Michael Zegen plays “Bugsy” Siegel on “Boardwalk Empire,” which is it its final season and airs on HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m.
Read our exclusive interview with Michael below:
Q: “Boardwalk Empire” is coming to an end this season. Can you reflect on your experiences this season?
A: This season they gave me a lot to do which was nice. I have always been a part of it here and there; I have had some great scenes. I did the scene where they put the hit out on Bobby Cannavale’s character and I got to shoot up a hotel. It’s a great character but since the time jump, I think it’s seven years ahead since last season, my character has really come into his own and taken charge a little bit more so that’s great for me because I get to do more than I had originally anticipated. It’s been great; I got to do a scene with (Steve) Buscemi, which I think as an actor that is all you can pretty much ask for. It’s been great.
Q: How did you first get involved in the show?
A: Well I just auditioned for it. I auditioned for the pilot and I auditioned for Michael Pitt’s character Jimmy Darmody, I auditioned for Luciano, and later on in the year I auditioned for Meyer Lansky which I got very close on, but unfortunately didn’t end up getting. But then the next year, I got a call that they were casting for Bugsy Siegel and I got really excited and nailed it I guess.
Q: And what do you love about your character Bugsy?
A: I mean, he is just a livewire. He is crazy. He is just a fun character to play, he is pretty much nothing like me and nothing like characters I have played in recent years. Lately, I have been playing a bunch of nice guys and he is anything but a nice guy so it’s refreshing.
Q: Speak about playing such an infamous and notorious character. Were there any challenges playing it?
A: It is an interesting character. You want to be evil but at the same time you want to be human. Like as an actor you are always trying to find honesty within the portrayal. I don’t know anything about that time of life so it is hard trying to be honest. It was more fun than challenging. I didn’t see it as a challenge to be quite honest; I like to have fun a bit. I was trying to think what a challenge would be. When he kills people it is kind of sick but it is all make believe so it doesn’t really matter. I think it is just more fun than challenging, I didn’t really see it as a challenge.
Q: What was your mindset like when playing your character? How did you prepare yourself to play him?
A: I’m not one of these actors who writes a journal about his character, I kind of just do what’s on the page. I read what’s on the page and just kind of do it. In terms of preparation, I did do research early on about him, what a bad dude he was, but it’s really all in the writing. I just go with the flow to be quite honest.
Q: “Boardwalk Empire” is known for its great storytelling as well as being historically accurate. What kind of research was put in for your character?
A: When I first got the part they gave me some books and some DVD’s to watch. I did all that but there wasn’t that much information about his early life, about his teen years, and when I first got the character he was supposed to be like 16. In a way I just made it my own, but again it really speaks volumes to the writing. It’s all there on the page and that just pretty much informs me on what I am supposed to do. It was definitely collaborative, but ultimately the writers have the upper hand and can do whatever they want.
Q: What was it like working with Steve Buscemi?
A: He is awesome. That really was a dream come true because I really idolize him in a way. He has the career that I think a lot of actors aspire to have. He writes his own stuff, he directs his own stuff, he works with all the best directors, he works in all the best movies, and on top of all that, he is a really nice guy. It was pretty much a dream come true.
Q: Another great thing about the show is its amazing costumes. Talk a little bit about the costumes on the show.
A: The costumes are amazing. I was actually able to walk away with a few of my suits, which was really nice of them. They are tailored specific to my body so I don’t know who else would be wearing them, I guess they could make alterations or whatever, but the costumes are really incredible. The sets are really incredible. You literally walk on that soundstage and you are transported back in time and it’s really amazing. And it helps you in terms of getting into character. The minute you put on that suit, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in the 1920’s an1930’s.
Q: What do you love about the medium of TV versus film? What are some differences between the two?
A: I like it all. I like TV, I like film, I like theater. Each one is very different. I guess one of the added bonuses of TV is that it comes out sooner. It does sometimes feel bit more rushed with TV because you have this schedule and each episode has to take probably around ten days to film a whole episode so it’s like you are on this very rigorous schedule and they are filming multiple scenes every day. And in my experience in film it has been a little more relaxed. I did the movie “Frances Ha” and there was one scene where we did 60 takes in the course of two days – the same scene – so that I don’t think would ever happen in television. And then theater is just an entirely different beast all together. That’s real hard work right there, but at the same time you are rewarded with this immediate gratification because the audience is right there. Everything has its pluses and minuses
Q: What can you tell us about your upcoming film “Brooklyn” which has an amazing cast too!
A: That’s a beautiful script. I actually have a very small part in that but I wanted to do it anyway because I fell in love with the script. And the director, this guy John Crowley, which I have seen his movie “Boy A” which has Andrew Garfield, he is an Irish director. “Boy A” was amazing so I was like, ’Ok, let me take this chance,’ and like I said the script was great. It is about this Irish immigrant who moves to Brooklyn in the 1950’s and it is based on a book. But I think it is going to be wonderful. And it was filmed in Montreal and I have never been to Montreal before so I figured, ‘Why not?’
Q: Is there anything else you would like fans to know? Or something exclusive about “Boardwalk Empire” you would like to share?
A: This upcoming episode of “Boardwalk Empire” is going to be pretty great I think. The most you will ever see of my character. The most of Benny Siegel you will ever see yet, so I am very excited it. So the whole world can see it.