HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" (9 tonight) returns with Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) making a peace offering while Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) runs the Boardwalk's new Onyx Club, where a mysterious jazz singer will soon enter the scene.
That character, named Daughter Maitland, will be introduced in the new season's third episode (Sept. 22), and she's played by Pittsburgh native Margot Bingham, daughter of Craig Bingham, a 1980s Steelers linebacker, and Lynne Bingham, a real estate agent with Howard Hanna.
Margot Bingham grew up in Green Tree and later lived with her grandmother on Mount Washington while attending Pittsburgh CAPA, which she graduated from in 2006. She attended Point Park University for two years before moving to New York in 2009.
Ms. Bingham has always had an interest in acting and music, studying musical theater at CAPA and later at Point Park, where she also studied sports, arts and entertainment management.
9 tonight, HBO.
Steve Buscemi, Margot Bingham.
"I've always had a raspier voice since I was a kid. So instead of singing along to 'Phantom of the Opera,' I was singing along to Toni Braxton at 10," she said. "I never really fit the model for your classical [musical theater] voice. So it was hard for me to pinpoint a good character or show to be a part of. That didn't really exist in musical theater. I sounded like an old soul, but I was still a young girl."
Ms. Bingham has performed with different bands and cut four albums, including "Live at the Hazlett," recorded at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side. (The album is available for purchase at Amazon.com.)
And she did find a musical that her voice fit into: the 2011 off-Broadway revival of "Rent."
"I saw they were having an open call -- I was not in the union, did not have an Equity card or an agent or anything -- and I figured this was my last hurrah for musical theater and then I'd get back to my singing," she recalled in a phone interview late last month from New York. "I was No. 719 in the open call, and I made it into the show, and I was the only one from the open call that was cast. Everyone else was coming from other Broadway shows."
She played Alexi Darling and understudied Mimi and Joanne Jefferson.
"I went on every night, no matter what," she said. "We had a small cast, 14 people. So a lot of times people had to call out."
She stayed with "Rent" from its opening until its closing in September 2012. A biography on Ms. Bingham's website, margotb.com, shows a raft of entertainment industry accomplishments, including commercials, modeling and touring with Jason Mraz. But other than a Web series, "In Between Men," and a guest spot as "Uniform #2" on CBS's "Golden Boy," this "Boardwalk Empire" role marks her highest profile performance to date.
Ms. Bingham auditioned for "Boardwalk" producers eight times before landing the part, which has grown from what was initially planned.
"Originally the character was just supposed to be a songstress who came in for a couple of episodes to sing a couple of tunes in the Onyx Club," she said, "but since then it's progressed and built into something no one really expected. It's been a fun journey."
Ms. Bingham would not say how many episodes she'll be in but promised, "You'll definitely see a lot of me."
And hear a lot of her singing, too.
"I studied jazz and grew up listening to jazz, but jazz in the '20s is a totally different sound. It's a lot more simple," she said. "I had to take what I knew from the '40s and '50s and almost dumb it down and simplify it and condense it to the soul of what the message was in the song, which was a little tricky for me."
Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) brings Daughter Maitland from Harlem to the Onyx Club, where she adapts her style to the club's audience.
"White folks seem to like her," Chalky notes.
"Yes, that would be very important," Narcisse says, adding pointedly after Chalky leaves, "To you."
"She's quite the little puppet," Ms. Bingham said of her character. "She knows how to put on a face and tone and voice, and as the season progresses we see her shred all of that and strengthen to be her own self. She's been a survivor on her own, and she's quite the chameleon who knows how to adapt to different scenes."
As for her character's unusual first name, Daughter, Ms. Bingham said, "that kind of comes out in the season," along with the character's assertiveness.
"She really runs the gamut as far as who she communicates with this season," Ms. Bingham said. "She's a very strong gal, and so she butts heads with a lot of people. It's exciting to see her break down -- or try to break down -- every door."tvradio
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.