Happy go Nucky

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - LUKE DEN­NEHY

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.

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