Even as a high school thespian, Michael Shannon conveyed gravitas. "I would always play the old guy; I guess I had a good old-guy voice," he says. Over the telephone, his gravelly timbre does make him seem older than his baby-faced 36 years.
As Nelson Van Alden on HBO's Boardwalk Empire -- a gritty confection of organized crime in 1920s Atlantic City created by The Sopranos' Terence Winter and executive-produced by Martin Scorsese -- that deep voice serves Shannon well. He plays a federal agent tasked with enforcing Prohibition, the so-called "good guy" whose personal faith and unrelenting drive for justice puts him squarely in the path of Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the county treasurer and bootlegging kingpin of Atlantic City. "He's trying to be a virtuous man and he really believes alcohol is discouraged and should be wiped off the face of the earth," Shannon says. "He wants men to take care of their families and knows alcohol is getting in the way of that."
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