Q&A with ‘Boardwalk Empire’ star and Northwestern alumna Meg Chambers Steedle


Photo courtesy of James Daniel

Northwestern alumna Meg Chambers Steedle stole the screen during the third season of “Boardwalk Empire.” She plays Billie Kent, a 1920s flapper.

Cat Zakrzewski, Campus Assistant Editor

Just a few years ago, Meg Chambers Steedle (Communication ’08) was taking the stage at Northwestern as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.” This fall, she stole the screen on Season 3 of the HBO hit drama “Boardwalk Empire.” Steedle joined the cast of the period drama set in the 1920s as Billie Kent, a flapper and the latest love interest of the show’s protagonist Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi). The Current spoke with Steedle about her role on “Boardwalk Empire,” dancing in vintage costume and her NU experience.

The Current: What has been the most exciting part of being on “Boardwalk Empire” for you?
Meg Chambers Steedle: I’m just so happy with the role that the writers wrote for me. I feel really grateful. I get to have very intimate scenes with Steve Buscemi, who I looked up to. In college at Northwestern, I used to watch him in “The Sopranos.” It just feels kind of full circle at times. I also get to dance and sing a little bit on the show. Acting is great, but when you can (also) bring in the singing and the dancing, it’s even that much greater.

The Current: Your character, Billie, is a mistress on the show. What has it been like to play the other woman?
MCS: Like walking a tightrope, I would say. Kerry Macdonald, I’m such a fan of her and her work, so it is interesting to play the woman who is taking the attention from her husband.

The Current: What’s been your favorite costume of Billie’s?
MCS: I would have to say actually the first costume that I wore on the show. I had a love/hate relationship with that costume because I had to dance in it, and it is literally almost 100 years old and was disintegrating on me while I was dancing. It’s amazing how you feel when you put those clothes on. How can you not feel like you’re tapping in a different time period when you put that stuff on?

The Current: What first drew you to “Boardwalk Empire”?
MCS: I grew up going to the Jersey Shore as a kid. I would spend summers up in the Cape May area, and so I felt like Atlantic City was a very familiar thing for me.

The Current: As someone who grew up going to the Jersey Shore, what has been your reaction to the damage Superstorm Sandy has caused there?
MCS: Atlantic City just got pummeled. (My family) has a house just about 25 minutes south of that. The good news is all is well. It’s so weird because I’ve been on the West Coast and to watch that all happen and knowing that New York and Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore was going through that, I was glued to the television.

The Current: How did your time at NU prepare you for this role?
MCS: I just don’t even know where to start. One is the value of hard work. That sounds so cliche, but it’s really true. (My professors) did not let me get away with anything less than doing my research, knowing my lines to a T and really having done the character work. It was tough at times to have the classes when you didn’t live up to what’s expected of the work. The other thing was, I got the chance to work with a student show, “Cabaret.” I got the role of Sally Bowles. When I was talking to the writers they said we’re feeling like Billie is a little bit of Sally Bowles meets Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The first scene where my character is introduced on “Boardwalk,” I literally look like I did as Sally Bowles back in college.

The Current: What advice do you have for current NU students who are interested in acting?
MCS: That is actually a very hard question for me because I still feel like I’m figuring it out. I’m a real believer in the ability for alumni to teach current students. It’s really a valuable resource to learn from the people who have a similar background and have gone to do things that you want to be doing. I’d also say … surrounding yourself with a positive environment, people who really believe in you as a person, not necessarily just your talent. This business is so up and down. You want to be around people who … believe in you no matter what you’re churning out at that moment career-wise.

The Current: What was your best memory of your time at Northwestern?
MCS: I have great memories of the teachers I had there. They throw you into these different experiences and say, “Do well,” even if you’re uncomfortable. And you have teachers who really don’t let you get away with doing anything less than that. And also just going to see three shows in a night in a weekend and getting to see different friends do their thing on stage.

The Current: Can you share any spoilers about the rest of the season?
MCS: I wish I could, but I can’t. We’re sworn to secrecy.

“Boardwalk Empire” airs 10 p.m. Sundays on HBO, although Steedle’s six-episode run came to an end Nov. 4.