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The Rockaway Times
who would later introduce him
to Executive Producer David
Chase. The Great Defender was
a series about lawyers in a stuffy
firm, which was right up Win-
ter’s alley. This break supported
the adage “write about what you
It felt like his first real job and
it ran for eight episodes. Win-
ter couldn’t believe that he was
getting paid to write scripts and
he became an official member
of the Writer’s Guild. At this
point, he was saying “yes” to
every screenwriting opportu-
nity. Winter hired a new agent
and began writing for the Eddie
Murphy series The PJs.
In 1997, Winter’s agent pro-
vided him with a video for the
pilot episode of a new series
called The Sopranos, a crime
drama television series revolv-
ing around a fictional New Jer-
mobster. He was actually trem-
bling as he watched, thinking
that this was the greatest thing
that he had ever seen. Winter
petitioned his friend Frank Ren-
zulli to get him on the writing
staff, but David Chase already
had selected his first year writ-
ing staff, although Winter re-
mained involved with the show
by helping Renzulli edit epi-
After Season One was over,
David Chase had fired the first
year writing staff, with the ex-
ception of Renzulli. Renzulli in-
troduced Winter to Chase, who
liked an episode that Winter
wrote. Chase had made com-
parisons of The Sopranos se-
ries to the movies Goodfellas
and Casino, which was a chal-
lenge that Winter was prepared
to take on. His time with Chase
on The Sopranos taught Winter
everything about assembling
and running a show, almost
like an internship. He describes
Chase as gracious, funny and
one of his dearest friends.
One of the many things Winter
enjoyed about working on The
Sopranos was that they worked
eight months and had four
months off, during the show’s
six successful seasons. The four-
month layoffallowedhimtowrite
features andmovie screenplays.
When The Sopranos ac-
claimed run ended in 2007,
Winter continued to devel-
op programs. He was able to
schedule his next award-win-
ning series, Boardwalk Empire,
which had Martin Scorsese at-
tached to it. The show was an
American period crime drama
set in Atlantic City, NJ during
the Prohibition era. The chance
to work with Scorsese was hard
to fathom. Winter flashed back
to the summer of 1976 when he
and childhood friend, Bobby
Canzoneri, saw Scorsese’s mov-
ie Taxi Driver 15 times. Little
did he realize that 30 years later,
he would be doing a show with
As they worked on the script,
Winter and Scorsese both came
to the same conclusion that
the character, Enoch “Nucky”
Thompson, was the epicenter of
the show. Scorsese worked into
the plot that the Prohibition pe-
riod was the birth of organized
This was a special time forWin-
ter. Besides his writing and pro-
ducing success he celebrated the
birth of a son. And he was work-
ing on the screenplay for Scors-
ese’s upcoming film The Wolf of
Wall Street. Winter actually read
the entire book (of what turned
out to be a 179-minute movie) in
one sitting, which was on a plane
ride from Los Angeles to New
York. Having worked on Wall
Street himself as well as hustling
at entrepreneurial opportunities
early on, Winter understood this
character well and found the pro-
tagonist hilariously insane.
Within three months, Winter
had completed the Boardwalk
Empire pilot as well as The Wolf
of Wall Street screenplay. Then
Martin Scorsese told Winter
that he wanted him to direct the
pilot episode of the new HBO
show. When the HBO execu-
tives foundout, the textmessage
response Winter received from
them was simply “!!!!!!!!!” The
show had a successful run of
five seasons, winning 20 Emmy
awards with 57 nominations.
Andmaybe, just maybe, Rock-
away had something to do with
that success. Boardwalk Empire
was a period piece with 1920s
Atlantic City as its setting. But
the New Jersey town now has
little to show from that peri-
od and the logistics of getting
cast and crew back and forth to
south Jersey was daunting. En-
ter Rockaway and Fort Tilden.
The show’s production com-
pany was based in Brooklyn,
which allowed access to the
city’s talent pool. Eventually
more than 20 episodes were
filmed on the peninsula. The
show used the bungalows in
Far Rockaway for the early sea-
sons where the character, Irish
immigrant Margaret Schroed-
er (played by Kelly Macdon-
ald) lived. The post production
crew was able to use computer
generated imagery to erase the
modern buildings in the back-
ground as well as recreate the
old streets. The Belle Harbor
Yacht club was used to refabri-
cate the Temple University dor-
mitory of Nucky’s nephew, Wil-
lie. A large billboard advertising
Atlantic City Real Estate could
be seen in the dunes of Arv-
erne east and the boardwalk in
the Beach 40s was used for old
storefront scenes.
Winter noted that besides the
authenticity of Rockaway, there
is a lot of unspoiled architecture
throughout New York City that
can be used for period pieces
like Boardwalk Empire. He said
it is easier to recreate the 1920’s
versus the 1970s because very
few rundown areas exist in New
York City anymore. As a matter
of fact, in the most recent series
he’s involved with, Vinyl with
Ray Romano, they needed to
dump garbage on the set to rec-
reate what the city looked like in
the 70’s.
Vinyl was a long time in the
making. In 2008, Scorsese and
Rolling Stone front man Mick
Jagger were discussing a film
depicting the Rock and Roll
roller coaster ride which would
cover the main character, 1970s
Record Executive Richie Fine-
stra, over a 40-year career. Due
to the 2008 stock market crash,
funding for the movie stalled.
Winter’s wife and filmproducer,
Rachel, suggested that the script
be done as a television series,
though that would have to wait
until after Boardwalk Empire
ended its run.
And again, Rockaway would
make its way into a Winter
production. When a Hamp-
tons-style mansion was needed,
the Vinyl team made its way to
the beachfront houses of Belle
Harbor and Neponsit. Its style
goes beyond what New York
looked like. Scorsese and Win-
ter went about recreating the
grittiness of the 70s by emu-
lating cinematographic effects
from films of that era. Besides
filming techniques, the musical
soundtrack adds to that overall
Winter loved working with the
actors on the three HBO series,
The Sopranos, Boardwalk Em-
pire and Vinyl. All of the actors
and crew got along in a friend-
ly and relaxed working envi-
ronment. They had instituted a
“no-asshole” policy to ensure
checks and balances.
At the time of this article, Vi-
nyl’s first season just complet-
ed. However, Winter has left the
show due to creative differences.
Winter is excited about his
upcoming project, which is a
movie about the boxer Mike Ty-
son, and will be played by actor
Jamie Foxx. No release date has
been set since movies can have
up to a five-year cycle from in-
ception to release.
Winter’s partnerships with
David Chase and Martin Scors-
ese aren’t the only ones he can
boast about. Winter and his
wife, Rachel, have each been
nominated by the Academy
Awards. Rachel and her fellow
producers were nominated for
an Academy Award for Best
Picture for the 2013 film Dal-
las Buyers Club. Winter was
nominated for Best Adapted
Screenplay for The Wolf of Wall
Besides being a family man
and his writing and produc-
ing duties, Winter finds time
to support a number of char-
ities. Among them are The
Brotherhood-SisterSol, which
provides comprehensive, ho-
listic and long-term support
services to youth who range
in age from eight to 22 and Arts
Connection, which provides in-
novative arts programming to
millions of students in the New
York City public school system.
Terence Winter surprised his
friends and family by leaving
it all behind to try his hand at
screenwriting in Los Angeles.
But he didn’t leave it all behind,
of course. There are signs of the
kid from East 37th Street, who
summered at the Breezy Point
Surf Club, in every script he
writes. And another good thing,
there’s one less lawyer. Ba-da-
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