Your Guide To The Characters Of The Deuce

Photo: Paul Schiraldi/HBO.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The Deuce is a populous land. Rightfully so: The actual Deuce was littered with rich characters, so it's only natural that the new HBO show is burgeoning with fascinating folks. Trouble is, The Deuce doesn't want to waste time introducing you to these characters. Again, rightfully so: There's only so much exposition that can happen in an hour, and the show would rather swoop in in medias res than dilly-dally with small talk. There's also the small matter of Vinnie and Frankie, who are both played by James Franco.
Still, it's helpful to know the names of the characters, at the very least so you can discuss the show with your co-workers on Monday mornings. The people of The Deuce fall into roughly three categories: The women of the Deuce, the men of the Deuce, and the men who collude with Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli), a mob boss. These categories vaguely correspond to class — the women of the Deuce occupy the lowest status, while Rudy Pipilo reigns supreme. Speckled throughout these categories are interlopers, like Sandra Washington (Natalie Paul) and Abby (Margarita Levieva), who seem to exist partially as devices; they explain the seedy world for the audience.
Use this list as a reference as you continue to watch The Deuce. We will continue to update it as the show continues, adding in characters as needed.
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Vincent (James Franco)

The lynchpin, Vincent begins the show as the manager of a bar at a Korean restaurant. Because he's responsible for his brother's loans — for reasons that still escape me — he meets Rudy Pipilo, who then entrusts Vincent with a new bar called the Hi-Hat. The Hi-Hat becomes a haven of sorts for the various types that filter through midtown. The sex workers and the gay community and mob bosses like Pipilo all rub elbows at the Hi-Hat. Vincent left his marriage to Andrea (Zoe Kazan) as well as his two kids for this life.
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Frankie (also James Franco)

Vincent's twin brother, Frankie exists to wreak havoc. He's a gambler and insistently charismatic. He's 23 minutes older than Vincent, and alleges that he has more impressive genitals than Vinnie. (Oh, boys!) Frankie doesn't own anything, or do much of anything, but he does live to screw with his brother. In the third episode, he proceeds to steal from Vincent's business partner Mickey Spillane just so he can keep gambling. You know how brothers do that?

When the show first premiered, there was talk of how to tell the two Francos apart. Would one have a different haircut? Would Vincent's scar from the first episode remain for the entirety of the season? The reality is much simpler: Frankie is almost never germane to the scene. He has a slightly shorter haircut, and his energy is a bit more frenetic. Where Vincent is sincere and a little dumb, Frankie has stellar comedic timing and is also a little dumb. Frankie hangs around the fringes of The Deuce, cracking wise and ruining the occasional pool table. For the most part, we don't have to worry about his daily activities. That's Vincent's job.
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Lori (Emily Meade)

New to NYC in the pilot, Lori immediately begins working for a pimp named C.C. (Gary Carr). She's from St. Louis, where she used to do sex work as well. Lori is immediately shaken when, in the second episode, a customer attempts to kidnap her. Nevertheless, she plunges forward. Lori's good at business, too — it's as if, I don't know, she'll find her way to the porn industry soon enough?

She's played by Emily Meade, who also appeared in HBO's The Leftovers. Meade also played a sex worker in Boardwalk Empire.
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Ashley (Jamie Neumann)

Beholden to C.C., Ashley is a veteran of the Deuce — when the show begins, she is C.C.'s main lady, but she is tossed aside for Lori. She has an interest in movies; at the beginning of episode 2, she purchases nude glamour shots of herself in the hopes of getting in front of the camera. For now, though, she's working the Deuce, and sending withering glances Lori's way.
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Darlene (Dominique Fishback)

Darlene (far left), a sex worker who reports to Larry Brown, has a childlike, vulnerable air that makes her customers treat her a little, well, differently. She has one that pays to "rape" her and another who pays just to lie in bed and watch movies. Darlene has interests beyond sex work — after watching Tale of Two Cities, she goes to the library and checks out the original Dickens novel.
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Candy/Eileen Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal)

One of the main foci of the series, Candy feels modern even when the show begins. A sex worker on the Deuce, she doesn't have a pimp — this has its pros and cons, but Candy maintains her independence this way, and that's what's important. She has a son who lives in the suburbs with her mother, Joan (Carolyn Mignini), and has a growing interest in the porn industry.

Gyllenhaal also serves as a producer on The Deuce.
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Abby (Margarita Levieva)

At the beginning of the show, Abby is a precocious N.Y.U. student who's sleeping with her professor. In the second episode, though, she drops out of college and moves in with her cousin. And in the third episode, she starts working for Vincent at the Hi-Hat. She's wary of the Deuce — judgmental might be a better word — but seems to have a need to be involved in it. She can't stay away, so she quits school and ends up at the Hi-Hat, serving drinks in a sequined leotard.
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Sandra Washington (Natalie Paul)

Sandra Washington is a reporter for The Amsterdam News. She's investigating the sex trade in midtown Manhattan, and she'll do anything she can to glean details. The pimps are none too pleased about her interest in their women. Interestingly, neither are the police officers. The Deuce functions best when unexamined, and Sandra Washington is here with a microscope.

Washington is played by Natalie Paul, who's becoming a bit of an HBO darling. She appeared in two episodes of Boardwalk Empire and starred in the mini-series Show Me A Hero as Doreen Henderson.
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Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli)

It all comes back to Rudy Pipilo. Pipilo got involved with the characters of The Deuce by way of Frankie's debt. Tommy Longo, the debt collector who approached Vincent in the first episode, is Rudy's henchman. Tommy eventually brings Vincent to Rudy, who is taken with Vincent. Rudy then drags Vinnie into the business of being a mob boss: Together, they start skimming money from the checks of construction workers.

This all leads to the Hi-Hat: the bar that provides a home for the characters of the show. Rudy gifts Vincent the bar, formerly called Penny Lane, and a setting for a good television show is born.

Rudy's a source of power, mainly. He's the top of the food chain, and he serves as proof that even low-level economic activities (such a pimping and sex work) have large-scale ramifications. He wants to "clean up" the Deuce. He also wants to make money. He has a lot of property in Manhattan, and he has a nice chunk of political power. I wonder where all that could lead?
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Ruby "Thunder Thighs" (Pernell Walker)

Ruby (far left) works for Rodney and is Candy's best friend at the Deuce. On the street, she goes by Thunder Thighs, though not all the characters use that name. Officer Alston calls her Thunder, while Vince opts for "Ruby." She's also a frequent visitor of the Hi-Hat, and the person who introduces Candy to Harvey (David Krumholtz).
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Bobby Dwyer (Chris Bauer)

Bobby Dwyer is Vincent's brother-in-law who ends up embroiled in Vincent's plans by sheer inertia. Bobby is a foreman at a construction site, and uses this position to skim 5% from each of his employee's paychecks. The money he accrues goes to Rudy Pipilo, himself, and Vincent. He has three kids with Vincent's sister, but we hardly ever see them on screen. In episode three, Bobby suffers a heart attack and ends up in the hospital.

You might recognize Chris Bauer, who plays Bobby, from True Blood, where he played the dim-witted Andy Bellefleur.
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Officer Alston (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.)

Ah, the requisite police officer! Alston is one-half of a police duo that frequents the Deuce. The other is Officer Flanagan (Don Harvey), a rough-and-tumble Irishman who has little regard for the rules. Alston, though, wants to be a detective. Unlike the other policeman, he has designs on a higher rank. He also seems vaguely curious about the world of the Deuce: In episode 3, when the Deuce is declared a no-go zone, he's the only police officer to question it.

Alston's friendly with the women of the Deuce — that might be what prevents him from being another boorish police officer. He knows their names, and when he takes the sex workers to the police station for the night, he's the one who takes food orders. Alston's one of the good guys.

Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., who plays Alston, is a David Simon veteran. He appeared in The Wire as D'Angelo Barksdale, a main character in the first two seasons of the show.
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Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe)

One of the main pimps in the show, Larry Brown oversees Darlene. In the first episode, Ruby says that Larry Brown's women have "daddy issues," and that holds true for the rest of the show. Larry is very protective over Darlene in a way that seems both fatherly and romantic. At the same time, he's vaguely abusive. When Darlene spends the whole night with a single customer, he drops his sunglasses and instructs her to pick them up, a punishment in the form of a power move.

Larry's also interested in Candy's services. At Leon's diner in the second episode, he approaches her and does his best to get her on his side. He promises her "sensitivity" in his pimping. Which is sometimes true, and sometimes not — shortly after making this promise, Larry yells at Darlene for interrupting his conversation with Candy.
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C.C. (Gary Carr)

A freewheeling ball of industrial arrogance, C.C. is the pimp who receives the most attention on The Deuce. He leads Lori (Emily Meade), the woman who moves from St. Louis in the first episode with intentions of becoming a sex worker in Manhattan. He also leads Ashley (Jamie Neumann). He, like most of the pimps, has vaguely romantic relationships with his women. When the show begins, he and Ashley have a relationship of sorts. Ashley is quickly tossed aside in favor of Lori, though. Monogamy is hard for a pimp.

C.C. would be a tried-and-true villain — he's the one who sliced Ashley's armpit in the first episode — if he weren't so pathetic. In the second episode, he tells Lori that he just wants to buy a home upstate. He tells her he's never been to Paris. He wants more for his life, it seems. He wants more for Lori, too: He spends most of their time together encouraging her to work harder, and be a more astute businesswoman.

It also helps that C.C. is played by Gary Carr, a British import with a habit of stealing scenes. (Carr appeared on season four of Downton Abbey as jazz singer Jack Ross.) Carr infuses the role with a desperation that's difficult not to watch.
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Rodney (Method Man)

Rodney (left) is one of the more loquacious pimps of the Deuce. He spends a good chunk of the first episode trying to woo Candy to his side. Rodney provides some comedic relief, here — for the most part, he's one of the good ones. He presides over Ruby (Pernell Walker) and Shay (Kim Director) and touts a pretty fabulous wig.
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Reggie/Jerry/Jimmie Love (Tarik Trotter)

One of the first pimps introduced, Reggie Love has a lot of names. In episode three, Melissa (Olivia Luccardi) refers to him as "Jimmie Love." In the pilot, he introduces himself as Reggie Love. IMDb lists him as "Jerry Love." For our purposes, we'll call him Love. For the most part, Love is adjacent to the main action of the story. He presides over Melissa and Barbara (Kayla Foster) and has a vested interest in the political machinations of Richard Nixon.

Love is portrayed by Tariq Trotter — yes, that Tariq. He MC's The Roots five nights a week on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. As a solo artist, he goes by Black Thought. Somehow, with this schedule, Trotter found a way to film an entire season of an HBO show.
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Gentle Richie (Matthew James Ballinger)

The so-called "gentle" pimp, Richie is a sly satire of '70s-era progressives. He's a communist, we learn in episode three, because he doesn't believe in hierarchical forms of oppression. But, er, he's a pimp? Doesn't that mean he engages in a pretty direct form of hierarchical oppression?

Richie has one girl that we know of: Michelle, who isn't one of the core sex workers that the show follows. He explains that he's not in control of her because, you see, she controls the means of production. To which, Larry Brown replies, "You talking about pussy?"
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