LOS ANGELES—“I don’t like everybody not living in the same house anymore. That knocked me out. I have spent a year struggling with that. It’s been hard not having my family around me,” Liev Schreiber said as he opened up about his separation from Naomi Watts almost a year ago.
In September last year, a seemingly innocuous question about his children surprisingly made Liev pause and choke with emotion, his eyes misty. A day after that interview in New York, Liev and Naomi announced their separation.
In this recent chat, this time in Los Angeles, the “Ray Donovan” series star was reminded about that emotional moment in NY. “Well, now you know why,” said the actor, dressed in a sharp grey Tom Ford suit.
“The most important thing for us (he and Naomi) is to be on the same page about how we raise our children,” the well-respected actor remarked.
The kids—Alexander, 10, and Samuel, 8—live with Naomi.
Liev keeps busy these days shooting Season 5 of “Ray Donovan,” for which he recently earned his third Emmy Award nomination. His portrayal of the title character, a professional “fixer” for LA’s moneyed folks, has already won him a Golden Globe best actor in a TV series-drama trophy in 2014.
Jon Voight (who plays Ray’s menacing dad, Mickey Donovan), Paula Malcomson and Eddie Marsan also star in Showtime’s absorbing series.
Hearing the soothing authority of Liev’s voice again reminded us of his voice-overs for HBO Sports, including his narration for “24/7 Pacquiao/Algieri.” We chatted a bit about Manny Pacquiao’s recent loss to Jeffrey Horn. “I thought Manny outclassed that guy,” he opined.
The San Francisco native also talked about turning 50 in October.
Pablo Schreiber is his half-brother, whom he worked with in Jonathan Demme’s remake of the 1962 political thriller, “The Manchurian Candidate.”
Excerpts from our talk:
Are you in a place where you want to be in your life? Do you embrace change, or is that a little scary? I don’t think I ever imagined that I would be where I am now. No. I just talked to another journalist on the way here about voice-over stuff. I said I remember being 25 and thinking, “God, I’d love to do voice-over work.” Now, I have a TV show (“Ray Donovan”) that I’m the lead on, but I’m still glad I do voice-over work.
In terms of change, I have a bad hip. It’s hard to walk upstairs now. That’s one change I’m not really embracing. Those changes are starting to happen. I’m forgetting friends’ names and things like that. I’m not looking forward to those changes.
In terms of adjusting to not being the star of the show, [that] is what parenting is about. When you’re a young actor, you have to be the center of your universe. It’s what drives you. It’s a real relief to have kids and move on from that. That change, I embrace.
What about the other changes in your life? Like moving? I hate moving. I’m very lazy, actually (laughs). Adjusting knocked me out. I’ve spent a year struggling with that. It’s been hard not having my family around me.
Like… [every] time I go out on the street or I get photographed [with a woman], suddenly that’s my new relationship. It’s just f**king ridiculous. I’m OK with paparazzi now.
What do you do to keep a sense of family with the kids now? The most important thing for us (he and Naomi) is to be on the same page about how we raise our children, to demonstrate respect, love and kindness to each other in the way that we hope our children will do to us and to others, as well. The big issue for both of us, as it is for most parents, is time.
Put the phone down, make dinner, be present and listen.
In this age and with your career, how do you try to be present to your children? It’s important that Naomi and I find ways to fill in the cracks with each other. If that means saying ‘no’ to projects, neither of us has a problem with that.
Naomi and I are always going to have a relationship because we have children together. So it’s important that we work well together.
How do you get over difficult moments in your life? We all go through experiences that feel fractured or difficult. That’s why shows like “Ray Donovan” appeal to people, because they tap into that experience of adversity. Ray handles it in a very specific and volatile way that many of us can relate to. I’m not really that volatile.
You have to remember what’s important. For me, it’s our kids.
What are your hopes and dreams for your kids? How would you react if they want to become actors, too? Whatever they want (laughs), but anybody with any sense would discourage them from acting. It isn’t what it seems at all. It’s a great life, and I’ve got a nice house and nice clothes. But it’s tricky. I’m one of the 7 percent who’s employed. At the same time, [our kids] are like Naomi and me. I wouldn’t be surprised if they act and, if they do, you’d better go see them (laughs).
What is different in the show’s fifth season? I always speak to you after shooting “Ray Donovan” for about five months. I just want to find a bridge to jump off. It’s a very demanding show, physically and emotionally.
This season has been particularly demanding. It centers around the family—for a number of reasons, that’s been really intense. I’m starting to get the feeling that we’ve crossed over into something very special. The cast is extraordinary.
Does playing Ray take an emotional toll on your personal life? Yeah, it does, somehow—particularly in the last two years. Honestly, I think if you give that much time and dedication to your work, it changes you.
Your character is very much a “fixer.” How much of a “fixer” are you in real life?
I don’t think I’m much of a “fixer.” I feel responsible for things, probably more than necessary. I don’t know whether that’s Jewish or Catholic guilt, because I have them both. But it’s easy for me to identify with that.
On the set, do you ever argue with Jon Voight about his support for Donald Trump? There’s a couple of things we disagree about. We don’t talk about politics (laughs). It’s an unspoken deal. [But] we agree on a lot of stuff.
You and Jon have such chemistry. Do you tap your relationship with your own dad, sometimes—maybe the friction? I grew up mostly with a single mother. When I was around 16, my father and I got together. But we have a great relationship now. I love him very much and, certainly, [our relationship is] not nearly as contentious as Ray and Mickey’s.
If Donald Trump Jr. called Ray and he said, I f**ked up. What can Ray do to resurrect him? I was watching the confirmation hearing this morning for (Christopher) Wray (as FBI director). I was thinking, I hope no one asks me the Donald Trump Jr. question (laughs). That’s a tough fix.
Politics isn’t Ray’s arena, but it’s starting to look more and more like Ray’s arena these days, unfortunately. It reminded me a lot more of Hollywood than it should. That seems to be the climate in DC right now. It’s become something of a celebrity sh*t show, but we’ll see (laughs).
So Ray has his limits. He can’t solve every problem. No, I would never undersell Ray. He’s a sneaky bastard. I’m sure he can.
You’re going to celebrate a big milestone this year. You’ve reached half a century. Oh, let’s get over that one quickly. It’s remarkable. You have to remember to be grateful. I hope to spend it with my family and people I love and who are happy that I’ve made it to that.
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