Tag Archives: Ray Donovan

Sheryl Lee Ralph Talks Making Magic With Jon Voight and Two Series Lifestyle

sheryl lee ralphGoing from playing a meddling mom on a bouncy Nickelodeon sitcom to portraying the sultry lover of Jon Voight’s unhinged Irish mobster character on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” is all in a day’s work for Sheryl Lee Ralph. Literally.

The actress-singer is used to starting her work day with Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Michael Boatman and the juvenile actors on “Instant Mom.” Then “I’ll go early evening, late night on ‘Ray Donovan.’ It’s been challenging, but what a challenge!” she says.

Her unlikely pairing with Voight, as Mickey and Claudette, has become a popular component of the Liev Schreiber hit about a tough Hollywood fixer, “Roy Donovan,” to Ralph’s surprise. “I am always trying to figure out what is it that people love about the two of us together, because the’re like lov-ing it,” she declares, chopping apart her syllables staccato style for emphasis. “There are some people who say, ‘I don’t understand it, but there’s something about the two of you.’ He calls it ‘The Magic.’ It’s just got to be the magic. We just get in there and we just do our thing. It just comes out. You can’t make it happen. Either you’ve got it or you don’t have it. That’s it.”

On the set, according to Ralph, Voight “loves to tell me, ‘Do that character from that other show you do. Can you imagine? She does THAT in the morning and then comes and does THIS at night. She’s amazing.’ He said, ‘You’re really an actress, a really great actress.’ That made me feel so good!”

The magic is particularly interesting to those who know that Voight is in the forefront of conservatives in the entertainment industry, while Ralph, who is married to Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes, is a staunch Democrat. Not surprisingly, “We never talk about that.

“He knows I’m married to a senator. I’ve never felt the need to bring it up because everything has always gone so well with our work. All I’ve felt the need to do was do our job,” she says. “It’s only when people bring it up to me that I rememeber, ‘Oh wow. We are very different.’ But guess what, we are very different on camera, we’re very different in real life, and together we are absolute magic.”

The Waterbury, Connecticut-born performer, a former Miss Black Teen-age New York, evinces a naturally authoritative presence that gives one the sense her team would be a good place to be. She became Rutgers University’s youngest graduate at 19, won a Tony nomination for “Dreamgirls” a few years later, and went on to amass a long list of credits in shows ranging from “Moesha” to “Barbershop” (remembered for her transgender character). She is particularly gratified to find herself in such demand at this stage of her career.

And as if two series weren’t enough, she is also busy as a producer.

“We are getting ready, October 18th, for the 24th Annual Divas Simply Singing. We are now the longest consecutive running musical AIDS benefit in the country,” she says of the show that’s featured such names as Jennifer Holliday, Jenifer Lewis, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, Oleta Addams, Melissa Manchester, Dianne Reeves, Roberta Flack, Eartha Kitt, Stephanie Mills, Fergie, Raven Symone, Loretta Devine, Nancy Wilson, Bonnie Pointer — and, of course, Sheryl Lee Ralph.

This year, “We’re moving to Hollywood, we’ll be doing it in the Recardo Montalban Theatre, which is so fitting becasue Ricado Montalban left that theater for the community for all people to have an artistic place to represent themselves. What could be a more perfect place to bring this concert for what is probably going to be our last two years?” she asks.

Last two years? “I say to anybody, 25 years of my life is a good amount of time for anything,” she says. Expect big plans for the grand finale next year.
Ralph also has “Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical” opening off-Broadway. Written by and starring Anthony Wayne (“Pippin,” “Priscilla,” etc.), “The musical is going to open for previews Sept. 5th at the Theatre at St. Clements,” she reports.

Ralph knew the real Sylvester, “an amazing man, who chose to be himself before it was politically correct. I always say the first disco queen was a man, and he was wonderful.
“He wouldn’t have said he was brave,” she adds. “He would have said this is just who I am. I think about that, I think about him. This man was born in the 1940s and chose to, at some point, put himself in a dress and say, ‘I’m the best one to play Billie Holliday.’ What guts did that take? And right up to the very end, when he was really dying due to comokciatons of AIDS, he dressed himself up and had someone push him in his wheelchair so he could be part of the AIDS walk — just amazing strength of character and being! That’s really why I found it easy to say yes to this project.”

She would love to take the show onto Broadway, and “I’m very excited about the possibilities of it. Look at the success of ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ The minute you hear our music, you’re ready. It’s 90 minutes of nonstop fabulosity.”

In other words, magic.

With ‘Mulaney,’ Elliott Gould Busy 2 Series Star

Elliott GouldA month shy of turning 76, Elliott Gould is quite pleased with himself for having two — count ’em, two — high-profile television series gigs simultaneously. Showtime’s excellent “Ray Donovan” has been using the one-time counterculture icon to great effect as the aging Hollywood power lawyer who is Ray’s (Liev Schreiber) mentor and boss. And, come October, he’ll be seen as Oscar, the flamboyant, advice-giving neighbor of John Mulaney in that “Saturday Night Live” alumnus’ new Fox sitcom, “Mulaney” — along with Nasim Pedrad, Zack Pearlman, Seaton Smith, and Martin Short.

The two shows have been cooperating on Gould’s schedule “so I get to play different characters in two different series,” explained Gould the other day, following the “Mulaney” panel at the Television Critics’ Association summer press tour.

What accounts for his being so busy at this stage of the game? “My answer to that question is, my mother never gave up, and I have to be the way I am,” replies Gould in one of his trademark convoluted answers.

He adds, “And as far as my own ignorance and lack of perspective and judgment through a good deal of my career, it’s taken me forever to attain this character. And therefore, to have this opportunity to have the nature and the strength and the health to work in these productions.”

That makes sense if you recall Gould’s roller coaster career trajectory. He spent 20 years attaining the status of top in-demand film star with “M*A*S*H” and “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” only to become a pariah overnight after the shut-down of his big-budget “Glimpse of Tiger” amid rumors of a breakdown or drug problem. “It had been a week rife with reports that…he was behaving strangely…walking around with a pacifier in his mouth, blowing whistles during camera takes, flying into screaming rages at director Tony Harvey,” wrote Marilyn Beck. He did, of course, eventually work again, logging dozens of film and TV roles, but it was never the same. Decades of forgettable roles and near-misses followed before Steven Soderbergh cast him as one-time casino owner Reuben Tishkoff in his 2001 “Ocean’s Eleven,” and its follow-ups.

Now Gould is enjoying playing two series characters that are nothing alike. According to him, his “Ray Donovan” character will be more prominent in the future. “Ezra is a very serious character, a rather pios character. He’s a highly successful, deeply-connected person. We haven’t seen too much of Ezra, but we will see more of him since his brain tumor is corrected,” he says. As far as “Mulaney,” “With Oscar, you see all of Oscar’s inside. Oscar expresses what he’s feeling. This character is a highly original character for me to do.”

Another difference: “Mulaney” is being shot before an audience with multiple cameras. It’s a challenge. However, says Gould, “I enjoy working and a challenge for me to work with these young people. I enjoy the opportunity and I work at it.”

As for how he maintains his vigor, Gould says, “What do I do – I have a family, I have grown children, and I have a very good relationship with nature. To me, it’s all about the family and mostly about chemistry and being honest and true.”

Of course.

Fatherhood Makes Johnathon Schaech a Better Man

Johnathon Schaech photo/Alan Mercer

Johnathon Schaech photo/Alan Mercer

Fatherhood has made Johnathon Schaech a better man. At least, the actor, whose wife Julie gave birth to son Camden last September, certainly feels that way. “It puts life in a whole different perspective. In my relationships, in my career path — everything,” he enthuses. “Trying to achieve success now is so I can make Camden’s life better, give him more opportunities. It’s adding to my courage. I’ll ask for something that I never would have asked for before. Maybe my ego would have kept me from doing it, or I was scared. Now I’ll step forward and try to make it work.”

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.”