Work has been the operative word of the last two or three years for Schaech, whose performance as movie-star-in-trouble Sean Walker on Showtime’s acclaimed Liev Schreiber series, “Ray Donovan,” has him among names being bandied as Emmy prospects this year. He’s been going from assignment to assignment.
“I was doing ‘Ray Donovan’ the same time I was doing ‘The Client List’ with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Talk about a purpose-driven life! I had a baby on the way. I knew I had to get back into the business,” he says, referring to a spell of disappointments he went through a few years ago.
He has certainly gotten back.
The character of Sean Walker, who lived in the valley of the shadow of a 20-year-old murder throughout Season 1, gave Schaech several gifts as an actor. One was the opportunity to work with Voight, whose slimy ex-convict, Mickey Donovan, was the very last person Sean Walker wanted to see.
“The experience of working with Jon Voight was the most amazing thing. I think we’re kindred spirits. I think we’re like the same guy, you know? Every time we played a scene, we raised the level of stakes,” he says. “It was like he was going to make me take a chance on doing something I wanted to do — and then he would counter that. It was everything I’ve ever learned about acting to the highest degree — to be free and playful and discover. Even in the saddest moments we were still trying to change things and make things happen. It invigorated me, gave me hope again.
“He’s the most generous actor,” Schaech goes on. “Even when he was off-camera, he was giving me stuff that was helping my performance.”
Also adding fuel to his performance was the fact that Sean Walker was “trying to save his family, the new little baby that he had” — motivation to which Schaech obviously related.
From “Ray Donovan,” he went on to the CW series, “Star-Crossed.” Then it was on to film roles including “Vice” with Bruce Willis and “Ray Donovan” actress Amber Heard. “There’s nobody like Bruce Willis. I learned so much. What a movie star!” he extols.
“Vice” takes the sin city concept of Las Vegas to a souped-up futuristic science fiction level. It’s “a magical place where you can do anything you want in the world, good or bad,” Schaech explains. That movie’s due next year.
As we speak, Schaech is on a break from production of the History Channel’s eight-hour limited series about Texas’ revolution from Mexico and the birth of the Texas Rangers, “Texas Rising.” Bill Paxton, Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta and Chad Michael Murray are among his cast mates. They’re shooting in Durango, Mexico, former stamping grounds of John Wayne.
“It’s been like a great big play,” says Schaech, who plays Col. Sidney Sherman in the series from the same producers who gave us the violent and vaunted “Hatfields & McCoys” mini of 2012. This saga, “is one of the bloodiest chapters in history,” adds Schaech. “This is a movie about war, about how people deal with it, about how they overcome and go back to their families, about how they fight in a noble way — or not.”
He has three more months of shooting ahead. “Three months — I know, it’s too long. I fly back as often as I possibly can,” he says.
And after that? Schaech makes it clear his work drive is still on high. He’s been fully booked for so long, but says, “I wish I was more fully booked. One thing about my job is, when the good work is coming, you want to work around the clock.”