In HBO Canada’s new period drama, Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi portrays politician/rum-runner Nucky Thompson in Prohibition-era Atlantic City.

The actor, creator Terence Winter and director Martin Scorsese break down the man:

“We wanted to think outside the box from the real Nucky,” Winter says of casting the character. “If we wanted to cast a physical archetype, Jim Gandolfini sort of resembled him. But, you know, Marty (Scorsese) and I said, ‘Let’s forget about what the guy looked like and let’s just look for the most interesting choice.’”

“There’s something that’s very, very strong on the camera with Steve as a character,” Scorsese adds.

“(Nucky) certainly has a dark side, but there’s certainly a lot of humor that goes along with it,” says Buscemi. “I think he genuinely has a good heart and that he wants to — I mean, I believe that he generally wants to share the wealth and ... see people prosper. I’m sure part of that was also getting reelected, but I have to believe that there’s something in him that wants to do good.”

“(Nucky) likes being a politician, and he likes being a leader,” says Buscemi. “He is presented with this opportunity now with Prohibition, and you’re either on the trolley or you can be put six feet under.”

“He’s a pragmatist, too,” adds Scorsese. “He’s practical. He’s put in the position of being a treasurer. Yet the treasurer runs the city in a sense, and ultimately … you make a deal. You figure out how much sin you can live with.”

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