Jon Voight on playing Mickey Donovan in Showtime’s hit series.
“Whenever things get bad, they could always get worse: Mickey could show up,” says Ray Donovan star Jon Voight — who thrills audiences weekly on Showtime as the Donovan family’s hustling patriarch.
So now that his fortunes have changed, Mickey with money is even more of a loose cannon than he was perpetually chasing it? “The more he has, the more dangerous he becomes to himself and others,” Voight confirms of the newly flush guy with his eye on becoming a prostitution kingpin. “He’s not a different animal. There can be a calm in the sea where it looks like it’s a calm, but it’s a whirlpool, really. You don’t get too close to it, or you’ll go down under with him.”
Still, Voight says, Mick’s heart is often in the right place — it’s his follow-through that seems irreparably warped.
“The things he does are really quite repugnant, but he does them for reasons we can admire in some cases — trying to protect his family, or whatever,” Voight explains. “He’s trying his best to make amends and get back into his family’s graces, and we know he’s sincere in that. He’s just going to mess everything up — and we know that too. The other aspect that I find shocking and humorous at the same time is that all these theatrics that are inlaid into this character. Mickey’s a survivor. He seems to be always in a survivor mode. He never gets out of it because he’s always putting himself into hot water that he has to get out of — so that becomes his personality altogether. That’s what you’re looking at, and that’s what his children have to deal with.”
None more so than Liev Schreiber’s bitter Hollywood fixer Ray, who — with his home life and his empire in shambles — finds himself doing business with L.A. powerbroker Andrew Finney (Deadwood’s Ian McShane) and his beautiful, power-hungry daughter Paige (Katie Holmes). And though upcoming previews show Mick and Ray toasting each other poolside in matching tropical shirts (Episode 5 airing Sunday, Aug. 9 on Showtime), Voight says don’t be too quick to buy the sunny scene.
“I think Mickey would like not to be dangerous to his environment — especially to his family. But he is,” Voight says. “Ray’s got the same kind of thing. He’s somebody who’s going to be called upon by morally questionable folks to do morally questionable things. That’s how he makes his living. It’s very, very hard for either one of them to change.”
Still, Voight says, no one knows (and loves) Ray-Ray like his dad.
“The injury is great with Ray,” he explains. “Ray knows Mickey very well, because Ray, in a certain sense, is like him. They are both alpha males — but when you think about Ray, you may think about a strong structure, a great foundation. Mickey doesn’t seem to have that. But he takes the lead. He runs the show. Therefore, there’s this kind of standoff between Ray and I that, with me, comes from admiration. Mickey is proud of Ray. He thinks he’s like Ray. He’d like to be like Ray, but he doesn’t have the grace that Ray has. The poise. But he knows enough to see that this guy is a remarkable guy. I think he cares more for Ray than anyone else in life.”
Voight’s admiration carries offscreen, as well.
“Working with Liev — it’s a wonderful mystery,” he muses. “We have an interesting relationship. I worked with him in Manchurian Candidate, and he didn’t have much of a range in that piece because he was playing kind of a robotic character, but I found him to be extremely intelligent, and very talented. I watched him from that point and became very impressed with his work and wanted him to play the leading man. … I wanted him not to be overshadowed by somebody. It was muffling some of his power. He’s very, very intelligent, and he approaches the work both the intuitive level and a real intellectual level. When he comes to the set, it’s almost like you can see so many forces at work in his approach to how he’s going to do something. He has this inner battle, and the result is very rich and full of insight and strength. I really admire his work, and I love going to the set when I’m doing a scene with him. … I marinate a scene before I get to it, so I’ve got a lot of thoughts, suggestions that I make. Sometimes they’re right on, and sometimes they’re not. But I bring my thoughts and Liev brings his, and the directors bring theirs, and then it becomes something else. It becomes something better.
“It used to be that film and television were totally different animals,” Voight continues. “Now, it’s not so much of a difference. I’m able to work on this character with other great directors and actors.”
Then the man who plays Mickey chuckles slyly and adds, “I shouldn’t say other great actors. Makes me sound like I’m one of them.”
The feature was written by Lori Acken.