The Showtime drama series Ray Donovan, with actor Liev Schreiber in the title role, is about the go-to guy of the rich and famous, who makes the problems of L.A.’s celebrities, superstar athletes and business moguls disappear. To further complicate his already far too complicated life, his murderous low-life father, played by Oscar-winner Jon Voight, is unexpectedly released from prison, setting off a chain of events that threatens to destroy everything Ray has built for himself. The show also stars Paula Malcomson, Steven Bauer, Elliott Gould, Dash Mihok, Eddie Marsan, Pooch Hall and Katherine Moennig.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actress Paula Malcomson (Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, The Hunger Games) talked about why Ray Donovan appealed to her, her desire to play strong characters, getting a sense of who Abby Donovan is, what it’s been like to work with Jon Voight, and how easily swearing comes for her. She also talked about how much she enjoyed actually getting to play an Irish character in Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy, and that she’d like to try comedy, at some point. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: How did you come to be a part of Ray Donovan? Had you been looking to do another show?
PAULA MALCOMSON: I was looking to do another show. I hadn’t really found anything since Deadwood. We did Caprica, which was a Battlestar Galactica prequel, and it didn’t really go the way I wanted. Not for want of trying, it was just a hard thing to follow and there wasn’t really a clear vision. I felt like that character sort of got off the rails, so I was disappointed by that. I’m looking for my Carmela Soprano, you know? It’s very, very tough to find that place, certainly after working with David Milch, to be able to go to work every day and look at the writing and be jumping up and down. It takes a while, so I had to be pretty patient.
What was it about this show that stood out for you, then?
MALCOMSON: I got the script to read, and I absolutely loved it. I don’t know. There’s just something that happens. You recognize a character and you just feel really capable of it. There’s definitely things that I’ve come across where I’ve thought, “No way! It just doesn’t work.” And then, you try to talk yourself into it. This one was a total no-brainer for me. And the fact that Liev [Schreiber] was involved was an extra incentive. He’s such a man. I thought, “Well, she has to be such a woman, in order to be married to him, which could be very complicated.” That interests me. So, I just loved it. Her voice was just so clear, on the page.
From the pilot, did you get a real sense of her, or did you talk to the show creator about that?
MALCOMSON: We didn’t talk that much about her, but I knew this was a long marriage, that they’re from Boston, and that they’re from a more working-class background. L.A. is a big leap for them. She’s all about her kids, and she’s all about her children not having to do what she did. It was tougher for her, growing up, than she wants for these kids. But it’s different problems, living in L.A.
You’ve done a lot of really gritty dramas. Is that something that you personally find yourself drawn to?
MALCOMSON: I just want to play strong characters, whatever that is in. For me, television is where it’s at. You get to play a character for a long period of time, and you get to dig deep. It’s a home to go to. I’m not interested in a pretty world. It’s boring to me. If you’re lucky enough to get to play a character for a long time, it’s life-changing.
What kind of a woman is Abby Donovan, and why do you think she stays with Ray?
MALCOMSON: Because she’d be bored with anybody else. And I think there’s something about the familiar, with what they do have. She lives in a certain amount of denial, but she is also aware that he’s a man. And then, there’s these kids that are her everything. I really think she knows who he is, probably a little bit better than he knows who he is, and they’ve been together since they were kids.
Do you think she’ll get to a place where she’d draw a line?
MALCOMSON: She might, yeah. I’m sure that’s been a conversation. But I think, at a certain point, she took divorce off the table.
How has it been to work, as a family?
MALCOMSON: The kids are so amazing that we didn’t even need that much time [to get to know each other before shooting the pilot]. The kids are so sponge-like and lovely. I’m so lucky ‘cause it could have gone the other way, completely, and I’d have been like, “Shit!” With a pilot, you don’t have any say over who’s coming in. Actors bond really quickly. We’re so used to, “Hello, good afternoon,” and then we’re fucking in 15 minutes. And I’d worked with Liev before. I knew him, a little bit. I feel like we’ve both grown up, so it was nice to see him again. As actors, we’re a little faster than other people, with breaking down the walls.
MALCOMSON: Amazing! He’s lovely. We were standing at craft services, and he said to me, “Are you married?,” and I said, “No.” He said, “Do you want to be?,” and I said, “Okay.” For some reason, I thought he was asking me to marry him. He has this quality where you’re a little bit transfixed by him, and I think Abby has that with him. She’s slightly mesmerized by him. There’s just something about him. He’s so right for this role because Mickey is such an incredibly charismatic character. I think Abby is a little bit in love with him. It’s really interesting. Wait until you see what happens! You’re gonna die!
Do you think Abby is intentionally trying to piss off Ray by forming a relationship with Mickey, against his wishes?
MALCOMSON: No, it’s subconscious. It’s not that direct. I don’t think she understands the full extent. I’m sure unconsciously something is afoot with that, that she’s sabotaging. It’s very interesting. It’s a lot reckless, what she’s doing.
Can Mickey have a normal relationship with his grandchildren?
MALCOMSON: Well, this the first time they’ve met. Who know what he’s up to. You have to ask him. I don’t know what he’s up to. Abby comes from a big family, and she’s all about family. She wants this family to come together. It’s been so broken, for so long, and these kids should have relatives. Her sister-in-law died. Her intentions are really good, but it’s very dangerous territory.
Are you comfortable with swearing? Does that come easily for you?
MALCOMSON: You saw Deadwood, right? I actually have to clean it up to go on TV. Listen, I’m from Belfast. We’re not polite people. And it’s language. We’re direct. There’s a real love of the work “fuck” in Ireland. I’ve done network shows. A director will call me and say, “Do you want to do this with me?,” and I’ll say, “Sure,” but I couldn’t do it forever because there’s no real expression. That’s not how people talk. Sons of Anarchy was tough. I rarely play Irish characters, and to have an Irish character and not be able to say “fuck” or “cunt” was impossible. It was such a shame! But, you can blow the shit out of each other, and I don’t mean blow jobs, but blowing up. You can gouge people’s eyes out and cut off their heads, but god forbid, you say “fuck” or you see people making love. It’s amazing.
Was it fun to be a part of Sons of Anarchy and get to set so much in motion, with your character?
MALCOMSON: It was fun to do that. For me, personally, I just really wanted to play an Irish character. I felt like I played the woman that I maybe could have been, had I stayed for 20-something years, and not moved to New York when I was a kid.
What was it that originally made you decide to get into acting?
MALCOMSON: People just kept asking me to do it, and eventually I said yes. That was what started me. And then, I thought it was a pretty interesting journey. Would I do it again? I don’t know that I would. I might choose normal life, if there’s such a thing. I might say, “No, that’s for crazy people.”
Did you have a point where you realized there was no turning back?
MALCOMSON: It happened to me and I realized that I was on this path. And then, it was too late. You’re in. It’s like The Godfather.
Would you like to try comedy, at some point?
MALCOMSON: Yeah, I’d like to try comedy, at some point, but no one ever hires me for comedy, ever. Some people have tried. It’s interesting. I don’t know what that is. But, I think Abby actually has a lot of humor. That’s how she gets through. She functions as a lighter human being. I don’t know if she’s less complicated, but she’s lighter than some of the characters I’ve played, of late. When you get to play the multitudes of a character, hopefully you have all those things. She’s funny, and she’s dark. Hopefully, there are a million things going on, that I get to bring to it.
Ray Donovan airs on Sunday nights on Showtime.