Michael Buscemi [Interview]

This brilliant photo was taken by Oren R. Cohen. http://www.orenrcohen.com


Today is a very special interview here at Trainwreck’d Society, you damn lucky readers, you! Today we have some words with a brilliant actor, writer, and filmmaker in his own right. His name is Michael Buscemi, and the odds are great that much like some of our previous guests on the site, have appeared in something you love! He was a re-occuring figure in the hugely popular and critically acclaimed series Nurse Jackie, and poignant and hilarious cast member in the AOL Original Series entitled Park Bench with Steve Buscemi.

He also happened to appear in one of my favorite films of all time, 1996’s Tree’s Lounge. Which if you are not aware of this film and just how damn amazing it is, I want to read this, enjoy it, and then get your life together and see this brilliant piece of art. It is seriously that wonderful, and features one of the most superb groupings of actors to ever assemble for a film. Michael has also been seen in films like Tom Siercho’s The Girl Who Invented Kissing that was released this year, and has a couple of brilliant short films under his belt which he wrote, directed, and appeared in, which we will be talking about in great detail.

Michael Buscemi is simply one of those damn fine actors who, when you even get the notion that he will be involved with a project, you know it is going to be great, and his presence alone will add to the story greatly. So as I usually should, but often don’t, I am going to stop rambling here and introduce our newest member of the TWS family, Mr. Michael Buscemi!

What was it that drove you personally to become involved in the world of acting? And what keeps you wanting to work in such a business?

Happy accident. A high school friend and I were brought to a place where  performers gathered every Sunday night. It was like walking in to a wild west saloon. I was amazed and thrilled. I cannot describe the scene as I would not bring justice to it.

Poets, musicians….., ranter and ravers.

All these wonderful and talented people under one roof. All this happening unbeknownst to me a half block and a quick turn of a corner from my lower east side apartment, ABC-NO-RIO.

The following Sunday my friend and I signed up to perform. It was  two minute vignette minus any dialogue. It went over pretty well and that gave us confidence to perform the following week.(with dialogue) Those Sunday’s lasted for eight years and many shows.

We and everyone else would put together show’s at different venues around the east village pre-gentrification which are now bar’s, restaurants, etc, etc.

I never thought about it as a career, nor did I consider myself a writer. One of us would come up with an idea and crack each other up and then just write it down. It was a thrill to have an opportunity to perform as well. When our community of performers were pushed out by high rents I moved out to Brooklyn. I remember lying in bed one night after leaving Manhattan and going, “What the hell do I do now”?

I never thought of making money performing our vignette’s, in fact if anything we lost money putting a show together but that didn’t matter.

Anyway about 6 months later someone got me a commercial agent and I began acting in commercials. It’s my love of acting which keeps me wanting to continue. As of the business,well that’s an entity all to itself.


Beyond being an accomplished actor in your own right, you have also done some work behind the camera, with short films like B61 and Dos C. The latter which I believe I caught a part of on a lovely tribute video to you made by YouTube user “Jazzalisa”. So my question is, what compelled you to expand your horizons and work behind the camera as well? And what are some less than obvious benefits of performing in your own written work?

Well I don’t know who this “Jazzalisa” is but I find that very sweet of them and a bit embarrassed (in a good way).

When someone ask’s you to write a short that they’ll finance, well the answer is a quick “Yes”. I did not have one written at the time so I pulled out bus scene’s from a feature I was working on. The bus scenes in the short where two men were sitting & waiting which took place over a three month period in the feature. I pulled them all out and re-edited them to take place over a six day period for the short.

I was curious to test the writing and if it went over well it would give me the confidence to continue writing the full length script.

It was the same for my first short Dos C, a good way (but scary) to test out material. I love collaborating, especially with friends and directing gave me the the opportunity to make my own choice’s whom I liked to work with. Also I love to be active. Setting up shots between scenes can cause much downtime for an actor. That’s when I loose energy waiting almost to the point of nodding out. Directing kept me on my feet constantly moving in the present moment through out the shoot.

You had a great run on the brilliant Showtime series Nurse Jackie. Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to work on such a well written show and being a part of such an amazing cast? What was set life like on this incredible program?

The cast brilliant, both in talent and people! I am thrilled to be a part of the show. Set life was amazing from the directors to the P.A.’s.

An opportunity to work with some actors I knew from before and some I never worked with which both had it’s own high’s. I loved the on going scenes with Meredith Weaver.

When pressed to divulge my Top 5 favorite films of all time, inevitably Tree’s Lounge will always appear on the list, in a varied order. It is a film that has reached a new level of cult status, in my experience with film goers that is. So, it would behoove me to ask even the simplest question about the film. What are your thoughts on the final product that has become a classic film?

So proud of my brother that he had his vision come to the screen and of his directing work. The film has so many great actor’s and I felt ecstatic to be around (and nervous).

I’m happy when people come up to me these many years later and say how much they related to the film, it reminds me each time of my brother’s vision of the film he wanted to make and that time we had while filming.

My father still has the original Trees Lounge sign stored behind the garage which my mother has been trying to get him to get rid of ever since.

If anyone wants to make my mother happy…..

I truly love the AOL Original Series Park Bench with Steve Buscemi that you have worked on with your brother. It is such a beautifully simple concept that is absolutely endearing and enjoyable. For my readers who may not be so well informed, could you tell us a bit about how this concept came to be? What made you guys want to get this thing going?

I was not aware that AOL still existed let own had there own shows when my brother first told me about it, but they were very generous, supportive, and wonderful people to work with.

I don’t know if many people were aware of the show.

My brother directed these commercials for American Express which I believe sponsored  an upcoming Vampire Weekend’s concert. So the commercials were a story line which led up to the final night of there performance. It was that format which gave my brother the idea for Park Bench.

I was not even the cast, ha! There was a different story line to the show and when the person needed to drop out the story line changed and that organically developed as to when I came in.

It’s alway’s exciting and educating to work with my brother.

And the guest he had on the show were mind blowing to me. Again as in Nurse Jackie, some I knew and worked with and some I had not. It was a nicely packaged gift.


Are there any plans for a return of Park Bench? Please? Maybe even a Michael and Gino spinoff?

You mean “Bench Talk”? Well don’t know about that. However if it does I could never bring myself to steal Geo as he is very loyal (but I’ll still try).

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug with our readers?

Good question,wish I had the answer. I do know what my desires are though. Right now to keep keep active between acting job’s I decided to just get out there and begin shooting. Fun and simple. Vignette type piece’s  anywhere from two to five minutes. Hopefully I can post them somewhere. Don’t know much about the whole web thing.

The difficult part is pinning down different friend’s schedule who I want to work with and also has a camera. I don’t know own one (I’m not good with tech).

So……If any one out there has a camera, uh hum…

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My double espresso this morning.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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