About Face: Beer Commercial Spoils Boradwalk Empire Character


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?



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Categories: Beer


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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20 Comments on “About Face: Beer Commercial Spoils Boradwalk Empire Character”

  1. November 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    He was awesome in “Shrooms”, a horror movie that features an evil talking cow. But that was well before BWE.

    A fun fact that you may or may not know about Huston- he’s basically Hollywood royalty, related to John, Danny, and Anjelica Huston. He’ll have whatever future he wants, really. As I recall, he has some big budget roles coming up soon, but I can’t remember what they are specifically right now. Maybe Guardians of the Galaxy or something.

    The crappy Guinness ad notwithstanding, I’m absolutely convinced that he’s a star waiting to happen.

    • November 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      I was wondering if the Guinness commercial was created before he hit on before Boardwalk Empire. (they got him when he was hungry) but that stuff just hit the market earlier this year, so the commercial can’t be that old.

      Still a little mystifying as to why he’d do it, especially not as himself.

  2. November 30, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    Totally with you on the Richard character. Although the show hasn’t been super compelling this season, the Richard character has been fascinating to watch. My wish for the season finale is that he kills Gillian and runs away with the boy and his new girl (he needs to take out her dad too!). As they say in the mob movies, Gillian totally has it coming. Looking forward to the season finale!

    • November 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      You know he’s not getting away G-LO, because [spoiler alert] his character died mostly in the war and is incapable of actually loving someone successfully. Too much damage has been done, and he’s a heroic sacrifice of some form just waiting to happen.

      I guess we’ll see for sure Sunday – can’t wait!

      • November 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

        I know you’re probably right, but a guy can dream can’t he? 🙂

      • December 3, 2012 at 12:33 am #

        Ha! So Gillian gets killed, Tommy is safe, and Richard may have gotten away. Talk about a bloodbath of an episode! Thoughts?

        • December 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

          Gillian is still alive when we leave her at the house, and according to show creator Terence Winter (via Entertainment Weekly), she’s definitely still alive at the end of season 3. I kind of wish she had died, though.

        • December 3, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

          Perhaps it was just wishful thinking on my part. Guess we’ll know what happens to her at the start of next season.

  3. Mark S.
    November 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    A man’s gotta eat, is all I’m sayin’…

    Also, Guinness Black Lager = bad beer? You need to get down out of your ivory tower!


    • November 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      I’ve given up on Guinness because it’s soooo watery compared to craft beers – I haven’t had the Black Lager to be honest.

      So not only am I in an ivory tower, I’m wearing a silk blindfold!!

      On Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 3:36 PM, Beer & Whiskey Bros.

  4. Brendan
    November 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Richard is definitely my favorite character, too. I hope that we get to keep him awhile and in the meantime, I cheer for him at every turn.

    Gillian is starting to realize that she made a deal with the devil (Gyp Rosetti is another great character, very evil) and she is taking it out on Richard.

    This ad really doesn’t work, though. I barely realize that it’s Jack Huston and the only good way to make the connection would be a bad way to sell beer.

    As for Dogfish Head and casting, well, when I did the tour years ago, it was limited by the video that Sam and Bryan were shooting for the Pain Relievaz. They were dressed in purple wresting tights (excuse me, “uniforms” – flashback to “The Breakfast Club”) and ready to wrestle in a kiddie pool full of chocolate pudding in front of the bar.

    The bar was populated with DFH staff and our guide, who was the marketing director at the time, said, “I’m paying them overtime to watch their boss wrestle in chocolate pudding.”

    • November 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

      I love Gyp, too – he scares me! I’m hoping next season will focus on Chalky White, because 1) it’s OMAR! and 2) there’s a rich tapestry of possibilities to explore there that they’ve only scratched the surface on.

      The Dogfish thing is a bummer and a blessing. Your tour was limited, but you got a great story. In most every case, I’ll take the great story!

      On Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 3:48 PM, Beer & Whiskey Bros.

  5. Brendan
    November 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    Oh, the whole thing at DFH was hilarious and yeah, good stories are harder to come by than good beer. Also got to keep the pint glasses because putting them back got to be a hassle, so we didn’t sample the whole range but a pint of Midas Touch was good.

    Gyp is a scary, evil, crazy guy and I was thrilled to see Al Capone show up asking for a shower, chow, and a conversation about who dies. It would almost be interesting to see Rosetti make it into next season but he is so dominating and destabilizing that he can’t last.

    Wow, this feels like a soap opera for guys, but really, this and The Walking Dead, which naturally come on at the same time, are about the only shows that I bother to watch.

    • November 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      I’m hoping the slow boil of this season is made worthwhile by what we see Sunday.

      I can’t get into the Walking Dead. I watched most of the first season and a bit of the second. It was a little slow for me. i was like “I get it, there are zombies. And survivors. And camping.” Then it was just rinse and repeat.

      i guess I’m looking for answers about the global zombie drama – how it started, how it has spread, how it has mutated – anything but Dale and that stupid motor home! When they got to the CDC and there were few breadcrumbs leading anywhere “big” I think I checked out.

      I still have it in the back of my head that I’ll marathon it some day, but not until I hear that these people are actually going somewhere besides Interpersonaldramaville USA!

      I’d rather rewatch Breaking Bad, which is an AMAZING thing to do – so many thing you see the second time!!

      On Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 4:00 PM, Beer & Whiskey Bros.

  6. December 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    At the very end of the Guinness vid some chick sings “If you go black you never go back…”

    Why… that’s raaaaacist!

  7. December 2, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    Richard is definitely one of the most compelling characters on BWE, and I’m very happy to see that he didn’t die. I haven’t had Guinness Black Lager, but I doubt it’s a “bad” beer. Not as good as a craft beer or the classic Kostritzer Schwarzbier, I’m sure, but I’d still take it over any American macro.

  8. Brett
    December 4, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Guinness is still a guilty pleasure of mine. Even though I mainly drink dry-hopped southern hemisphere oak aged double imperial IPAs now instead of macro crap, I still have hankerings for Guinness. Kinda like how I still like McDonald’s regular ol’ cheeseburgers, even though I’m totally into hand formed grass fed dry aged artisan burgers now.

    I’ve tried the Black Lager. It’s fine, just unremarkable.

  9. Kevin M
    January 21, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    Wait, Jim, you call Guinness Black Lager a “bad beer” and yet you haven’t even tried it?! It’s only been on the market for almost 2 years. And then you want to know if Dogfish is casting for a commercial? Talk about a bad beer…

    • January 21, 2013 at 11:56 am #

      You know me, Kev…

  10. Kevin M
    January 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    I like the Black Lager… it’s like Guinness “light.” And great for those Guinness freaks who need a fix on a 90 degree day!

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