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A version of this story first appeared in the April 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Steve Buscemi is moving from Atlantic City boardwalks to New York City streets. The Boardwalk Empire star has sold to AOL his unscripted web series Park Bench, which will feature Buscemi (WME, Gotham, George Sheanshang) and his titular bench in a variety of locations throughout his hometown, talking to everyday New Yorkers as well as celebrity friends.
“It’s about Steve’s relationship with New York,” says AOL Studios head Gabriel Lewis. “He’s bringing his voice and point of view to it.”
The concept was inspired by a series of RadicalMedia-produced videos that Buscemi shot with Vampire Weekend last spring to promote the band’s American Express Unstaged concert. In one video, Buscemi talks to carpenter Geo Orlando on a park bench. Explains Buscemi, “We just hit it off. We came up with the idea that Geo and I talk to people on park benches.”
What resulted was Park Bench, which follows Buscemi and Orlando through the streets of New York and draws inspiration from talk show icons Dick Cavett and Joe Franklin.
“I don’t know that I’m a great interviewer, but I do like to talk to people,” says Buscemi. “We just want to make it conversational.”
RadicalMedia and Buscemi’s Olive Productions are producing Park Bench, which began shooting its 12-episode season in March and will premiere in mid-May under the AOL Originals banner. FremantleMedia International will distribute the project overseas.
“It was a no-brainer to go to AOL with it,” says Justin Wilkes, president of media and entertainment for RadicalMedia. “They were incredibly enthusiastic about it. They’ve been great partners, capturing the spontaneity of the everyday life of Steve and just putting it out there.”
Park Bench is part of AOL’s upcoming slate of original series, to be announced in full at NewFronts in New York on April 29. Among the shows debuting is AOL’s first long-form video series Connected, AOL announced Tuesday. Adapted from an Israeli format, the half-hour documentary series will follow the lives of five New Yorkers. It is slated to premiere in January 2015.
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