Liev Schreiber earned his sixth career Golden Globe nomination earlier this week, his fifth straight for his performance as the title character in Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Five seasons later, Schreiber said he feels like he's finally hitting his stride on the show.
"I was very happy to hear about [the nomination]," the 50-year-old actor told ET over the phone after the Golden Globe nominations were announced, adding that he'd hoped his onscreen wife, Paula Malcomson, would break through for her heartbreaking performance this past season. "Sad that we didn’t see Paula['s] name, but I was very grateful."
Season five broke from convention for the hourlong drama, which revolves around Ray (Schreiber), a Boston-bred fixer for the rich and famous and a devoted family man (for the most part), when Ray's wife, Abby (Malcomson), died from cancer. The way the story unfolded -- each episode was told in two different periods of Ray's life: before and after Abby's death -- was reinvigorating for Schreiber. "You've gotta try new things," he said. "For us, rather than sticking to what we've done for the past five years, sharking it up a little bit and seeing what that creates is, I always think, a great exercise for something that's as long-running as our show is."
With Ray Donovan moving production from Los Angeles to New York City for the upcoming sixth season, Schreiber spoke with ET about seeking new creative challenges on a long-running show, the possibility of Malcomson's return and why his favorite Golden Globe memory involves his oldest son, Sasha.
ET: Does this latest Golden Globe nomination hold different meaning for you than the previous ones?
Liev Schreiber: I appreciate it because it feels like an endorsement as we prepare to move the show to New York City. It certainly helps my confidence to have that endorsement from the Hollywood Foreign Press to feel like we’re doing something right and give us some energy, some centrifugal force into the next season.
It is a bit of a risk to move Ray Donovan’s story from Los Angeles to New York. Do you view the upcoming sixth season as a new beginning?
Totally. Risk is the right word. With shows like this, you’ve gotta take risks. You’ve gotta try new things. For us, rather than sticking to what we’ve done for the past five years, shaking it up a little bit and seeing what that creates is, I always think, is a great exercise for something that’s as long-running as our show is. I’m looking forward to it.
Season five featured a big shift in the structure of Ray Donovan, with the story unfolding in two different periods in Ray’s life: before and after his wife Abby’s death. What was it like playing the same character in two very distinct points in his life?
The hardest part for me was the fact that because we shot it in a non-linear way, so much of what you’re reacting to or playing in the moment is not necessarily connected in the chronological arc of events. It’s almost like, for all of us, we had to run the story chronologically and then mark out the moments where we felt the reactive scenes were going to exist so that you knew how to play that episode and where on the continuum you were. That was very hard for me to remember at what point in the season we were because a large part of the episodes were in flashbacks. You’re trying to remember, “Well, it’s been six months since I felt [Abby’s] death. It’s been three months since I lost her. It’s been a month since I tried to save her.” That math was very, very difficult because the last thing you want to be doing, when you’re trying to create something that feels true and emotional, to have it not be.
That must be a rewarding exercise to be able to do that, which seems to be a rare opportunity on a show that’s been on for a while to reinvent itself in a way.
That’s one thing I really love about [showrunner] David Hollander and the writers on the show. They’re constantly looking for new ways to keep us engaged as actors and challenge us. I’m very fortunate to get into a situation like that. I think it’s happening more and more being in cable TV.
How early on did you know about the decision to kill off Paula Malcomson’s character in season five?
It really was a very difficult and painful decision for everybody. David and I discussed it before the start of the season and we discussed it with Paula as well. But as far as I’m concerned, Paula is the best scene partner I’ve ever had. It gave her a chance to have an incredible arc on the show this season and it gave us a chance to move Ray’s life in a way that would really create some seismic shifts. We try to do things that feel real and feel personal.
Is the door open for Paula to return for flashbacks in the new season?
Do you know how Ray’s story ends or are you still figuring it out?
[Chuckles.] There are a couple versions in my mind of how I’d like Ray’s story to end -- and a couple versions of how it probably would end realistically. We haven’t made any comprehensive decisions on that yet.
With the show’s move to New York, it also seems like a new chapter for Ray. What can you preview ahead of the new season when it comes to his strained relationship with his daughter Bridget and Ray’s romantic life moving forward? Could we see him dating again?
I think Ray is still mourning the loss of his wife. Family is everything to Ray. His daughter is everything to him. His son is everything to him. That element of his character isn’t going to change. One of the strongest elements I felt in the first five seasons was Los Angeles as a city. When we were thinking of what could compete with that -- besides Boston -- was New York. As a noir, that location functions as a third character on the show. New York’s been filmed thousands and thousands of times, but what could we add to the lexicon of New York on film. I’m very excited to unleash our directors, our producers, our DP [director of photography] on this town. It’s going to be very exciting.
On Golden Globe nomination morning, you posted an Instagram with Woody, one of the dogs you adopted from Live With Kelly and Ryan from Hurricane Harvey. Are you surprised that that moment of you on the phone with Naomi Watts and your kids went viral?
[Laughs.] I think everybody, justifiably, felt like whatever we could do during that period of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, people related to that. For me, I was just looking to get a puppy and I was really grateful to the show for providing the opportunity. Maybe that resonated with people. I’m sure now, more than ever, people in Southern California are thinking similar thoughts and hopefully everything can help out a little bit because it’s devastating what’s happened.
What has been your favorite celebrity run-in attending the Globes?
Leslie Jones. Backstage, I saw her and I said hi, and my son Sasha’s face and his jaw just dropped. We walked away and I said, “Aww I’m sorry, did you want to say something to her?” And we went back to her and he just said, “I just wanted to say, I really loved your movie [Ghostbusters].” [Laughs.] I was so proud of him in that moment. He’s so shy normally and when he saw her, he really wanted to tell her how great she was, so that was probably one of my favorite celebrity run-in moment at the Globes.
Ray Donovan returns for season six in 2018 on Showtime. The 75th annual Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Seth Meyers, airs live coast-to-coast at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on NBC.