BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – When Liev Schreiber talks about Ray Donovan – both the show and his title character – it’s an exercise in both reticence and eloquence.
Schreiber’s responses sometimes can be clipped. He seems to prefer answering questions that way. For example, here are some of the exchanges that occurred during a recent scrum with several reporters at the Television Critics Association event:
Q: Has the success of Ray Donovan changed how the entertainment industry perceives you?
Schreiber: “I don’t know. Probably.”
Q: This character seems very different than you are in real life. How do you get into it?
Schreiber: “I put on the clothes.”
Q: Does the darkness of this series affect you sometimes?
Schreiber: “Yes. Yes.”
Q: How do you get over that?
Schreiber: “I stop. When the season is over, I get to go home.”
Q: But then is it hard when a new season begins for those character traits to re-emerge?
Schreiber: “Well, they have to. For my job.”
But the funny thing about Schreiber – whose series currently is airing its second season, Sundays on The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada, and on channel-of-origin Showtime in the U.S. – is that when you do happen to catch him with a question that piques his interest, he can be very engaging.
The drama series Ray Donovan tells the story of Ray, whose job is to make problems disappear for the rich and famous in Los Angeles. But the biggest complication of all for Ray is his dangerous wildcard of a father, Mickey, played by Jon Voight, whose re-emergence continues to shake the Donovan family to its core.
I asked Schreiber, “Is there an avenue out of this life for Ray? Do you see an avenue for him to get out?”
“I hope he has an avenue out,” Schreiber said. He paused. Then he added, “And I hope it’s not fatal.
“But he’s deep in. He clearly is a really, really damaged, really, really hurt character. That kind of pain is hard to recover from. It’s a lifetime of pain.
“I, as much as anyone else, wonder how you unravel something like that. And I think that’s sort of at the heart of what this show is. How do you unravel your pain? How do you open yourself back up to the world?”
With a lot of difficulty and violence and misdirected anger and acting out, if the series is any indication.
“I have some things in common with Ray,” said the 46-year-old Schreiber, an acclaimed stage and screen actor whose television exposure was comparatively very limited prior to Ray Donovan. “I love my kids. I’d do anything for them. I just think that Ray is put in slightly more extreme situations than I am.
“I’m not a violent person and I think Ray is a violent person. I’m not a hyper-sexual person and I think Ray is a hyper-sexual person.
“But he looks like me.”
There we are, back to the one-line quips.
Notably, it sounds as if Schreiber exhibits much the same personality with his cast-mates. Schreiber directed one of the upcoming episodes in season two of Ray Donovan, and the way he described the endeavor, it turned out to be something of a “getting to know you” project.
“The outstanding experience of (directing the episode) was the way in which the cast and the crew came to my rescue,” Schreiber said. “I never felt so supported, so appreciated, and so lucky as I did during that week and a half working with this cast and crew.
“I’m sort of a quiet person at work. When I’m playing a character, I stay kind of in the boundaries of the character, and I don’t talk a lot. So you don’t get to know people.
“But when you direct, you really get to know people. You really know where they’re coming from, and I was very moved by the support of my peers on this one. It was a very special feeling, because I could tell immediately that they all wanted me to succeed.”
Success comes in many forms, and actions speak louder than words. Both cliches, yes. But all things considered, wherever the middle is between reticent and eloquent, that’s where Liev Schreiber of Ray Donovan resides.