‘Boardwalk Empire’ embraces black characters in season 4

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Michael K. Williams and Jeffrey Wright on 'Boardwalk Empire'

Michael K. Williams and Jeffrey Wright on 'Boardwalk Empire'

This Sunday marks the return of Boardwalk Empire and the hit series appears to be blacker than ever before.

Fans of the acclaimed HBO gangster drama are giddy with anticipation for the show’s fourth season, since the last season was the bloody culmination of numerous story-lines, savage twists, a quicker pace and more action than the previous two seasons combined.

Still, the African-American characters on the show, especially Chalky White, the tough-as-nails Atlantic City hood, played by Michael K. Williams, always seemed to take a backseat to the exploits of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham).

That all appeared to come to an end in the finale of season three, (spoiler alert) when Thompson, on the lam from his enemies, was forced to seek White out for refuge and protection. White saw his stock rise and his role on the show only grew in significance.

This new season thankfully continues that narrative thrust, while introducing a new African-American character to mix it up with White, Thompson and the rest — the debonair Harlem crime boss “Doctor” Valentin Narcisse, played by veteran actor Jeffrey Wright.

Wright has had such a versatile career on stage and screen he’s never really been associated with any one role or performance.

Narcisse provides a suave counterpoint to the countrified White (who he derides as a “servant trying to be a king”) and their turf war will provide plenty of drama in the upcoming new episodes.

Boardwalk Empire returns this coming Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.