He’s not going to yell at you. And he’s certainly not going to hurl a computer monitor across the room if he doesn’t get his way. In fact, if you think the 47-year-old actor is anything like the hotheaded agent he played on HBO’s <em>Entourage</em>, you’d be mistaken. Jeremy Piven builds characters, believable characters, and he’s doing it again on PBS’ <em>Mr. Selfridge</em>. Before you know it, he just might be Hollywood’s next great action-movie star.
After eight years of Ari Gold, how do you change gears for a British period drama?
When I started on <em>Entourage</em> I was 40 movies into my career. Each time you kind of have to start again. I think the most important lesson—and this will sound so pretentious, and I don’t care—is to put your ego aside. It doesn’t matter where you think you are, where you should be, any of that. It doesn’t matter. No one cares. It’s just about doing the work.
Was it like that when you started filming Entourage?
If you look at the size of the Ari Gold character in the pilot episode, you wouldn’t believe it. The guy had just one scene. I was told that he was a fringe character, that he would have one, maybe two scenes per episode, and that’s it. It would have been very easy for me to go, “But wait a minute!” and take a stand. No, no, no. You can rise to the occasion with your work. That’s how you progress.
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It seems as though people expect you to be Ari Gold in real life.
I identify with his passion to put food on the table for his family. I don’t necessarily identify with his methods. I don’t think people respond to abrasive, reactive behavior. But, you know, that’s what people love! People, when they see me, they’re like, “Scream at me! Scream ‘Lloyd’ at me!”
Why do you think period series like Mr. Selfridge and Downton Abbey are so popular right now?
People are looking for what I believe are simpler times. They’re looking at where we came from, where people are actually confronting one another, and you couldn’t live in fear of confrontation like we do now in today’s society where you hide behind texts and e-mails and you don’t pick up your phone and all that. You couldn’t do that back then. And it leads to, in my opinion, the greatest drama.
What other kinds of roles would you like to take on?
I would love to explore some action movies, because I’ve been training in boxing for so long, and now I’m incorporating a lot of Muay Thai, as well. You know, you’re equipped, and if you can spar and really dig in, that can translate.
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So you’ve barked, and now you want to bite.
The guy I train with is a cage fighter; he’s an MMA guy. We have a blast. If the pad slips and I knee him in the face or whatever, I’m like, “Oh sh-t!” and this guy’s like, “Are you kidding?” He’s in a cage for a living, so it’s like you can’t go wrong. I absolutely love it. No one knows that I spend almost every day doing this stuff.
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1. Michael Berkow, Very Bad Things
"Before Ari Gold, I would play a lot of schlubby best friends and guys who could never rise to the occasion. They couldn't find it in themselves, and, because of that, they got run over."
2. Ari Gold, Entourage:
“To play an abrasive agent who is driven by money and rules by intimidation, when that isn’t where I come from, and then to be confused with that guy is both flattering and confusing.”
3. Buddy Israel, Smokin' Aces
"You know you're doing your job when people are like, "Hey, do some blow with me!" And you're like, 'I don't do blow, thank you - that was a movie and that was vitamin C.'"
4. Harry Selfridge, Mr. Selfridge:
“Harry is a guy who made his way as an American in the U.K. I’m an American who has to get up every day in London and convince them, as Harry did. So there are probably more similarities between myself and Harry than any of these characters.”