Emmys: On the Set of 'Ray Donovan' With Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight
An afternoon on the Culver City set of Showtime's highest-rated freshman drama, created by Emmy winner Ann Biderman, showcases a prestigious mix of veteran talent in front of and behind the camera.
This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
"OK, last shot this direction. Let's move on to Liev!"
Wearing a cheerful pink Oxford shirt that belies his work on such dark dramas as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, director Dan Attias offers the commanding announcement inside stage 26 on the Sony lot, where today he is deep into helming the fifth episode of Ray Donovan's second season. It's shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, April 11, and the cast and crew are hard at work on the Showtime drama about a Boston-bred L.A. "fixer" Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) and the havoc wreaked by his criminal father (Golden Globe winner Jon Voight) on his and his troubled brothers' lives. As Attias repositions in front of the monitor, he asks for another take of a dialogue-heavy scene featuring actors Hank Azaria and Vinessa Shaw, both new for season two, inside the office of Ray's father-figure adviser Ezra Goodman (Elliott Gould). Today's episode explores the wreckage caused by the death of the Whitey Bulger-inspired mobster character Sully (James Woods) during season one.
"How do we top that?" jokes showrunner Ann Biderman of the challenge of topping that first season, which scored Showtime's biggest ratings to date for a freshman series (the Sept. 22 finale drew more than 2 million viewers). "I'm amazed by the reception the show has had," she says.
Biderman, who has had a busy feature-film writing career (Primal Fear, Public Enemies) and numerous TV credits (NYPD Blue, Southland), worked with prolific Emmy-winning executive producer Mark Gordon (Grey's Anatomy) to get Ray off the ground. "It wasn't a typical 'Hollywood P.I.' show," says Gordon. "It's violent, funny and touching. It works because the writing is strong and the actors bring the characters to life in an entertaining yet grounded way."
At about 1:45 p.m., Schreiber and Voight stand in bright sunlight and watch a team of chefs whip up today's lunch of teriyaki chicken, Hawaiian-style poke and Turkish coffee. "It's the best catering in the biz!" says Schreiber, exuding 100 percent more enthusiasm than is allowed by his stern character. Voight, who won a supporting actor Globe for his portrayal of Ray's charming criminal father, Mickey, agrees and is amazed by his professional renaissance. "I never knew my career would be revitalized by dancing around in a towel," he jokes. "I thoroughly enjoy Mickey's inappropriateness."