'Ray Donovan' Star on Surprising Return: It's All About Revenge

"His first instinct is to get even with Ray as hard as he can," returning player Hank Azaria tells THR.
Courtesy of Greg Gayne/SHOWTIME

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from "The Octopus" episode of Ray Donovan.]

The Donovans might have been busy celebrating Bunchy's (Dash Mihok) big wedding during Sunday's "The Octopus" episode of Showtime's Ray Donovan, but behind the scenes a former foe reemerged in a big way. 

When viewers last saw Ed Cochran (Hank Azaria) in the season two finale, he had been disgraced, thanks to the controversial sex video Ray (Liev Schreiber) leaked in a fit of rage after learning Kate McPherson (Vinessa Shaw) had been killed. 

Turns out, the fall from grace hasn't exactly been graceful for the former Los Angeles FBI chief; his latest gig is proving himself as the rookie at a corporate security firm. The same firm that's been hired to dig into Paige (Katie Holmes), Mr. Finney (Ian McShane) and the NFL deal they're trying to close alongside Ray. 

To find out what's next after Cochran's return and realization that he may finally have an opportunity to take down Ray, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Azaria to get the scoop. 

Did you know you were returning to the role last year?

I actually really pestered them to bring me back, and I never do that. It looked like they were, and then as happens it seemed like the way the storylines were going it was not going to happen this season. Then they changed their minds at the last minute and decided to bring me into a storyline. I think they genuinely didn't know they were writing to that and they surprised themselves a little bit. That made it even more of a surprise. 

What was it about Cochran that you wanted to keep playing?

He walks the line between being ... not sympathetic but relatable in many ways and completely in his own sociopathic stratosphere on the other hand. I guess sociopaths relate to him a lot. [New showrunner] David Hollander was in charge of creating the character last season, and he wrote all the major episodes I did, so it's sad to say for David, he seems to have a deep understanding of the guy. I try to be surprising with him and try different things. He's so out of social convention. He doesn't care how he's coming off. He really only cares about people, he doesn't care about people too much. When you're given that license to not give a shit about your fellow human beings, it's fun. I try to most make the other actor in the scene feel uncomfortable and off-balance. I do subtle weird things that are unexpected on each take so that it never seems like the same guy they're dealing with. 

Will audiences find out in more detail what's happened since his fall from grace?

They will! He opens up to Ray, if open up is the right term. He tells him what his life has been like in this harsh and ridiculous moment. You definitely get a window. Here you see where you find him and in the next episode he tells Ray what life's been like. 

Will that include an update on Cochran's wife, Donna (Sherilyn Fenn)? 

We will definitely catch up with where they are currently at, let me put it that way. 

Does he still blame Ray when Cochran comes across his name in the paperwork during the episode's final moments?

It's an overwhelming moment. It's heavily emotional; Cochran believes Ray Donovan  to some extent he should, but it's all out of proportion  for the state he's in. It brings up a lot of hurt and anger. You'll see in the next episode what his plan is based on that information. He definitely forms a plan. 

What can you say about Ray and Cochran's first confrontation?

It's all under the surface, they're mostly talking in a professional context, where neither one can kind of reveal the history they have with each other. So it's all very under the surface. Is awkward the right word? Awkward to the point of dangerous. What are these people going to do to each other and when are they going to find the time to do it? They're certainly not happy to run into each other. Although maybe Cochran is because he does see an opportunity to get even in some way. 

What does getting even mean in his books?

His first instinct is to get even with Ray as hard as he can, in whatever way he can. He racks his brain to figure out how to do that. It's not readily apparent. The one thing Cochran is really good at  maybe the only thing he's good at  is figuring out how to press buttons and put people in really bad situations. The FBI consultant on the show who I spoke to said there are guys  Cochran's probably at the far end of the spectrum  these guys aren't this murderous and sociopathic, but there are definitely some guys who are major, major assholes. They took incredible pride in the way they were able to rig investigation, in the way they were able to stack the deck in their favor and use people as chess pieces. Cochran definitely falls in that category.

What about the fact that he also knows about Ray and Mickey's (Jon Voight) big secret?

Oh yeah. The advantage Cochran has is that Ray's already shot his wad. He's used on Cochran what he can use. He pulled that trigger, so now Cochran has the advantage because he hasn't returned that favor yet. 

If the potential were there for you to stick around in season four, would you take it?

In a heartbeat. I haven't much in my career gotten to play guys like this. I'm really enjoying it. 

Ray Donovan airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime. Were you surprised by Cochran's return? What do you think it means for Ray and the NFL deal? Sound off in the comments below. 

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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