Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

The anti-hero Ray Donovan

Liev Schreiber talks with Dominic Corry
Liev Schreiber.
Liev Schreiber.

Although he stands as one of Hollywood's most in-demand actors, Ray Donovan star Liev Schreiber has never really fit the mould of the modern leading man. For one thing, he co-owns an ad agency. For another, he's voicing one of the main characters in the upcoming My Little Pony film.

"I made so many random choices in my career," Schreiber says. "It's part of what I love about being an actor, that there is no clear journey. The variation is something that I've always thrived on. But I've been very fortunate to connect with some really talented people particularly in the past few years."

Schreiber first came to prominence with roles in a variety of independent films in the early 90s, but Hollywood first really took note with his chilling supporting turn in 1996's Scream, which he reprised in two sequels.

Since then he's starred in a string of notable movies - including X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which he came to New Zealand to shoot - culminating with a well-received turn in the true-life drama Spotlight, which won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Picture.

Aside from Spotlight, the last few years of Schreiber's career have been defined by playing Ray Donovan, a Hollywood "fixer" from a troubled Boston Irish family. Schreiber says the new episodes will see Ray exploring the concept of redemption following three seasons of highly dubious activities.

"I think certainly the idea that's appealing to Ray at the end of the season three, and I think that we put forward, is that he believes that redemption is possible for anyone, that all they have to do is ask for forgiveness, is asked to be forgiven and to connect."

We may also see an ever-so-slightly cheerier version of the reliably intense character.

"Maybe what he needs, not so much his stoicism, but Ray will smile more because he tends to demonstrate a limited range of emotionality, I guess, in terms of everything is so hard for him which is part of surviving abuse, I think. But, yes, Ray, this season, is going to try to find the brighter side of himself, the lighter side of himself."

The San Francisco-born son of a stage actor and director, Schreiber garnered a master's degree from the Yale School of Drama before attending the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. A theatre freak (he won a Tony Award in 2005 for his role in Glengarry Glen Ross), Schreiber perks up whenever the subject arises.

"The rehearsal period and the kind of unique relationship and experience of interacting with an ensemble of actors and a live audience - there is nothing like it anywhere in the world and I think I've been addicted to it since the first time I experienced it. It's a high. It's a feeling of connectivity and there's intimacy to it and an electricity to it that I just can't get anywhere else."

Liev Schreiber stars in Ray Donovan on Sky Soho.
Liev Schreiber stars in Ray Donovan on Sky Soho.

After some time away, Schreiber's returning to the stage later this year in a Broadway revival of Christopher Hampton's Les Liasons Dangereuses.

"I'm missing it badly so I'm really grateful that Josie Rourke and the producers ... invited me there to be in this play with Janet McTeer, who I'm a huge fan of."

Schreiber's been in a relationship with British-born actress Naomi Watts for more than a decade, and the pair have two sons, Sasha and Samuel, who had a role in Schreiber's decision to shoot a TV series.

"I'm at that stage in my relationship to my children where I don't want to leave that much, and part of the logic behind taking this job on Ray Donovan was that it would ground us so that we could be a family and be together. "

The oft-cited modern " golden" age of television has been defined by morally-conflicted anti-heroes like Ray Donovan. Schreiber has a theory as to why these kinds of characters resonate .

"I think what is at the core of any anti-hero is that they encompass the polarities of an idea, the good and the bad. I think at some level we all want to be principled people but we can't resist these darker sides of ourselves. And the idea of a character that moves back and forth between those two worlds is very compelling."

Schreiber also breaks the Hollywood mould with his willingness to read his own press.

"That's an old habit of mine from the theatre days. All of the actors that I know and all the people in the business say the last thing you want to do is read the critics. But I have strangely thick skin. For me, it's just information. I don't know why, but for some reason, I don't take it terribly personally. What's more interesting to me is sort of how the collective consciousness is responding to the material. So I am one of those risk takers who does the very ill-advised thing of reading everything."


Who: Liev Schreiber
What: Season four of Ray Donovan
When: Premieres Tuesday June 28 at 8.30pm on Soho.

- Weekend magazine

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