Multiple Emmy winner plays psychiatrist as Showtime drama returns
Alan Alda has been able to bring some of his own history that he cherishes to his “Ray Donovan” role.
This year’s recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, the six-time Emmy winner continues his recurring part as typically troubled “fixer” Donovan’s psychiatrist as Season 7 of the Showtime drama begins Sunday, Nov. 17. Not only does Alda appreciate that he already had a relationship with title star Liev Schreiber from a Broadway revival of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” he’s also enjoying the reversal his current television job puts on the connection his Hawkeye Pierce had to psychiatrist Sidney Freedman (Allan Arbus) on the classic series “M*A*S*H.”
“Every scene I do with Liev is usually preceded by a couple of hours of searching,” the pleasant Alda reports, “figuring out what is best for the whole story and for the character of Ray Donovan, Liev has thought so deeply about the theme of the show that, as dark as it is, I think it’s a positive look into humanity. And knowing him, I think that’s what he’s looking for, too.”
The therapy-session milieu requires particularly intimate teamwork from two actors, and Alda says he finds it quite comfortable: “When you work with somebody in a play, from the rehearsal period through the run of performances, you can get very close to that person and are able to make real contact with them. And I like Liev very much as a person. Once in a while, we’ll do an improvisation, so that the writers can see what might be useful from that in a scene. It’s even more fun then to take on the persona of a psychiatrist, because it’s coming spontaneously out of me.”
Following his revelation last year that he has Parkinson’s disease, Alda has been staying professionally active. In addition to “Ray Donovan” and his interview-based podcast “Clear+Vivid,” he appears in the current movie “Marriage Story” opposite Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. “I’m glad I can squeeze all of this in,” reflects the founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University. “It’s all tied to the theme of communication, and the country is going through a time where we need better relating to one another than we ever have before.”
Having also been a writer and director of “M*A*S*H” on occasion – and very notably on the memorable series finale — Alda is pleased that the seriocomic Korean War saga remains visible via multiple repeats almost every day on MeTV. “That does make me happy,” he confirms, “and it’s amazing that it’s gone on for so long. It’s wonderful. All of us who did that show are very proud of it.”