Happy go Nucky
HIS alter ego ‘‘ Nucky’’ Thompson may be under pressure in Prohibition- era drama Boardwalk Empire, but 53- year- old actor Steve Buscemi is in the best career form of his life.
As the second season of the gritty girls, glamour, gangsters and grog drama plays out on our screens, a third series has been confirmed in the US.
Buscemi plays the corrupt career politician Enoch ‘‘ Nucky’’ Johnson in the expensive drama set in Atlantic City in the 1920s.
They were the early days of Prohibition, when the illegal liquor trade flourished. As treasurer, Nucky is the man calling the shots and taking the cuts.
A native New Yorker and former firefighter, Buscemi is no stranger to gritty roles – his first big break came as Mr Pink in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and his turn as Tony Blundetto in The Sopranos earnt him an Emmy nomination. This year, the role of Nucky won him the Golden Globe for best actor.
Sitting in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Buscemi admits to exhaustion after having just wrapped up filming of season two of Boardwalk Empire.
He compares Nucky with his more famous characters, including The Sopranos’ Blundetto.
‘‘ It’s hard for me to pick a favourite,’’ Buscemi says.
‘‘ I certainly think Nucky is one of, if not the deepest character, I will ever get to know.’’
Buscemi, a deep thinker, sees plenty of similarities between the Prohibition era and the latest war on drugs being waged globally.
‘‘ There is a connection between the failure of Prohibition and the failure of the current drug wars,’’ he says.
‘‘ I think there has to be different ways of looking at it because whatever we have been doing the past 30 or 40 years is not working.
‘‘ I don’t know if legalisation is the answer but it seems we should really contemplate that.
‘‘ But a lot of politicians won’t go even near that.’’
The jury may be out on the drug war, but the big- budget Boardwalk Empire is making every post a winner. Created by Terence Winter – the man behind The Sopranos – and famed director Martin Scorsese, its pilot episode was the most expensive ever made, at a cost of about $ 18 million. The series has maintained top- quality production values, from the writing, the multimillion- dollar sets to the topnotch cast led by Buscemi.
It’s the big budget and the fact everything is done to perfection that makes the show a dream to work on, Buscemi says.
‘‘ It’s great to have a set that is so big,’’ he says.
‘‘ I have a lot of help on this show, with the wardrobe, the sets, the writing and the other actors. Everything is at its best, which makes it great.
‘‘ The work is hard enough and the hours are long, but when the quality is so high then you take pride in what you do and it just makes the work more enjoyable.’’
He credits the writing of his friend Winter as one of the linchpins to the show’s success.
‘‘ What’s so wonderful about the writing is that it is character driven,’’ he says.
‘‘ You get caught up in the individual stories.
‘‘ There is a larger story that is happening, which is also compelling, but you wouldn’t care about the larger story if you didn’t care about the individual characters’ stories.’’
Nucky may have the odds stacked against his bootlegging empire as his enemies circle but Buscemi is on a winner.
PRESSURE’S ON: Steve Buscemi ( centre) stars as Nucky.