You know him as Mr. Pink in "Reservoir Dogs," Nucky Thompson in "Boardwalk Empire," Donny in “Big Lebowski” and the homeless guy who wants McDonald’s breakfast in “Big Daddy.” He’s Steve Buscemi, and he has a new web series!
“Park Bench” is not just any talk show. In fact, Buscemi describes it as a “talking show" in the series' first episode. A New York City native, Buscemi visits various locations in across town to chat up actors and comedians he's worked with in the past, celebs he's never met before and even some local folks. With appearances by everyone from Chris Rock to Fred Armisen to Debbie Harry, "Park Bench" has a bit of everything.
Buscemi told HuffPost TV how he came up with the idea for "Park Bench," which guest made him the most nervous, and even spilled some details about a new HBO documentary he's been working on. Check out our interview (below) and watch the the newest episodes of "Park Bench" (above); catch up on the first four episodes over at AOL.
Where did you come up with the idea for “Park Bench”?
It started with working with Radical Media and doing the American Express concert series. Last year I did one with Vampire Weekend, we did these short videos with the band. Along the way I met this guy who’s a carpenter, his name is Gio Orlando. We pulled him into one of the sketches that we were doing at a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I liked him a lot. We did this little improv scene on a park bench. We just came up with this idea of talking to people on a park bench and that grew into this idea of a talk show.
What was your initial goal for the series?
We just were trying to come up with a way to shoot outside, shoot quickly, and to involve people that I like to work with, like Gio, my brother Michael, and I have my dad a little bit in there. I pulled in people I had worked with that I like and am interested in, like Chris Rock and Rosie Perez, or getting to talk with people I haven’t met, like Dick Cavett, GZA and Method Man.
Is the show all improv or is some of it scripted?
None of it was actually scripted. I did write scripts when I did the Vampire Weekend shorts, and within that structure we improvised a lot. With “Park Bench” we didn’t have any scripts, so we just would think of a situation to sort of get us into the interviews. But it was all improvised.
You’ve played so many iconic characters in film and TV. In “Park Bench” you seem to mostly be playing yourself.
I don’t know that I’m always playing myself. I guess we sort of go back and forth between straight interviews, although I’m trying to make them more than interviews and more of a conversation. The whole thing with my brother, we are playing versions of ourselves. I feel like at any given moment we are playing characters and being ourselves.
Do you have a favorite park in New York?
I don’t really. I like discovering the parks that we did come across in the show. I like the different energies of the parks from Brooklyn into Manhattan. I love Prospect Park, but we haven’t shot there yet.
Did anything surprise you while making the series?
I was really nervous about meeting Dick Cavett. He’s really one of the nicest guys and funniest guys that I’ve ever met. It was really fun and easy-going, but I think with him I was the most nervous beforehand.
I know you used to be a New York City firefighter. Did you want to implement that into the series at all?
I actually have a documentary that I did with HBO about the Fire Department. It’s called “A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY.” That will be coming out in September. So I specifically didn’t do anything with the Fire Department on “Park Bench” since that is coming out.
What can you tell us about the five latest episodes of “Park Bench”?
I talk with Fred Armisen. The episode with GZA from Wu-Tang Clan was fun to do because we took him to the Lower East Side Girls Club, where they have a planetarium. GZA is very into science and just having him meet with the girls there was really cool. The pizza place Two Boots sponsored a benefit with the Girls Club that my wife and I went to, so there’s a whole section in there about that. We have Dick Cavett and Debbie Harry. I think we had a pretty good mix of people.
“Park Bench” is available to stream at AOL.