Jon Voight discusses father and son relationships for the Home Entertainment release of Ray Donovan
RAY DONOVAN, the powerhouse drama that aired exclusively on Sky Atlantic, starring Golden Globe® winner Jon Voight and Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominee Liev Schreiber, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on 2nd June from Paramount Home Media Distribution.
Set in the glamorous, sprawling capital of excess that is Los Angeles, Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber, Defiance) is the best in his business. A fixer with no equal, Ray can make even the most complicated and sensational problems disappear for the right fee. The only problem he can’t fix is his own…
When Ray’s father Mickey (Jon Voight, 24) is unexpectedly released from prison on parole, a chain of events is set off that shakes the Donovan clan, including brothers Terry (Eddie Marsan, Southcliffe) and Bunchy (Dash Mihok, Silver Linings Playbook), to its very core.
Described as ‘Grand Theft Auto meets Entourage’ and lauded by critics across the board, RAY DONOVAN features a stellar ensemble cast including Paula Malcomson (Sons of Anarchy) and Elliott Gould (Ocean’s Eleven) and demands a place in any TV-lover’s collection. Invite Ray into your home on Blu-ray and DVD this June, just in time for Father’s Day.
So Mickey is one of the most interesting fathers-in-law I think, on TV today.
Yeah, and grandfathers.
And grandfathers yeah. He’s a little bit creepy and he has a very interesting relationship with his daughter-in-law. Can you talk a little bit about that? She loved him and then she called him Wolf in this season finale. I wanted to ask about the dynamics of their relationship and how you also think he might slither his way back into the family in Season 2.
They’re writing Season 2 as we speak. So if you have any ideas, I’ll pass it on to the folks. I think he wants to be part of the family. His doorway into the family is his daughter-in-law, who he’s written back and forth, so she’s vulnerable. The kids love him, of course, his grandkids love him. He’s a slippery character. He can be charming when he wishes to be and he uses everything. He’s a survivor, Mickey. So will he find his way back into the family? He will try. I had an idea that I passed on to them. I can’t tell you, because I think they may use it, but the idea that he wants to get through to the kids – the grandchildren – so that he can start nibbling at the family that way, see, getting in the door, giving them gifts. Shall I tell you what it is?
Blow it. I said to give them a dog. I can’t tell you everything about it, but the idea was to remind Ray that he saved his life. Now he saved his life, so he’s going to use that against him, but anyway – he’ll find a way back in. You know, and he’ll be thrown out again, too.
I’m wondering what’s the relationship between Ray and Mickey because you want to get into this family, but it doesn’t work very well.
Yeah, it doesn’t work is right. Mickey is a criminal. His mentality is a criminal. He’s been 20 years in prison. He’s a pretty dangerous guy in many ways, the things he’s carrying, and Ray knows him very well. Of course, Ray has a great hatred for him because of his influence on the family and that was all explained of course in the first season. So very it’s hard to see them getting close in a way, but I don’t – I’m looking forward to the second season to see how they follow through with this character, but he’s a dangerous guy. He can’t lose that danger. It’s not going to be easy for him to change spots. So, I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.
Jon, you’ve been part of movie that now are classics. I want to know if you see yourself as an icon.
As an icon? Oh my God! I hope not. No, I go through a lot of self-questioning about the things that I’ve done in my life and been through. As people get older and when you get as old as I, you look back and you’ve made some mistakes and there’s no way of going back and correcting those mistakes. So it keeps you humble. That’s the positive part. The other part is you have some regrets but no, I don’t consider myself an icon. I’m an actor in my – it’s my vocation. It’s my love to be an actor. Working on “Ray Donovan” is a very happy circumstance at this time of my life as you can imagine. You get something and all of a sudden people are, oh, this guy’s fantastic! This is a new aspect of this character, or whatever it is, and people are excited about my work in this piece. So I’m very grateful for it. There’s a lot – when I’m working on the set of “Ray Donovan,” I’m working with these wonderful people. I don’t know if you’ve seen anybody else. Have you seen anybody today? Did Paula come in here or whatever? Well, Paula Malcomson is – I just saw her outside – and these are people – almost all of these people I haven’t worked with before. I knew Liev and had worked with him a little bit, but nobody else, but these guys are fantastic actors. They’re the real thing. We’re all very much alike. We come to the set. We’re very prepared. We know we have an idea about what we want to accomplish. We want to protect our character and we’re excited and we know the other person on the other side of the camera, or the other actors we’re working with, boy, they’re going to come prepared, too, and they’re going to throw curves at you. I compared it playing at center court at Wimbledon, although I’ve never played at center court at Wimbledon, but I said, if you hit the ball, you’re going to get it back just as fast and with a curve on it. So it’s fun to go to the set with these wonderful talents and I feel very happy to be part of the family, to be one of those actors who cares about his work and brings it when they come to the set.
You’ve done so much in your excellent career so far, but what still challenges you and does anything challenge you with Mickey?
Yeah, well, I’m learning all the time in some sense. And each character’s a new adventure and a new challenge. And with Mickey, I didn’t know how I would do it when I first was given it. I said yes right away. But then I didn’t know how I was going to quite accomplish it. And it’s a series I hadn’t been in before and I found that the circumstance of working on this show with wonderful writers and directors and actors, as I said, these great actors, that was a very comfortable circumstance for me and I was able to accomplish these things – I’m experimental on this. I can’t decide – I don’t even know what I’m going to do. Sometimes I prepare – I prepare as thoroughly as anybody can prepare. And then when I come to the set I throw it all away and I say, what have we got? And then somebody says, well, go do this. And I say, okay. Roll ‘em. And I go and do it. So it’s a good thing, I mean that’s a good way to work. You know, you prepare and then you just say, okay, I’ll go in, listen and talk and see what happens here. It’s a technique in a sense – you know this technique, you shouldn’t be thinking while you’re acting, you just go do it. I‘m learning about Mickey. I’m having a lot of fun and I – when I have a heavy scene to do I very carefully prepare. I’m one of those guys that wants to smell everything and – like an animal – just get the lay of the land and then prepare for that time when they say, action, and we go and do it. I don’t do anything by rote. I try to keep it alive. And I try to save it for that moment when I’m on the set. But anyway, that’s what the other actors do, too.
We worked with Paula and Liev and we each have our own techniques and Paula’s wonderful because she just has this tremendous energy. She’s very spontaneous, Paula. And she says what she thinks all the time – very emotional. She hears some – if something goes on the set that she doesn’t like, boy, she says, let’s go. And not in a negative way, in a good way, she keeps us all going. And she – from one take to another, these are – I’m getting maybe too technical but for me it’s a lot of fun. Paula will never do anything the same way twice. And she – and I’ll say to her well, something about what’s going on. She’ll say, I did that last take. So just let that be and let the editors have it. And I’m like, what about me? But she’s terrific, she’s a fireball, she’s terrific.
And Liev is very much the responsible – he’s the number one on the call sheet, he takes it all, the responsibility very seriously. He’s playing Ray Donovan and the show’s called “Ray Donovan.” So he – it’s almost like he’s fatherly to the project itself and that’s good for the character, too. And he has his own way of working out things. He’s very analytical and then he’s got a lot of power. And I was very excited when he got this role for him because I have seen Liev over the years and most of the time he’s playing the second, third, fourth lead. And he doesn’t have that position to show all his wares so he has to kind of dumb himself down a little to let the other actor have his way. In a sense, he’s just like that or is it – he likes his character, actually he thinks himself as a character actor as we all do in this show by the way. I do, too, I think of myself as a character actor. But this – but I’ve always thought Liev was a leading man. I said, this guy’s got all the ingredients of a leading man. He’s sexy, he’s dangerous, he’s witty, great sense of humor, he’s got great power as an actor and he has that power when he’s quiet. He’s got the stuff. And maybe – he looks at what we’re doing and I have this character that does all this crazy stuff and it’s fun to play and – but I told Liev, I said, Liev, this is great for you. I told him really honestly, it’s great for you, so I said, I know that sometimes you want to do all these other things because you’re a character actor, but look who you are playing. I said, you’re Humphrey Bogart – would you rather be Humphrey Bogart or would you rather be Sydney Greenstreet? I said, you’re Humphrey Bogart. And he has that kind of presence on the set playing this character and I really am a fan of his.
I did want to ask you a big picture question. It occurs to me when you broke into the film industry with directors like John Schlesinger and Hal Ashby were really busting open what it meant to the film industry and a different way of making films. Right now people are talking about a new Golden Age in television and it occurs to me you probably have as good perspective on this as anyone. What exactly is happening in television right now, and do you see any common links between what’s happening now in television and people like John Schlesinger and Hal Ashby?
Yeah. There is a comparison to be made perhaps. When we were working in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, there was a sense among the young artists coming out, those fellows you mentioned and Coppola and Scorsese and those guys, that they wanted to get their hands on film. They had so much to say and they felt that the film industry at that time in the United States had gotten very stale because people were just trying to repeat the successes of the past. And when people talk about the Golden Age of film to me, I think of the ‘40s and ‘30s and I still think that way. I don’t think that that work has been superseded – those were great artists. All the great stars of that time are the real icons for me. And when I say icons I just mean they’re the greatest. Who could really top those personalities? You can name them and they just go almost – Clark Gable and Cary Grant and Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, all these fantastic people who had such wonderful careers. Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy was the best. But then because the moguls had – the original moguls that came from Europe – these gentlemen had a very strong ethic and built the industry. And they controlled it. And they controlled the way the actors were seen, they protected them, they did all these, whatever they did, and they made sure that they had pieces that fit their personalities. So if you got into one of those stables when you were an actor then they would find pieces. They’d get their writing group, who were also tremendous. They had these guys who had these little bungalows next to each other and they’d go from one to another, could you try this? And they’d get a guy like Waldo Salt going into somebody else’s and saying, hey, would you write something on this scene? I can’t seem to crack it. And they’d do it and they’d bring it back to the directors on the set. It was a family. It was an industry but it was a family, each of one these groups. And then they were competing with the other family across the way. 20th Century Fox was competing with Warner Brothers and MGM was fighting their way and they had their stable of great people. The musicals – I mean Gene Kelly and his group and Fred Astaire. It was a magnificent time.
And then the moguls died, they passed on and there was no one who – the buck didn’t stop anywhere. There weren’t these cranky guys in the office being tough and saying, here’s the line, do this, do that. So they didn’t have any guidance and they were left to people who came in and tried to match that kind of passion and stuff but came from another set of circumstances, just different folks. And they kept looking back at those icons and trying to decide who will be the next Cary Grant? Who will be the next this guy and trying to find ways to make what was in the past. And occasionally some broke through. Steve McQueen was a fantastic personality. Paul Newman, I’m mentioning all the men but the women as well – powerful, powerful performers. And they did some great things at that time but it wasn’t that consistant and people started breaking away from the studios and going on their own, guys like Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster were going out on their own and starting their own stuff. And by the time we came up, we were seeing things from all over the world. I was seeing films from Japan, Kurosawa, you know, the post-war energy in Japan. The great new wave in the French cinema and Fellini and de Sica in Italy and Bergman all these – these were the guys. Now they are doing – they’ve got the energy. It was all fresh for them. Whereas in America we got a little stale trying to repeat the past and not having that fresh kind of energy, so it was coming from them. And then we were looking around at what was going on and we wanted to make movies about what was happening. That’s the way I felt. I’m sure it’s the way Dusty(?) felt, and Dusty was my friend earlier on. And so many actors of my generation wanted to break the mold with just a simple thing. I would say an example of that would be everybody used their own names. Cary Grant was – what was his name? It was a funny name.
Archibald Leach, right. Then he changed his name to Cary Grant. But we didn’t want to change our names, you know, it was a simple thing but that was the idea – no, we’re breaking from that. And right up to that point people were just changing their name from any ethnic backgrounds.
Do you see that in TV today though?
No, what’s happening today is we’ve got this – we’ve got a movie industry that went from the energy of the ‘70s into a place where films, successful films, became very muscular in the blockbuster era. And we had the all muscle guys, nothing wrong with the muscle guys, they are talented people, I don’t want to mess with them. But that was it – everything became very muscular and you see the bigger and bigger and that’s what’s we got into. And then they had this new palette given the industry with computer graphics that they could do some stuff that they had never done before. That was an interesting revolution, too. Living in that time now, whatever you can imagine you can really do. And a great masterpiece, “Lord of the Rings,” came out of that. It could never have been done before that. That’s magic. Magical, magnificent piece to me, I am crazy about that piece. But yet the movies just became in the end – to have the security in order to release a picture now – it costs $20 million to release a picture so you have to have the security that it’s going to be received well so you have to have – the best you can do is to put together a group of actors that people really like and that’s not foolproof but it gives you a chance. And the quality of things is not like the moguls when you had these teams of people to make sure the movie was good before it went. Now it’s all up to individual folks or small clusters of people, there’s no final word. But there are guys who know how to do it on a consistent basis, guys like Spielberg and the groups that came out of that.
But what has happened is we’ve gotten away from serious drama and experimentation in films, they can’t afford to do that. So you have to have something really crazy or something that is – you can see one, “Pacific Rim,” or something like that. And there’s nothing wrong – and, by the way, people who make those films are tremendously – they can be very artistic pieces. You see “Gravity” and it’s amazing. You can’t understand how anybody did it, just astounding. And that’s that computer graphics stuff and all of the other technology. But I’m very interested to get that book. You know when they had books come out and they say these films, Bruckheimer, lighting and whatever, I’m waiting for that film to come out for “Gravity” because I don’t know how they did it. It’s just astounding. The weightlessness throughout the picture, you’re really out in space, it’s amazing. But anyway, very – so what happens to the art that requires something else or experimentation and acting performances are as much needed as something else – as stuff in the weight room or something.
You don’t get a chance to exercise your real talent. Your love of acting that we all share is brought down to a minimal level in the major films. You have a couple of minutes on screen. You’ve got to fulfill this thing but the robot has to be – you have to make way for the robot. That’s the – and you don’t get a chance to do some serious work. So that’s what’s happened. What’s happened is that television started focusing on serious drama with serious directors coming into that area like Martin Scorsese doing “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Sopranos” and all of the – so many actors have been discovered in that process. Wow, look at that, look at this – personalities – so it’s become very much like what you’re saying. I agree with what you said. It’s almost like the ‘60s and ‘70s again in that area. The real drama, the real acting – and when you see “Breaking Bad” and you see this guy Bryan, you say, Jesus, this guy is fantastic. And he has a big following, appropriately. And it didn’t have to happen in film. He’s done all his work on television. So there is a renaissance in that area, the cable films, cable pieces. And they can – and the cable pieces on Showtime, HBO and of course you’ve got Netflix now, you’ve got – it’s exploding. When you mention all the great stuff, “Mad Men” on another cable channel. And – I don’t know what I was going to say but it’s an exciting time. It’s an exciting time.
To get back to your character, he is a complex character…
I thought I had gotten us away from the character. I didn’t want to talk about Mickey anymore, don’t you understand that? [Laughter]
He’s been called a scoundrel, a bad guy, slime ball, complex – people get very strong about this character. Do you love that?
Every one of them is right.
Okay. What’s the –?
He is a slime ball. He’s the worst. He’s a mess, Mickey!
But do you love it when people react so strong or what’s the – ?
Yeah. Sure. I must say people apologize for liking him so much. They come up to me and say, Mickey’s so – but, I like him. [Laughs] And I have to say there are certain aspects of Mickey that we like. One of them is – I mean that are likeable – one is that he says what he thinks. He’s not politically correct, certainly, and we like that, you know. He say’s what he thinks and he’s a crazy character and he’s dangerous and sexy and funny and bad, you know, a real bad guy. Anyway, I mean, if he’s in your family you guys are, oh, stay away from Mickey, you know. Boy, I mean, if you saw him walk in this room you would – none of us would want to get too close, you know. He’d probably go, let me have your number! No, I don’t have it with me, my mother has it, and I don’t know where she is.
I’m very curious about this job as a professional fixer, which is the business of Ray Donovan’s character. Have you heard about it? Does it really exist in Hollywood and have you had your own professional fixer?
I am the fixer. There are guys – obviously if you get in trouble, who do you call, you know what I mean? In your own lives, who do you call? You call an uncle who you think has got some connections or somebody who’s wise or you know whatever. Somebody who’ll help you out in a jam, so that – there’s got to be people in Hollywood that are like that and I don’t know that they ever put out a shingle saying, I’m a fixer. But there are guys who are active in that way in Hollywood now, yes. I may need one.
I think you did some TV shows in your early career, right?
And how do you find the differences between those days and today in terms of making TV shows?
The TV shows that I did when I was coming up – they were a stairway to films, to motion pictures, right, to cinema. And as if for an actor coming out of a classroom, you know, doing a couple of years of classes with a very good teacher, I found a very good teacher, not right away but I finally found one and I was very grateful to have some guidance and I worked very, very hard and I didn’t take – I went to every class for two years, I never missed a class. So I would put my time in and then after that I said, okay, now I have to go out and do some work and then I was able to get some work in television. And is television much different than it was then, now? No, it’s the same process, you know. Cameras are different because we’re using digital now, but basically the television programs that I was on, they were all successful programs and I got guest star roles on those. It was a certain – maybe a little bit of a difference, you know, but like “Gunsmoke,” I did a lot of “Gunsmoke.” I did four of them and they were – they kept me alive, got me some money to keep going, you know. But we were on our way to film and I knew that once we got to film at that time, you wouldn’t go back to television. So it was an interesting time, that’s the difference.
Today, the better actors are doing television because only a handful can just stay with film and have enough interesting roles and make a career in film. So television has to provide that other thing – and to express themselves artistically, you now have television accomplishing that. But the techniques, they’re pretty much the same and they have these units of like “Ray Donavan” and the other successful television shows, they have these units of people – you know, writers, directors and stuff. And with “Gunsmoke,” and “Gunsmoke” lasted for 20 years or something, it was an amazing thing. And I was able to be – it was guest starring Jon Voight and nobody knew who Jon Voight was, but they gave you a guest star and well, you came in to do that part and you – I did different parts. I did four different parts, they didn’t – they had me back the same season, you know.
I played this Swedish kid in one and then I played a wolf trapper who had a problem partner who’s stealing something, whatever, that’s the next guy. And then I had some fellow who’s flirting with one of the characters, was a lover, got in trouble, that’s another character. But they didn’t mind that they saw the same face several times, you know. So that was – it was really quite interesting and I was very grateful for it. I actually called – Pam Polifroni was the gal who was the casting director and I got to know the casting directors and did a couple of shows and she favored me and of course I’m just – I was just looking for – I was just begging for work, you know. And coming in a very humble way, asking for a little job and then I got “Midnight Cowboy,” oh, got “Midnight Cowboy,” did the work on it and then I didn’t have any money after it. I did it for minimum so I didn’t have any money and I needed the job, so I called Pam Polifroni. I said Pam, I’ve done this “Midnight Cowboy.” When that comes out I’m not going to be doing television again, so you got me for one more shot just for a month, if you could – she said, Jon I do have something for you. You can come do this thing. And I said terrific and I was able to pay my bills for that month.
RAY DONOVAN: COMPLETE SEASON 1 IS OUT NOW TO OWN ON BLU-RAY AND DVD