Shea Whigham

Michael Pitt‘s far from the only actor to get a good showcase from “Boardwalk Empire” — the increasingly strong series has given meaty material to everyone from veterans like Steve Buscemi and Michael Shannon to folks like Kelly Macdonald, Michael K. Williams, Michael Stuhlbarg and Gretchen Mol, and relative newcomers like Vincent Piazza, Jack Huston and Charlie Cox. But perhaps the actor we most hope gets a boost off the HBO show is perpetually underrated character actor Shea Whigham. The actor, a theater veteran who first broke out in “Tigerland” and “All The Real Girls” in the early ’00s, seems to get better each time we see him, not least on ‘Boardwalk,’ as Nucky’s semi-treacherous brother Eli, where he’s been continually impressive. Whigham’s one of those actors who has absolutely no problem getting work. In the last four years, he’s managed to find room for 16 movies alongside three seasons of “Boardwalk Empire,” but they’re generally smallish roles in things like “Machete,” “Fast & Furious,” “Big Miracle” and “Savages.” But every time he gets something with a little more substance, like his great work in “Take Shelter” or even his brief turn in this year’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” he shows why he deserves more work. And the few leads he has had — he walked away with “Wristcutters: A Love Story” as the Russian-accented co-lead — have only backed that up. It seems to us that Whigham is primed for a Michael Shannon/John Hawkes-esque break out to the big leagues. It just needs a sharp indie filmmaker to realize that and take that chance. In the meantime, he’s reuniting with Scorsese on “The Wolf of Wall Street” and turning up in Terrence Malick‘s “Knight of Cups,” which can only be welcome moves.

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