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Steve Buscemi in the FDNY in the early 1980s

Steve Buscemi FDNY
Steve Buscemi FDNY

Actor Steve Buscemi has had a long and storied career. From Mr. Pink in “Reservoir Dogs” to Carl Showalter in “Fargo” to Tony B in “The Sopranos,” Buscemi has done it all. But what you may not know is that before he was an actor, Steve Buscemi was a firefighter in the FDNY.

He served in the FDNY from 1980 to 1984, leaving when his acting career took off. He has spoken fondly of his time among firefighters, but described himself as the quiet, nervous guy on the team. 

Despite leaving the department in ’84, Buscemi returned when he needed to. The day after 9/11, Buscemi volunteered to work 12 hour shifts to help his fellow firefighters and locate survivors. According to reports, Buscemi did not give interviews, asked the press to not take his picture, and wore a mask to avoid drawing attention to himself. He made sure not to turn his service into a publicity event.  

He continued to help when he could. In 2003, he was arrested for protesting fire department closures in New York City. In 2012, Steve Buscemi helped the FDNY with Hurricane Sandy clean-up. 

Buscemi has generally been pretty quiet about his involvement with the fire department. He prefers to do the work for the work, not the press. But in 2020’s “The King of Staten Island” by Judd Apatow starring Pete Davidson, Buscemi was able to revisit his early job. He was cast as the head of the fire department where Davidson’s character was staying. 

“The King of Staten Island” ended up being a very personal story on multiple levels. It deals with the real of story of Davidson coping with the loss of his father on 9/11, and his strained relationship with the fire department. The movie also cast many real firefighters to play the roles. 

It was also personal for Buscemi, who has dedicated a lot to the FDNY. His conversation with Davidson about his father becomes even more powerful, as both actors are working from real, lived experiences. Check out this featurette below to see Buscemi and Davidson filming at the real fire station:

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