Eddie Marsan Talks RAY DONOVAN, How Much He Knew about the Story Going in, the Changes in Season 2, and More

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The Showtime drama series Ray Donovan returns for Season 2 on July 13th (Season 1 is currently available on Blu-ray/DVD).  Set in the land of the rich and famous, Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) is L.A.’s best professional fixer for any combustible situation.  When his father, Mickey (Jon Voight), was unexpectedly released from prison, it set off a chain of events that shook every Donovan family member to its core.

During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Eddie Marsan (who plays former boxer Terry Donovan) talked about playing a broken tough guy, how much he knew about the Donovan family’s checkered past when he signed on, why this story weighed on him more than he thought it would, what he’s most proud of with Season 1, what it’s been like to work with this talented group of people, and how things will further develop in Season 2, now that everything has been shattered and changed for the Donovan family.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

ray-donovan-eddie-marsan-2Collider:  The characters on this show are such broken tough guys.  Was that part of the appeal for you? 

EDDIE MARSAN:  Yeah.  These guys are tough guys, but they’ve suffered through child abuse and have had a very dysfunctional and painful upbringing, and they’re very inarticulate.  It’s a very fascinating thing for an actor to play somebody who is suffering, and you have to express the suffering, but in an inarticulate way and sometimes a dysfunctional way, through violence.  With Terry, the Parkinson’s is very good means by which you can feel his pain.  He’s a very stoic character.  He’s a character that doesn’t let anything get him down.  He carries on and on.  It’s very good because it means that you can express that through the shakes and through the illness.

There are so many layers to all of the characters on the show.  How much did you know about this character, when you signed on, and how much did you learn with each script?

MARSAN:  When I was first offered the part, I just had the information in the first episode.  I committed to the show because I thought Ann Biderman’s writing on the first episode and the multi-layered characteristics of all of the different parts was great.  And then, when I got there to shoot the pilot, Ann sat down with me and explained the history of the whole Donovan family, and we incorporated that, as much as we could, in the pilot and in the first season.  So, I knew that they had a very checkered past and I knew that the priest scandal was a fascinating element of the whole show.  You think the show is a Hollywood show, but it’s not really.  The whole show is really about people who are recovering from child abuse.  For me, as an actor, I thought that was fascinating because that’s something that’s hidden and has to be revealed, and revealing things, as an actor, is great fun.  For an actor, there’s a lot to work with.

ray-donovan-eddie-marsan-4Because this show and all of the relationships on it are so intense, is this a character that you wanted to walk away from for a bit, once the season was done?

MARSAN:  No.  There was an element, when we were doing Season 1, that saddened me.  I have children, myself.  Myself, Liev [Schreiber], Dash [Mihok], who plays Bunchy, and Pooch [Hall], who plays Daryll, all have family and we’re all fathers.  When the story of the Donovans, as children, began to come out, and you learned that they were abused by Father Danny, their mother was dying of cancer, and their father was off gallivanting all over Boston, I felt sad.  I thought about my children and how much I worry about them and care about them, and what these kids must have gone through.  The character Bunchy upsets me because of what he went through.  I found that harder to deal with than I thought.  I thought that I would just brush it off, but it’s actually a very sad family history and it weighed on me more than I thought.

What was it like to slip back into this character for Season 2?

MARSAN:  I do it for six months of the year, so it’s there.  I also work hard.  I get straight back into work and work hard on it.  I’m enjoying playing a character who I understand so much.  Before this, I have a history of doing films with Mike Leigh, where you create a character for three or four months before you even turn the camera over.  So, with Terry, I feel as much in character as I do, if I’m doing a Mike Leigh movie.  I’ve researched this character and built up this character over a period of 18 months now.

Looking back on Season 1, what are you most proud of, with the story arc for your character?

MARSAN:  What I’m most proud of, with the whole show, is that it’s Trojan horse television.  When you watch Ray Donovan, you think that it’s about Hollywood, about scandal, about stars and about trying to keep secrets.  That’s true, but that’s also just the means by which you reveal secrets of the people suffering every day life.  These guys are very tough.  They’re very blue-collar, South Boston men, all of whom have suffered child abuse.  I don’t think anything we did in the first season was gratuitous.  We didn’t try to ram it down anybody’s throats.  I thought it was handled very, very delicately and very sympathetically.  We enabled there to be tough guys on television.  These are Alpha males who are also expressing suffering.  I think that’s a very positive image for men and for human beings.  The paradox between characters is good to see.  You have tough guys who are suffering, and I’m very proud of that.  I think Liev has done a fantastic job.  I love the way Jon [Voight] plays his character.  So, I’m proud of the fact that we played these characters and we weren’t gratuitous.  We were very sympathetic to the subject matter, and from what I understand, a lot of people have connected with it, on that level.  I wouldn’t have been interested in making a show just about Hollywood ‘cause I find Hollywood boring.  I find people and families very interesting. 

ray-donovan-jon-voightWhat’s it been like to work with this talented group of people?

MARSAN:  I enjoy working as a company.  Liev has a history of being a theater actor.  In theater, the lead actor leads the company.  On Ray Donovan, Liev leads the company.  That’s why we have a cohesive acting style and acting quality.  We all are led by him, and that’s very useful.  He’s very good at that.  You have the combination of someone like Ann Biderman creating a great show, and then you get someone like Liev in, who makes sure that everyone feels connected and involved and a part of the team.  And then, you can create good work. 

What can you say about Season 2, which premieres July 13th?

MARSAN:  I don’t know what I can say, really.  We’re in the middle of shooting it now.  I don’t know what I can reveal and what I cannot.  It goes along the lines of Season 1, but the characters develop more.  At the end of Season 1, all the preconceived ideas that the characters had about each other and the framework within the family was shattered.  Everybody is trying to find their place and to find themselves, in relation to everybody else because the ideas that they had no longer exist.  That’s the beginning of Season 2.  All of these characters, who thought they had certain relationships with each other, no longer have these relationships.  It’s shattered and it’s changed.  That’s all I can really say, at the moment. 

Season 1 of Ray Donovan is now available on Blu-ray/DVD.  Season 2 premieres on Showtime on July 13th.




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  • Matty

    This show was a pretty big disappointment. Maybe it is intended to be about the consequences of abuse, but all anyone seems to do is commit violence without consequence. Women punching out other women. Crooks beating up cops. Especially given the talent in front of and behind the camera, a letdown.

  • Matty

    This show was a pretty big disappointment. Maybe it is intended to be about the consequences of abuse, but all anyone seems to do is commit violence without consequence. Women punching out other women. Crooks beating up cops. Especially given the talent in front of and behind the camera, a letdown.

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