‘Boardwalk Empire’s Paz de la Huerta Rejects Bad Girl Image

Paz de la Huerta on Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Paz de la Huerta on Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Paz de la Huerta is tired. Not fed up. Just tired.

She’s been working long hours on the Toronto film set of “Nurse 3-D,” a likely 2012 release in which she plays, well, a nurse — one with a traumatic past, and one who “lets it out in a very, very wrong way” (read: she’s a serial killer), as de la Huerta told Xfinitytv.com by phone this week.

This kind of role attracts de la Huerta, a 27-year-old actress labeled “bad girl” by some (she is fed up with that; more on it later) and unconventional by most.

Take her turn as Lucy Danziger on “Boardwalk Empire,” a character who showed up briefly — albeit powerfully — in Sunday night’s opening of the show’s second season. The now-ex-girlfriend of gangster “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), Lucy is a passionate-but-erratic soul — one who lost her love in Season 1, only to find brief solace in the arms of wayward prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon). Now Lucy is pregnant by Van Alden and basically hidden from the world by the married man.

Watch The Season 2 Premiere:


Not that Lucy will be hidden by the show. Here’s de la Huerta on “Boardwalk’s” second season, plus many other things going on with the unorthodox actress:

Season 2 Preview:
De la Huerta — who says she used a special psychotherapy technique (EMDR) to create a back story of personal tragedy and sexual abuse for Lucy — believes the onetime showgirl “needs a lot of love.” This was shown a bit in the first season, when Nucky and Lucy broke up, but will get more play in the coming episodes.

“[In] the second season, I feel you see a lot more of her vulnerability,” de la Huerta says. “The true Lucy is really a survivor — and she of course like every human being has her moments of just wanting to give up — but she has a lot of difficult choices to make the second season.”

Success is fabulous, and fleeting
A working actress since her teenage years (“The Cider House Rules“), de la Huerta has appeared primarily in indie films. Now she’s part of an award-winning HBO show with Martin Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg on the bill. Still…

“I feel like success can come and go very quickly, so I take it very seriously — I just keep working hard,” she says. “But of course I feel very fortunate [for] the attention it has received.”

A filmmaker herself:
Long a creator of short films, de la Huerta plans in 2012 on releasing her “Memento Mori Project,” a series centered around “dying and being reborn again,” she says. The actress also has her eyes on shooting her own short (and perhaps eventually feature-length) take on Hans Christian Anderson‘s fairy tale “The Red Shoes” — whose 1948 film version is among Scorsese’s favorites. “I hope I have his blessing,” she says with a laugh.

Future roles:
In researching to play her “Nurse 3-D” killer, de la Huerta became fascinated with the case of Karla Faye Tucker, the Texas murderess who was controversially executed in 1998 despite being a born-again Christian. That resonated with the actress, who said she would like to play Tucker at some point. “I’m always interested in taking what people consider the villain and making them empathetic towards them,” de la Huerta says.

A villain herself?
She says no way. There have been some moments; in June she pleaded guilty to harassing a reality TV figure in a March bar incident, and her post-Golden Globes intoxication drew attention. But she insists her bad moments don’t sum her up. “‘Bad girl’ is so stupid,” she says. “The only time I go to a party or function it’s just through work. … Yes I got drunk [at the Golden Globes]. But in my life I don’t drink, I don’t go out, I don’t party. I find it quite boring, actually.”

But that doesn’t mean…
…she’s normal. “A rebel?” she says. “Maybe. Yes.”

Helping out:
De la Huerta struggled with some health problems in her younger years, and has big dreams of making a big difference for others. “There’s a lot of families that can’t afford their treatment for the kids, and they’re working [hard],” de la Huerta says. “I know my mother [Judith Bruce] did when I was sick and my dad was nowhere around.” She says she was “very lonely in the hospital,” and “would love nothing more then to create a beautiful place where people can heal from wounds and it doesn’t cost them anything. That would be a dream come true.”

What’s next?
Right away? Europe, she says. That’s where her father IƱigo de la Huerta long has lived (he’s Spanish, but currently in Normandy, France). She speaks both languages fluently. And although she’s modeled some there, she wants to extend her acting to cinema across the pond (she says she might have a role soon, too).

“[I want to] be able to work in this business and get to the point where I can really choose my roles,” she says. “But I’m grateful for ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ definitely.”

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