Ray Donovan (Showtime): What to Expect

Ray Donovan - Showtime

Showtime’s new series, Ray Donovan, premieres this summer on Sunday, June 30 at 10pm. The cast, including Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Elliott Gould, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Pooch Hall, as well as creator Ann Biderman, and executive producers Mark Gordon and Bryan Zuriff, were on hand at last month’s TCA 2013 to discuss what people can expect from the first season.

Want to know what Ray Donovan is about? Here is a brief synopsis from the official website:

Set in the sprawling mecca of the rich and famous, Ray Donovan does the dirty work for LA’s top power players. The one-hour drama series stars Liev Schreiber as the go-to guy who makes the problems of the city’s elite disappear.

Here are a few more things we learned at the event:

Liev Schreiber may not be an Irish Catholic, but he plays one on TV. Asked about how he prepared for his role in the series, Schreiber said, “I actually grew up in the Lower East Side of New York in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighborhood. First, mostly Puerto Rico, and then, when I moved to the West Side, it was almost entirely Irish. So they’re fairly familiar as subjects. I’ve always been fascinated with because it’s an incredibly interesting, colorful, complex neighborhood. It wasn’t hard for me. You know, my father’s Scotch Irish.”

Liev Schreiber was terrified to be on a television show before he decided to do this show. “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 [a] play where it’s the same material and what you are doing is, kind of, 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.”

Elliott Gould always wanted to be a successful business person. “I’ve always wanted to be a very successful businessperson. I didn’t do that, but [I am] able to be a successful businessperson in this story. He has a little bit [of] dementia. So I’m a business person who has a little bit of dementia, but I’m very successful, and I wanted to see what it felt like.”

Being able to play such great villains helped Jon Voight get the part. “I’ve played some pretty strange characters, and people come up to me constantly and say, ‘You know, you play such a great villain.’ So probably some of that work landed me this part, but it’s a very complex character, Mickey, and there’s quite a lot to come from him. He’s a dangerous fellow to himself and to others, but he’s got a lot of dimension. So I’m really very challenged, and I’m excited to be playing the part.”

Ann Biderman did all kinds of crazy stuff to research this story. “I know a number of private investigators and did a tremendous amount of research and did extensive interviews with people. I’ve gone on stakeouts. I’ve [done] all kinds of crazy stuff. I followed people. I’m a great believer in research. So I spent quite a bit of time trying to understand the world.”

Just because the main character has a fatal flaw, don’t think the show is a cliché. Asked about the number of TV shows on the air that feature a flawed main character and whether she was worried this one would get lost as another cliché, Biderman said, “I think a cliché is a cliché, and a trope is how it’s done. Hopefully, we’ve done it well. But things are popular for a reason. There’s just different methods of telling a story, and I think to have a character who can excel at something and yet has a fatal flaw that is tied into that isn’t gratuitous to me. I think it’s how you do it, and hopefully, we’ve done it in a way that elevates it a bit and gets above the cliché.”

Responding to the same question, Schreiber added, “There aren’t many ways to do things that haven’t already been done on television. So one of the things that I was thinking about [is that] it’s not about what, it’s about how. Pretty early on, when I met with Ann and Mark and I was fortunate enough to be able to talk about casting, and I guess the first ‘how’ was Ann’s writing, was writing that 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 is a cliché. 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, but that was the idea. It’s not ‘what’; it’s ‘how.’ ”

The show will be more serialized than procedural, so don’t expect a lot of stand-alone episodes. Asked about the format of the show Biderman said, “I never saw this as being procedural particularly. So one of the great things about telling a story in this form is that you can serialize it; that it’s like writing a novel. So there are certain things that are resolved, but it unfolds over this huge canvas, and I think that’s what’s so thrilling about it. So, no, I don’t think many of them will stand alone.”

Expect there to be some surrealistic parts in the show. Asked about a particular moment in the pilot that was more fantasy than reality, Biderman said, “I think it isn’t entirely whimsical. I think there are other surrealistic moments that will come down the pike. So I think it was a way to show a character in distress and kind of delve into his fantasies about women. [There are] more to come, but I wouldn’t say it’s a huge element of the show. We use it judiciously, I hope.

What do you think now that you’ve heard more about Ray Donovan from the cast and creator? Are you planning on checking out the series when it premieres on Showtime in June?

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