‘Miracle Workers’ Star Steve Buscemi Talks about Signing on to Play God

     February 7, 2019

miracle-workers-steve-buscemi-interviewIf someone asks you if you’d like to interview God, you say, “Yes!” We had the chance to do just that for TBS’ new heaven-set workplace comedy Miracle Workers. The limited series hails from Man Seeking Woman creator and showrunner Simon Rich as an adaptation of his book, “What in God’s Name.” The show seeks to turn the perception of heaven on its head while also making the case that humans are worth saving. Leading this story is Daniel Radcliffe as Craig, a low-level angel responsible for handling all of humanity’s prayers. Steve Buscemi plays Craig’s boss, God, who has pretty much checked out to focus on petty hobbies. To prevent Earth’s destruction, Craig and fellow angel Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan) must answer a seemingly impossible prayer: help two humans, Laura and Sam (played by Sasha Compere and Jon Bass), fall in love.

Guest stars Tituss Burgess, Margaret Cho, Angela Kinsey, Tim Meadows, John Reynolds, Lolly Adefope and Chris Parnell appearing throughout the season. Look for Miracle Workers on TBS starting February 12th!

During a visit to the Atlanta-area set with a small group of journalists, we had a chance to chat with God himself, Steve Buscemi. The Golden Globe-winning multi-hyphenate talked about this particular take on God, what drew him to the role, just what this God’s plans are for Earth and the humans who live on it, and why God’s thinking about scrapping the whole thing and moving onto another project.

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Image via TBS

So, God, that’s a nice gig. How do you do research?

Steve Buscemi: I read the script. It’s all in the character that’s created by Simon Rich and so that’s how. But it’s an interesting portrayal of this character that we’ve seen in various incarnations before. Apparently he’s a little more childish, he’s a little more spoiled and kind of unsure of himself.

What kind of approach, as an actor, do you have for this absolute to be a little more flawed?

Buscemi: I’m certainly used to playing flawed characters, so it just feels like it’s right. I wouldn’t want to play, you know, like we’re filming the Bible. I would not want to play God. But this is Simon Rich’s Bible. It’s fun to play the God.

How did the two of you find this particular angle or personality, or performance, for this version of God?

Buscemi: I mean, it was on the page. I guess you know, in the pilot, it was directed by Jorma Taccone, so I first met with him and we talked about it a lot, and we then met Simon. I mean, for me, he’s very human, and therefore he makes mistakes, and maybe it explains if Heaven is a corporation, then the guy at the top is is distracted or is not interested, or he’s in over his head, then maybe that explains why things on Earth are sometimes chaotic and seem random and sometimes a mess. And yet there’s also a lot of beauty and I think that does come from his … He’s got a sweetness to him as well.

What is the problem with the corporation? Is it lack of capital investment or lack of focus on the core of what the company’s supposed to be doing, or are you just overwhelmed by the market?

Buscemi: I think you have a guy at the top that just kind of is overwhelmed, and technology on Earth seems to have surpassed the technology in Heaven. So that’s a quandary. He’s not that interested in upgrading or putting any more capital into it. I think he thought it would be fun to have his own planet and realizes that it’s a lot harder than it looks and he’s just sort of trying to keep his head. He’s faking a lot. But he does enjoy being the boss but I don’t think he really understands what it means.

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Image via TBS

Is the dilemma about getting rid of our Earth, taking a weight off versus what you do with people there?

Buscemi: It’s so he could move on to his next project. It seems like people are complaining so much that maybe, maybe it’s not a good idea, so let’s scrap the whole thing, and he wants to move on.

Does your character have any sort of personal relationships with either his immediate underlings or the people on Earth? Or is he sort of just removed from that and doing his own thing?

Buscemi: He’s had various prophets along the way on Earth that he’s tried to befriend, and he always seems to go somewhere. They either want too much from him or they take the relationship too seriously.

Sanjay is his kind of right-hand person and also Rosie, to some extent. She works at the front desk. But other than that, I think they sort of maybe purposely seclude him from the rest of the company even though there’s plenty of people in the company that know what he’s like, but they think it would just really be bad for morale if they really knew what this guy is up to. So he’s lonely, in fact.

I haven’t read the book, but the description of what God looked like, how much was from the book and how much was from what Simon created?

Buscemi: It was really Simon creating, well Simon and Jorma and myself a little bit and the costumers. I don’t think anybody felt we had to be married to what the book was. But we know that we don’t have to look disheveled and sort of like a guy who has sort of lost interest in his appearance. So whatever that meant to everybody, that’s what we went with. And also a guy that used to [be the best]. He’s kind of like a faded rock star.

You mentioned that this is a God who’s lonely. In so many ways, he’s unlike the God that a lot of people were either brought up with or have imagined, because this is someone who’s not really that hung up on being worshiped or loved by humans, right? If he’s just going to shut things down?

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Image via TBS

Buscemi: Well, I think he did like it when humans used to sacrifice rams to him. I think he did like that, I think he does have an ego that needs to be stroked. And I think that’s part of the situation. More people, it seems like he’s getting less popular. So he kind of keeps his inner circle really small and they feed his ego whether he knows it or not.

How are you managing directing versus acting right now?

Buscemi: It depends on the project. Directing is, it’s a lot harder to get things off the ground. Still trying, but yeah. It just seems like the acting stuff comes up more readily, so … Some really great projects that are hard to turn down.

Is it a physical part at all for God, or is he more just kind of trapped in his office?

Buscemi: He doesn’t get out too much. His office is huge. You could wander around there all day. You could spend a thousand years in his office, it goes by like that.

Where’s the elevator go?

Buscemi: The elevator … I don’t know what his apartment looks like. But I hear he’s got a great apartment. So the elevator goes to his inner sanctum. Above.

But we don’t see it.

Buscemi: We don’t.

We heard that the comedy on the show was very kind, not mean-spirited or harsh or cynical.

Buscemi: I feel like the characters have, I mean, it’s very funny. It is very comedic, but I think all the characters are based in a reality, and people’s personalities play into it a lot. It’s a real character piece, and it’s about relationships. So, in that way, yeah I would say it’s very human, and there is an inherent sweetness to it. You know, there’s a lot of backbiting that goes on, but I don’t think the overall tone is mean-spirited, no.

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