News Column

Liev Schreiber takes on tough TV role in Showtime's 'Ray Donovan'

June 29, 2013

YellowBrix

June 29--LOS ANGELES -- Film actor Liev Schreiber takes on his first lead television role with the new Showtime series "Ray Donovan."

Donovan is a Los Angeles man called in to make combustible situations go away for the city's celebrities, superstar athletes and business moguls.

Life gets more complicated when his father, Mickey, played by Jon Voight, is unexpectedly released from prison.

The Bee talked to Schreiber about his move to TV and creating the role.

Question: Were there any concerns about starring in a TV show?

Answer: Repeating myself is a thing I've always been terrified of as an actor. The thing that terrifies me about television is that I have to play the same character over and over and over and over again. But, after seeing the pilot, I kind of got it in my head that this is an interesting way to work. That you can watch something grow alongside of it. In other words, it's not the same. Unlike the play where it's the same material and what you are doing is playing with and improvising new takes on the same language, that you actually get to grow a character over time.

I think I'm excited about that process. I'm excited about that. I'm scared, but I'm excited about it. It seems interesting.

Why is this TV show different?

There aren't many ways to do things that haven't already been done on television. The writing is deeply investigative spiritually, emotionally, physically in every way. And then putting together a group of actors that we felt maybe the television audience hadn't seen anything quite like this before.

Everything's a trope in TV now. Everything is a cliche. It's just about how you execute. And to get this caliber of writing and combine it with this caliber of acting, hopefully, if we can maintain that, given the schedules that television presents you with, I think it's going to be pretty remarkable.

How do you relate to the role?

I actually grew up in the Lower East Side of New York in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighborhood. First, mostly Puerto Rican, and then, when I moved to the West Side, it was almost entirely Irish. So they're fairly familiar as subjects. Southies, I've always been fascinated with because it's an incredibly interesting, colorful, complex neighborhood. It wasn't hard for me. My father's Scotch Irish so it's not an entirely blind spot for me.

Ray is a man of few words. Was that a plus?

The older I get, the more I look for less lines. I think that's probably one of the things that drew me to Ray as a character is that he didn't talk much. It's a nice quality. For me, as someone who feels compelled to talk more than I should in many situations, it's very healthy for me to play a character like this.

Was there any special training for the role?

No. I've done all of that before.

SHOW INFO

"Ray Donovan," 10 p.m. today on Showtime.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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