Buscemi, who served as a firefighter before his acting career, says it was a “privilege” to return to his roots for Pete Davidson’s personal film.
Steve Buscemi is one of the most distinguished actors of his generation, but possibly the most important thing he brought to The King of Staten Island was his pre-acting work experience.
Directed by Judd Apatow and inspired by Pete Davidson‘s life, the new film (available now on VOD) follows twentysomething burnout Scott (Davidson), who has never quite been able to cope with the loss of his firefighter father as a child. And those issues resurface when his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) starts dating another member of the FDNY, Ray (Bill Burr). This brings Pete back into that orbit and introduces him to Buscemi’s Papa, the veteran of his firehouse and someone who previously worked with Scott’s father. It was a role that Buscemi was well-prepared for considering he served as a New York firefighter from 1980 to 1984, only to then return to the job as a volunteer in the aftermath of 9/11.
“I’ve never played a firefighter,” he says with a laugh during EW’s Around the Table with Apatow and the cast, which can be viewed above. “I’m so proud of this movie. I’m just so honored to be a part of it…And then to have scenes with Pete where I’m talking to you about your dad and knowing your real story was just so special and meaningful. It was just a privilege.”
Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures
Apatow previously spoke to EW about how important it was for him and Davidson to pay tribute to heroes, like Davidson’s dad, Scott, who passed away on 9/11. And speaking from his own experiences, Buscemi feels like they were able to tap into the true world of firefighters unlike any film before it.
“One of the things I appreciated that you guys did was you paid as much attention to what the life was like in the firehouse as to going to a fire,” he explains. “It’s hard to get that right, and I think you guys did it. Firefighters are really funny and they can be brutal with each other and I think that’s captured really well in the film. And so I felt very comfortable. The hardest thing for me is I’m so out of practice, not being around a firehouse, and then to have comedians playing firefighters and [Apatow] would have us improvise and I wouldn’t know what to say, like I couldn’t keep up and you’d have to throw me a line or Pete would pull me aside and tell me what to say.”
In the end, Buscemi’s biggest question was whether he looked convincing when Papa’s crew arrived at a fire. “I thought it was good,” he says of the scene. “I was watching myself, because I’ve been off the job for so long. I was just more concerned that I looked like I knew what I was doing.”