gangster just as how people have fallen in love with Daughter and Chalky. It’s adultery, and it’s nothing you should root for and yet you still cannot help but root for these two lost lovers; these two lost souls. They are so sad and they fit with each other, and you just fall in love with them. It’s the same thing with Nucky. You know some of the things he does are wrong, but you still care for him as a human being. There’s a lot to be said for Steve who is able to portray the character in that way. But in entertainment people buy into the sex and violence and that always sells. But it takes an actor to establish that passion and emotion that can allow people to connect through the screen, and still be on your side and root for you. 



Daughter Maitland is an important character within Chalky’s story. Heading into season four most viewers would have thought they knew who Chalky was. But Daughter brings out a sorrow that we didn’t perhaps realise was there, and he’s a much more unsatisfied character than we initially realised. So she becomes a key to his character arc.

I think Michael experienced things in this past season that he didn’t know were alive in Chalky, and that were brought out of him personally as well as for the character by Daughter. It was fun for us to explore between each other the unknown territories, because I was creating a character whilst he had already created a character, but he was unveiling new parts of Chalky. So it was nice to build that relationship together and it was also nice because he has become a friend of mine outside of work. That outside relationship worked for us in front of the camera as well, and so it was a bit of life imitating art. But Michael is such a beautiful human being and so much fun, and we have a blast together. He’s so kind and then he turns into Chalky, and it’s so weird. But we had a lot of fun creating together, and he was very gracious working with me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better scene partner.

Television is a collaborative medium. How invaluable is it as an actress to have an opportunity to work alongside such a range of creative persons?

I think it’s a selfish advantage for me because I pick up things from every person I work with. With Jeffrey for instance I would sit next to him at times just too hopefully be a sponge. No matter what I got from him I would take everything I could, and just put it in my back pocket. I would then try to hold onto it for as long as I could.

I don’t get to work with a lot of different people in the cast because it’s so broken up, and so my main scenes are with Jeffrey, Michael and Steve. But it was fun getting to work with different directors on different episodes, and getting their different ways of working, whilst also working with some of the script supervisors and other actors. I just tried to be a sponge this season, and I think you can always learn something from anyone you come into contact with, especially someone you are working with artistically – it’s inspiring.


Darkness pervades the backstory of the characters. From Gillian’s roots with the Commodore that tie into Nucky’s dark beginnings, and then your own with Doctor Valentin. They are not just dark roots - they are hauntingly dark and tragic. But the darkness is not there as a means of provocation. Rather it enriches the characters and the presence of tragedy creates a bond between them and us the audience.

The writers are clever in how they do it, because they don’t expose it right away. They show you the character’s darkness and almost make you hate them. Then all of a sudden they show you another side of them that makes you question your own way of judging these people, as well as the people in your day to day life. The first look is never the last, and it’s interesting how they’ve shown Daughter like that. 

Her relationship with Doctor Valentin has always been an extremely sick and twisted one. But I think that’s the reason why you fall in love with her and Chalky the way you do, because for the first time she has a life she has never had to fight for; she’s never had to kill for, and she’s never had to prove anything to him. It was there just because it was, and she’s never had that before. So it’s almost a new beginning for her where she can run away and recreate herself, which is something she’s been known to do, but it’s been from club to club or song to song or city to city with Doctor Valentin. So for the first time she can do it on her own, and it’s unfamiliar territory, although it’s exciting and scary. But she knows that she can do it and that she can trust Chalky in having her heart but not having to die for it.