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TCA Press Tour: 'Boardwalk Empire' is finally Steve Buscemi's empire

August 7, 2010 |  6:23 pm


When "Boardwalk Empire" creator and executive producer Terence Winter called Steve Buscemi to tell him that he had landed the lead role in HBO's new epic series about Atlantic City in the 1920s, the highly respected actor didn't believe it; Winter had to break the news to him twice.

Known for memorable supporting performances in movies such as "Reservoir Dogs" and "The Big Lebowski," and TV roles in "The Sopranos," for which he was twice nominated for an Emmy, Buscemi hasn't been offered many lead parts. So being picked for HBO's new series, which is based on a book of the same title and revolves around the life of Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, felt like something in his "wildest fantasies or dreams," Buscemi said during a press tour session on Saturday.

"It was sort of terrifying in a way but so exciting," he said. "And when I first read the script, I hadn't gotten the offer yet to play the character, and I just thought, 'Wow, I'm almost sorry I'm reading this because if I don't get it I'm going to be so disappointed, so sad.' So, of course, when Terence called me and said they wanted me to play the role, my response was, 'Terry, I know you're looking at other actors. I appreciate that my name is being thrown.' And he said, 'No, no, Steve, I just said that we want you.'"

Buscemi plays Nucky Thompson -- who in real life was Nucky Johnson, the city treasurer who loved politics as much as he loved trafficking illegal alcohol and his gambling enterprises. Winter takes creative liberties with the material in the book and has historical figures such as Lucky Luciano and Al Capone interacting with fictional characters.

The series, already on its way to becoming a critical darling -- HBO has sent the first six episodes to the media -- is executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, who directed the pilot. Although it begins at the start of Prohibition, the series will span the decade, Winter said.

"I've been tempted for years to be involved because of the nature of the long form, and the development of character and plot," Scorcese said via satellite from London.

"Boardwalk Empire" premieres Sept. 19.

--Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: Steve Buscemi in "Boardwalk Empire." Credit: HBO

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