You don’t have to watch Boardwalk Empire religiously to admire the work of actor Jack Huston. He plays WWI veteran Richard Harrow, a Wisconsin boy who went to war and came back missing half of his face. Harrow is all grizzled on the outside and seldom speaks, but when he does it’s slowly and with a throat full of gravel.
Richard has proven to be a loyal friend and a cunning killing machine over the past three seasons, helping his compatriots by picking off gangsters from afar with the sniper rifle he brought back from the Great War, and up close and personal with a scatter gun. He’s not a gun for hire as much as he is a man made numb to killing by the horrors of war who is trying to lead his own twisted version of a virtuous life.
But Harrow is more than a killer – he’s a broken sweet soul. He spends his free time cutting pictures of happy families out of magazines and pasting them into his scrapbook. He longs for love and normalcy, but just like the war took half of his face, it also took half of his soul, and the result is a character that has been hopelessly shattered and then poorly patched back together – someone who wants love but lacks the neural pathways to make it happen, someone who is very handsome on half of his face, and a horror on the other.
Richard Harrow is by far my favorite character on Boardwalk Empire, probably because Huston does such an impressive job portraying him – you can see the inner struggle boiling underneath his skin and the thick bands of scar tissue choking the life out of Richard’s soul, and Huston only has half a face to work with.
As you can see, it’s an amazing performance, and the first time I saw him, I thought Jack Huston is an actor with a future – a guy who can bring complexity and gravity to any character he plays.
Well at least until I saw the Guinness Black Lager commercial I’ve pasted below. In it Huston uses a Jimmy Fallon-esque delivery that’s so whispy and breezy, that it took me a minute to be sure it was him. But it is. Unfortunately.
What’s worse is Huston is English, yet he uses an American accent in the commercial, meaning he’s playing a part, not parlaying his minor celebrity into an endorsement spot. It’s all bad and a little strange, a great actor shilling for a bad beer and making himself look like a lightweight in the process.
I often complain about how big beer is out to screw up the artistry and quality of craft brews, but I had no idea they had it out for good actors as well.
Whatever the case, I think we’re about to see the last of Richard Harrow in this Sunday’s season finale. You see, he’s fallen for a girl whom he can’t kiss with his broken mouth, and he has become desperately attached to the young son of his deceased friend. The three even took a picture together while on the boardwalk, and Richard finally has a family portrait for his scrapbook in which he appears.
But he’s realizing that his disfigurement and his circumstances are conspiring to take this fantasy away from him, and the teaser for the next episode of Boardwalk Empire shows Harrow armed to the teeth, covered in blood and making his way through a gauntlet of the evildoers who he thinks are keeping him from being whole – even if he knows deep down “whole” is something he’ll never be. It looks like Richard will be going down in a blaze of righteous glory.
I don’t know what role Jack Huston will portray once his time on Boardwalk Empire is over for good, but I certainly hope it’s heftier portrayal than “night out guy” for a watery dark beer.
Is Dogfish Head casting for anything?