You know Aleksa Palladino as an actress, most recently as Angela Darmody, the bohemia bent common-law wife of Michael Pitt’s character James “Jimmy” Darmody, from HBO’s Prohibition era drama, Boardwalk Empire. A would-be-artist with fancies that exude a rose-tinted Parisian glow, the reluctant Mrs. Darmody is a quiet revolutionary, nurturing dreams that stem far beyond both her household kitchen and societal expectations of the day. As for the actress who plays her, like Angela, there’s more to this woman’s interests than her “day job” suggests.
With season two filmed and launched this September, series shooting is at a pause, and Palladino is taking this chance to filter her creative passion into another venture. A musician since her elementary school days, to label Palladino’s band Exitmusic a “side project” would be to ignore the sincerity fueling her musical undertaking — making music is an innate impulse to the actress. “I felt that truth was able to reveal itself in song, so I knew early on that I wanted to write it,” she says of her musical beginnings.
The raw honesty of Palladino’s lyrics penetrate Exitmusic’s first EP, From Silence. A throwback to the heydays of Mazzy Star and Portishead, the band’s sedated sense of drama lulls the listener into a serene musical space with the sound of Palladino’s ethereal voice.
Gearing up to hit the road with her Exitmusic partner, husband Devon Church (guitar and keyboards), and bandmates Dru Prentiss (drums) and Nicholas Shelestak (electronics), Aleksa Palladino takes a break to talk about creating the sound behind Exitmusic and going bohemia on Boardwalk Empire.
Most of your fans know you as an actress, when did you begin making music?
I began writing music as a child. Music was a strong bond between my mother and I. She really showed me that it was something to fall in love with…and to fall in line with. I began playing guitar really young and by the time I was 13, I had a 4 track recorder and started to really explore layering sounds.
So then music has been ingrained in your life since the beginning, even more so now I imagine working on Exit Music with your husband. What’s that experience been like?
Devon and I have written together for a long time now and we have created a language together, at times it feels very intuitive. But we also surprise each other all the time.
You two have come up with quite a unique sound for your first record — there’s a moody sort of calm to it — what was your inspiration?
In terms of sounds, we’re always looking to tell a full story, meaning that there is just as much dark and light tones and themes present. We really love melody playing off of rigorous, steady beats. Melody is always looking to break free from time…or at least re-arrange time.
Take me inside your song writing process?
The songs come to be in a lot of different ways. Most of the time, [my husband and I] start them together and finish them together. We record as we write, so the whole process is trying to capture what is being revealed [and] discovered.
Speaking as both a musician and an actress, what role does a film/television show’s soundtrack play?
It’s almost used as an insight into the characters true feelings. It lets the audience feel closer — something is being revealed to them with out the character telling them. It helps guide the viewers’ observation; it’s a very powerful aid.
Does music help you relax after a day on set and vice versa?
I don’t listen to music on set. Not sure why. And when I feel like writing music, I don’t really want to listen to it either. I need to be surrounded by a lot of silence to find sound.
Let’s talk a bit about Boardwalk Empire, the show presents a portrait of various female characters from the Prohibition era, each with their varying social and personal causes; what social movement does your character, Angela Darmody, embody?
Angela represents the social and personal changes that were beginning to take shape in the 20s. I don’t think she is politically inclined, so her revolution is based on personal freedoms. The freedom to find yourself, your happiness, your reason for existing. The freedom to ask theses questions.
How has it been working opposite Michael Pitt on the show?
I love working with Michael. He is a smart actor with strong instincts. Subtle yet still clear. When you are working on scenes, there is a dance that happens, and you can only be as good as the person you are working with.
Any plot developments that have you excited about playing Angela Darmody this season?
I can’t give away that much, but I love that Angela comes into herself a bit more. The more she learns about what Jimmy is doing, the more she understands what she wants and what is realistic to expect with Jimmy.
Lastly, what’s your take on your character overall?
She’s a special character to me because she has such a huge inner life that she can’t actualize. So she is in a constant struggle between her heart and her head. These are always the interesting struggles, the really human struggles.…………………………………………………………………………………………………. Stylist, Orlee Winer @ The Magnet Agency Makeup, Lottie @ Alelier Management
Hair, Creighton @ Exclusive Artists Management
Special thanks to the staff of Max Fish