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Gillian Darmody (played by Gretchen Mol), is a former Cafe Beaux-Arts showgirl, prostitute and madame of The Artemis Club brothel in Atlantic City. She is the mother of Jimmy Darmody, who was conceived when she was raped by then town boss, Commodore Louis Kaestner, six weeks before she turned 13. Gillian is also grandmother of Tommy Darmody, Jimmy's young son. She is played by Madeline Rose Yen as a 12-year old orphan in 1897.



Before Jimmy's birth (1884-1897)[]

Gillian was orphaned young and raised by the Children's Society Home in Trenton, New Jersey. She has bad memories of the place and doesn't remember her parents ("Havre de Grace").


Gillian during May Day, 1897 ("Paris Green")

Gillian moved soon to Atlantic City and by age 12 she lived off the money she earned selling stolen cigars and cigarettes to the tourists on the Boardwalk. It was under the Boardwalk, on April 30, 1897, where she was kissed for the first time by a boy, a kid from out of town named James Edison that had bought a cigarette from her. They wrote their names in a pillar and agreed to see each other again the next day, before James and his family left. That day, May 1, 1897 was the "Neptune's Bounty" parade and Gillian was set to appear as one of his 'consorts'. ("Marriage and Hunting")

However, Gillian would never meet James again. During the parade she caught the eye of political boss Commodore Louis Kaestner, who ordered his right-hand man, Sheriff Nucky Thompson to bring Gillian to his house that evening for a sexual encounter. She was six weeks short of her 13th birthday and according to Nucky, the Commodore never asked her name and merely pointed at her. "The rest was understood" ("A Dangerous Maid").

Gillian initially thought that the then Sheriff took her because she had done something wrong, but he calmed her and told her to go upstairs to the Commodore's room and be "good", after the Commodore plied her with wine. She fell asleep in his bed until she awoke to find The Commodore raping her. He smelled of "whiskey and tobacco" ("What Does the Bee Do?", "Margate Sands").

Life with Jimmy (1898-1915)[]

The encounter resulted in Jimmy's conception.  Gillian named her new son after James Edison, the boy with whom she shared her first kiss.  The Commodore never acknowledged Jimmy as his son. Traumatized by the event, and with no parental guidance whatsoever, Gillian was forced to grow up with a distorted sense of love and sexuality all the while she was raising her son.  For example, when Jimmy was an infant, she kissed his genitals to show her affection ("21").  Gillian also rarely shows any sadness or anger in public or otherwise, always presenting herself as a smiling courtesan although this changes as the series progresses.


Gillian during a rehearse session at the Cafe Beaux-Arts, in 1920. ("The Ivory Tower")

Gillian became a risqué showgirl soon after and continued to raise Jimmy backstage, with the help of other showgirl friends; as a result, Jimmy would often see his mother nude ("Peg of Old"). Sometimes Gillian would take Jimmy to The Commodore's house in an attempt to elicit some help from him, but all Kaestner ever gave her was a necklace that she was forced to sell for rent money. In this time Gillian made no secret of her dislike for The Commodore to her son, calling Kaestner "the letch" ("The Ivory Tower", "A Dangerous Maid").

Through Jimmy's childhood and teenage years, Gillian would also see other "admirers" ("friends", in Jimmy's words) in hope that one would marry her. Some of these, at least, were aware that she was a mother and gifted her toys for Jimmy. One even took them yachting ("Nights in Ballygran"). Invariably, the men always turned out to be married and using her as a mistress, which they would only tell when they were breaking up with her ("Under God's Power She Flourishes"). 

The only constant masculine presence during Jimmy's childhood was Nucky Thompson, who looked after them both over the years, out of guilt for his part in Jimmy's conception ("Paris Green"). Nucky would take the child Jimmy hunting while Gillian was performing, and became his errand boy at age 12 ("Boardwalk Empire", "21", "A Dangerous Maid"). Nucky eventually decided to groom Jimmy as his successor to direct the political machine in Atlantic City, possibly as a result of losing his only biological child and his wife one shortly after another in the winter of 1912-1913. ("A Return to Normalcy")

Jimmy's Departure and Return (1916-1919)[]

Main article: Under God's Power She Flourishes

In 1916, Nucky arranged for Jimmy to attend college in Princeton, New Jersey. Gillian, who had never been separated from her son during a long period of time, would call him often and sometimes late at night, leading the college matron, Mrs. Krakauer, to confuse her with Jimmy's girlfriend. At that time, though, Jimmy did have a girlfriend in secret at college: a waitress named Angela Ianotti.


Gillian flirts with her son's teacher during a visit to college, in 1916. ("Under God's Power She Flourishes")

Gillian visited Jimmy at college after breaking up with her last "admirer", a married man named Arthur Henderson, and stayed in Jimmy's dorm room for a few days. Jimmy presented her with Angela and Gillian showed a bit of jealousy, calling her a "skinny girl" and asking Jimmy if he really loved her. During a night reception at college, Gillian flirted with several men within sight of Jimmy and Angela. Jimmy's literature professor, Noel Pearson, was one of them.

After the party Jimmy and Angela happened upon Gillian and Pearson. All four had drunk. Gillian walked off and implied that Pearson had tried to overstep the bounds. Jimmy demanded an explanation and after Pearson made a poor attempt to defend himself claiming that he didn't know she was his mother, Jimmy punched him. Pearson offered to keep the incident secret still if Jimmy just walked out, but Jimmy beat him instead, witnessed by his mother and girlfriend.


Jimmy takes Gillian to his dorm room. ("Under God's Power She Flourishes")

Following that, Jimmy took Gillian to his room, making no secret that he had just expelled himself, but Gillian just wrote it off saying that Nucky would fix it. As they undressed, Jimmy asked Gillian why she came. She replied that she was the "loneliest person on Earth" and that Jimmy was the only man that ever loved her. Jimmy tried to get off the bed they were in but she brought him over herself, reassuring that they were doing nothing wrong, and they had an incestual encounter. The next morning, Gillian woke up first and left without saying anything. When Jimmy woke up he immediately quit college and joined the US Army as an orphan, giving Angela as his sole relation even though he didn't know her address. Only Gillian and Jimmy ever knew what happened that night.

Gillian later met again with Angela, now come to Atlantic City with Jimmy's son, Tommy. Gillian accepted Tommy and sometimes babysat him. Jimmy, however, didn't write to Angela or Gillian while he was in the Army, not even after he was shipped off to fight in France during World War I. This caused Gillian to think that he was dead, but she held some hope after a fortuneteller in the Boardwalk told her that he would come back alive. She also established some contact with the Commodore, who expressed worry about Jimmy since the lad also lost a brother in a war himself ("Paris Green"). When Jimmy finally returned to Atlantic City in December 1919 he rekindled with Angela and met her son, but still refused to contact Gillian for a month after his arrival. ("Boardwalk Empire", "The Ivory Tower")

Season 1[]

Main article: Gillian Darmody Season 1

Jimmy's unusual reunion with his mother. ("The Ivory Tower")

Jimmy resumes his life with his mentor, girlfriend and son after returning to Atlantic City, but continues to avoid his mother for a month. After taking part in the Hammonton hijacking, Jimmy buys a necklace for Gillian with his part and comes to see her at the Cafe Beaux-Arts. She is overjoyed to have her son back, but when Nucky demands a cut from the operation, Jimmy is forced to sneak into the Beaux-Arts dressing room and steal the necklace back. Gillian realizes that Jimmy has a problem and asks Nucky to help him, unaware of his part. Soon after, Jimmy leaves town again, and Gillian offers Angela to raise Tommy in her behalf while she pursues her artistic career, reasoning that Jimmy might never come back. Angela refuses.


Gillian and Jimmy ambush Lucky Luciano. ("Belle Femme")

Lucky Luciano comes to Angela's house while Gillian is babysitting Tommy and asks for "James", claiming that they are friends, but Gillian realizes that he is lying and closes the door on his face. He later goes to the Cafe Beaux-Arts and after that night's performance, Gillian approaches him. The two soon begin an affair, with Luciano at first believing that she is Jimmy's wife, that continues after he is informed that she is his mother. Gillian is, however, under phone contact with Jimmy, who is at exile in Chicago, and informing him about Luciano. The two set a trap for Luciano when Jimmy comes back to Atlantic City.

In September 1920 Gillian tells Jimmy that The Commodore is terminally ill and he has asked to meet him. She encourages Jimmy to remain by his side, arguing that nobody deserves to die alone, and reveals to Jimmy that it was Nucky who took her to The Commodore the day he was conceived, shattering the image he had of his mentor. Jimmy discovers that the Commodore is not ill but being poisoned by his maid, and after he recovers the two devise a plan with Sheriff Eli Thompson to seize power from Nucky.

Season 2[]

Main article: Gillian Darmody Season 2

Gillian joins The Commodore's side and encourages her son to stand by him and think of them as a family reunited, claiming that she has 'wised up' and forgiven Kaestner. This is a mere masquerade; when The Commodore comes down with a paralyzing stroke and is left alone in her care, she berates and hits her now defenseless aggressor.


Gillian with Jimmy, The Commodore and The Commodore's lawyer, Leander Whitlock in the Commodore's house. ("Two Boats and a Lifeguard")

Nonetheless, Gillian decides to keep The Commodore's ailment secret and continue the conspiracy with Jimmy as its new leader despite Eli's objections. Acting as his de facto top adviser, Gillian gives Jimmy poor advice that compromises his position as a leader, encouraging him to take violent action against Jackson Parkhurst for hitting him and alienating the other elderly backers of The Commodore as a result, and supporting Jimmy's newly found young allies (Lucky Luciano, Al Capone and Meyer Lansky) in their suggestion of killing Nucky rather than throwing him into jail as per The Commodore's plan. Angela also perceives Gillian's presence in their own home as poisonous and tells her to refrain from supplanting her position as Jimmy's new wife and Tommy's mother.


Jimmy kills The Commodore in the presence of Gillian. ("Under God's Power She Flourishes")

As Jimmy succumbs to the pressures of town leadership, he gets in conflict with Philadelphia gangster Manny Horvitz, who kills Angela while Jimmy is selling alcohol away in Princeton. Jimmy breaks down upon hearing the news and spends several days reminiscing of the day he quit college and snorting heroin, until Gillian convinces him to come back so people won't assume that he is the murderer. He finds his mother oddly calm or even happy, coldly talking of how Tommy will forget Angela and they will raise him together instead. Jimmy snaps and begins to choke his mother, which prompts the barely recovered Commodore to defend her by attacking Jimmy with a spear. Jimmy turns the tables with his trench knife, and under Gillian's encouragement, kills the Commodore. With the help of The Commodore's longtime lawyer, Leander Whitlock, they forge an accidental death certificate and destroy The Commodore's last (and never actualized) will that left his fortune to his maid, ensuring that it will be inherited by Jimmy and his heirs.

Jimmy decides to make amends with Nucky and surrender himself to him, even though he knows that Nucky will kill him. Although that means leaving Tommy with Gillian, he tells him to find his own places away from 'mee-ma', and walks to his fate without saying goodbye to his mother in late August 1921.

Season 3[]

Main article: Gillian Darmody Season 3
Richard Gillian and Tommy 3x01

Gillian and Richard Harrow clash over how to raise Tommy after the death of his parents. ("Resolution")

Left in charge of The Commodore's estate, Gillian turns the house into a classy brothel, The Artemis Club, with the initial - but limited - backing of Lucky Luciano. She employs Leander Whitlock as her own lawyer and advisor and Jimmy's war veteran friend Richard Harrow as the place's caretaker, and raises Tommy as her own child in the house, hoping that he forgets his real mother. This causes friction and cold relations with Richard, who wishes to keep Angela's memory alive.

Gillian and Roger

Gillian and Roger McAllister in the Commodore's house. ("Sunday Best")

Gillian is, on the other hand, in denial about Jimmy being dead and refuses to have him legally declared so, using the excuse that "he's prone to long disappearances". She's helped by the fact that his body was never found, but deep inside knows that Nucky killed him - the same man she's forced to pay an illegal tax to keep her new business running. She keeps the estate on her son's name and fakes his signature to pay the bills. The house, however, is in need of multiple costly repairs, and Gillian's business model of classy "innocent" prostitutes is not popular enough to turn up a profit. This eventually puts her into a corner: to repair the house she needs to ask for a loan (as Luciano refuses to put in more money), but to use the house as collateral she needs Jimmy's death to be proven. She opts to seduce a man that looks like Jimmy in the Boardwalk, Roger McAllister, and murders him through a staged heroin-induced drowning in the Commodore's bathroom to pass his body as Jimmy's.


Gyp Rosetti takes over Gillian's brothel. ("Two Imposters")

Through 1923, Gillian's place is also visited multiple times by New York gangster Gyp Rosetti, who is sexually attracted to her and shares her hate for Nucky Thompson. After giving Gyp Nucky's whereabouts for a failed hit, the violent Rosetti invades Atlantic City and seizes The Artemis Club as his base of operations, refusing to let either Gillian or Tommy out. Richard's attempt to free the boy is however turned down by Gillian, who thinks he is planning to take Tommy away from her and raise the kid with his girlfriend Julia Sagorsky instead. Gillian then tries to murder Gyp but he realizes it and injects her with her own heroin dose instead. Soon after, Richard storms the place, murders most of Gyp's men and takes Tommy out, leaving the drugged up Gillian to be found by Nucky and Eli Thompson.

Season 4[]


Gillian and Whitlock present her case in court. ("New York Sour")

Gillian develops a heroin addiction after being injected by Gyp, which she pays for by selling most of The Commodore's old furniture and prostituting herself under the guise of showing the house to potential buyers (the Artemis Club having been closed since taken over). Nevertheless, she still employs Whitlock and another lawyer, Mr. Ferry, to fight for custody of Tommy against Julia - in whose care Richard left the boy before abandoning the city.


Gillian admits to Roy Phillips that she is a drug addict. ("Erlkonig")

During one of these house 'tours', Gillian happens upon an attractive client that really seems interested in buying a house and is unaware that she is a prostitute: Roy Phillips. Phillips tells her that he is a representative of southern supermarket chain Piggly Wiggly going through a divorce and that he has come to Atlantic City to open a new store. The two soon become close and start a relationship. Gillian also stops using heroin with Roy's help, and after finding that Richard has come back and married Julia to help her case, she accepts Roy's invitation to let go of Tommy, marry Roy and begin a new life together in California.


Gillian is taken out of the courthouse accused of murder. ("Farewell Daddy Blues")

However, Roy turns out to be an undercover Pinkerton detective hired by Whitlock, and this dream-come-true is nothing but an elaborate ruse to make her confess the murder of Roger McAllister, as apparent payback for the death of The Commodore. Gillian is arrested for first-degree murder pending trial and loses the court case for Tommy's custody. Her last hope is shattered when her new public defender tells her that Jimmy's body has been found and identified by the surgical nails in his femur, proving that the body Gillian identified and had incinerated was not his.

Season 5[]

Gillian is incarcerated in a mental institution after pleading "temporary insanity". She has an odd encounter with Charlotte, another patient there, who is then taken away and given a hysterectomy by Dr. Cotton, the medical director. Gillian tells Dr. Cotton that she is cured and ready to "begin the process" of being released. He tells her that the insanity is still inside her and must be physically removed - "We'll find what's inside you. We'll fix it."

Gillian is last seen when Nucky Thompson comes to visit her in the institution. He tells her that when she is released, there would be money for her to live on. While he is speaking, she doesn't say a word and doesn't seem to be listening. After a long pause, she gestures to a ladybug that is crawling on her hand and says, "They're called ladybugs. But how can you tell which one is a lady?" Gillian attempts to stand up, however she cannot as it is revealed she has already undergone the surgical procedure by Dr. Cotton.

Nucky then realizes that her mind has been broken as a result of her incarceration and maltreatment, and he leaves.



Personal Life




Memorable Quotes[]

  • Gillian: "I was under the impression that you could do anything"
  • (to Angela, about Jimmy) "You know, when he was a baby and I would change his diaper... I used to kiss his little winkie." ("21")
  • "I didn't spend my life getting groped by a bunch of drunks to wind up in a goddamn poorhouse." ("What Does the Bee Do?")
  • Eli Thompson (to Gillian): "Jimmy and you. That's exactly... the two of you, and... him?! None of that is normal. It never was!" ("What Does the Bee Do?")
  • (to The Commodore, after being paralyzed by a stroke) "Do you remember when we met? I'll never forget your smile. Jimmy sometimes, he has it. I look at him and I see you. That first night, how you plied me with wine... Why, I'd never felt such a sensation. We were downstairs. And I'd fallen asleep on the divan. You carried me to the bedroom, went to say good night to your guests. And I laid there in bed, dreaming of the waves. I'd been on the beach that day. Suddenly I felt a crushing feeling. I couldn't breathe. I opened my eyes to find you atop me. Your breath smelling of whiskey and tobacco. One hand covering my mouth and the other groping at me. Do you remember that? Still, sometimes when I sleep, it wakes me with a start. Do you remember that night? (Gillian slaps The Commodore) I asked you a question." (Gillian slaps him repeatedly) ("What Does the Bee Do?")
  • Angela Darmody: "You know, most women are proud to be called a grandma"
    • "Yes well, not while the peaches are still in season" ("Anastasia")
  • (to Lucky Luciano) "Maybe he's up your ass. Have you tried looking there?"
  • (to Jimmy Darmody) We'll have to have a funeral, of course. It's important that everything look right. There won't be many people anyway. She didn't have a very wide circle, did she? The poor girl. The other one, she wasn't local. They're looking for some family. Not our concern. We'll need to consider Tommy. I told him, Mommy went away for a few days to paint. Well, that buys us a little time. I think, tell me I'm wrong, — we'll say she went to live with her friends in Paris, and she wants her little boy to stay here, where she knows he'll be safe, with his daddy who works so hard and his Mima, who loves him so very much. And you know what? A month from now, and I don't mean to sound cold, he won't even remember who she... ("Under God's Power She Flourishes")
  • "I'm feeling just the tiniest bit greasy." ("Sunday Best")
  • "You belittle my business. Break bread with my enemies..."
    • Lucky: "Who the fuck you think you are?"
  • "My dearest James, I am compelled to write to you due to my constant concern over expenses, which are more than I can bear alone. I miss you terribly every day. Life is nothing without you and there is no one who understands me. Please. Please. Please come home. Your eternally devoted mother." ("You'd Be Surprised")
  • "I must look heinous to you... I have done the most horrible things" ("Erlkonig")
  • Roy Phillips: "I need you to listen carefully. I'm with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. These men are my associates and witnesses to your confession for first degree murder..."
    • Gillian: "But we are going to California."
    • Roy: "...which they will testify to before a court of law."
    • Gillian: "But we are going to California!"
    • Roy: "We are not." ("Havre de Grace")
  • "I was in love! I was tricked! How can that be right? I'm not allowed to speak. I'm not allowed to live. Why does a man get to do whatever he wants??!!" ("Farewell Daddy Blues")


Season one appearances
Boardwalk Empire The Ivory Tower Broadway Limited Anastasia
Nights in Ballygran Family Limitation Home Hold Me in Paradise
Belle Femme The Emerald City Paris Green A Return to Normalcy
Season two appearances
21 Ourselves Alone A Dangerous Maid What Does the Bee Do?
Gimcrack & Bunkum The Age of Reason Peg of Old Two Boats and a Lifeguard
Battle of the Century Georgia Peaches Under God's Power She Flourishes To the Lost
Season three appearances
"Resolution" "Spaghetti and Coffee" "Bone for Tuna" "Blue Bell Boy"
"You'd Be Surprised" "Ging Gang Goolie" "Sunday Best" "The Pony"
"The Milkmaid's Lot" "A Man, A Plan..." "Two Imposters" "Margate Sands"
Season four appearances
"New York Sour" "Resignation" "Acres of Diamonds" "All In"
"Erlkonig" "The North Star" "William Wilson" "The Old Ship of Zion"
"Marriage and Hunting" "White Horse Pike" "Havre De Grace" "Farewell Daddy Blues"
Season five appearances
Golden Days for Boys and Girls The Good Listener What Jesus Said Cuanto
King of Norway Devil You Know Friendless Child Eldorado