Is Ray gone forever? Award-winning actor Liev Schreiber recently opened up to us about returning to the Ray Donovan world for Ray Donovan: The Movie, sharing why the one-off movie, premiering on Showtime, Friday, January 14, is ultimately an origin story. But that’s not all he had to say.
Below, Schreiber reflects on the return to his title character, a problem-fixer to the rich, famous, and often crooked, for a film that wraps up the storyline left dangling when the show was abruptly canceled in 2020.
After the show was canceled, did you initially want to do a Ray Donovan movie?
Liev Schreiber: No, I didn’t want to do a Ray Donovan movie. I loved that it was episodic. But when we got the word from Showtime that it was canceled, I felt like we hadn’t completed the narrative and that we owed it to the fans — and the characters — to finish the story in a way that felt more conclusive.
Many fans thought that there should have been a miniseries, instead of a film.
I was tired. I had been doing it at that point for seven or eight years. It wasn’t terrible news to me, but I was so moved by the outpouring of love and support from the fans. When you do a television show and you’re in people’s living rooms for that long, there are relationships that you develop with the audience that you don’t know about. It was just so overwhelming too, in a good way, to hear the fans say that they were going to miss us and that they wanted the story to finish. That really felt like something that we needed to pursue for them and for ourselves.
Why did you decide to co-write the movie as well as star in it?
David Hollander [executive producer] asked me to. I think I was scared initially because it felt like a lot of responsibility, but I also felt it was one of those things that would be valuable to try and do.
You had also written what turned out to be the series finale. Which is harder for you, acting or writing?
Writing. It takes the kind of detail I already had, but I was worried about the structure of the piece. But, I enjoyed it and I’m really proud of the script.
The show has many flashbacks to the young Ray (Chris Gray) and his father Mickey as a young man (Bill Heck). It seems that even more than the series, the movie is about fathers and sons in the persons of Mickey and Ray. And fathers and daughters, in the case of Ray and Bridget (Kerris Dorsey). You might say fundamentally, it’s about the sins of the father.
I think at one point we actually talked about The Sins of the Father as a title. But it was just too on the nose. The idea of inherited pain had resonated with all of us as cast members. The trauma that, unaddressed, creeps through the generations. It examined the perils of containing and repressing it, which for me, was a big part of who Ray was and what drove his violence.
Where are Ray, his brothers, and Bridget when the movie opens?
Not much time has elapsed. We’re at the wake for Bridget’s husband Smitty [Graham Rogers], who was killed trying to make a deal for Mickey.
This turns into Bridget’s story in a way as well then?
Yeah. In many ways, she’s the heir to the throne. Bridget was always my compass in the Donovan family — the place for all his hopes. In many ways, she was seemingly the least traumatized of them all. So, maybe she could guide this family forward somehow.
We see the initial budding relationship between Ray and Abby in her father’s bar when he was with his [first] girlfriend. Abby asks why he’s with her. And Ray suddenly recognized that “Yeah, that’s a good question.” And he kind of realizes that he’s looking at his future.
That bar is also where we’ll see the beginning of Ray, the Hollywood fixer, right? We’ll see actor Sean Walker (played by Chris Petrovski) get into some bad trouble.
Ezra, the character Elliot Gould played, was Sean’s manager back then and you’ll find out how Ray’s relationship with Ezra [who he later worked for] starts.
When we last saw Mickey, after the shootout that killed Smitty, he had stock worth millions from the coffers of his wealthy onetime partner-in-crime, the late “Sully” Sullivan, whom Ray had killed last season in revenge for his raping his sister that led to her suicide. Where does that thread go?
Mickey makes a run for it, and he decides to go back to Boston and his old mob contacts to see if he can sell the paper. Ray sets out to track him down.
There’s so much tragedy in the series and the movie. Can any of the Donovans find happiness? Perhaps Bunchy (Dash Mihok)?
Aside from Bunchy’s kind of innocent and open nature, he tried to talk it through in therapy. I guess Ray tried that too, but he never made it. He might still get there. I’d like to see Ray make it [to happiness].
Is there still life for the Donovans on TV?
I’m probably done with the Donovans, but I like to think that they could go on.
With Bridget as the head of the family?
Well, in the meantime, you have several projects. You’re starring in the movie adaption of Ernest Hemingway’s novel Across the River and Into the Trees. And you just finished a film in the UK, too?
Golda, a film about [onetime Israeli Prime Minister] Golda Meir starring Helen Mirren. I play [Richard Nixon’s controversial Secretary of State] Henry Kissinger. I met him; he’s 98 and incredibly lucid.
Ray Donovan: The Movie, Premiere, Friday, January 14, 9/8c, Showtime