|Best part about working in TV? “It can feel more like the run of a stage play because you’re
continuing to work on it week after week and coming back and
reinvestigating the world with these people. You have more than one shot to get it right.”
Hardest part about working in TV? “Sometimes you don’t necessarily have the same preparation time you would in a feature. You have to condense whatever your process is.”
Favorite scene this season? “I love watching the duality of the two worlds Gary Busey plays opposite Turtle. It’s just so preposterous when Gary is breaking down what art is to him. Then he had Turtle staring at him. It’s as if Gary was speaking in Sanskrit. I love it.”
TiVo season passes? “I have TiVo but I can’t work it. I try to build a fire with it. I’m like a caveman. But I have ‘Reno 911,’ ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ “
Characters like “Entourage’s” Ari Gold exist in real life. They frequent the posh eateries and exclusive watering holes inside Hollywood’s velvet ropes. Sometimes they approach Jeremy Piven.
“They seem to welcome me with open arms,” Piven says. “Sometimes I get, ‘You’re making us look good.’ I say, ‘Really?’ ”
Piven plays Ari, the relentless uber-agent in HBO’s half-hour satire. Ari is a piranha one minute, a piranha at ease the next. Yet Piven and the writing staff have managed to find the character’s many colors, even if they are often obscured by black Hugo Boss.
“We all have so many different elements inside of us,” Piven says, “and we’re not all one thing. I don’t think he is, either. If you reveal a little bit of the humanity of someone, I think you open up the character. You see what drives people’s actions. We’re all flawed.”
Raised in Evanston, Ill., Piven was a member of the Piven Theater Workshop, founded by his parents, and has been performing since childhood. In recent years he has appeared in such bigscreen fare as “Black Hawk Down,” “Old School” and “Runaway Jury.”
When it came time to audition for the role of Ari, he went after it like Ari goes after a meaty part in a multimillion-dollar action flick for his client Vincent.
“I remember going in a full Ari suit,” Piven recalls. “I had an instinct about this. I didn’t want to give them any margin of error. Forget using your imagination. The way I dress? Someone saw me out of Ari gear and asked if I was homeless. I’m an actor from Chicago and I have my own style. Jeans and a T-shirt. I didn’t want to give them anything to wrap their minds around.”
In the original pilot script, Piven says, there was only one scene involving Ari. That could have been daunting, but Piven saw it as an opportunity.
“There wasn’t a lot to work with in the pilot,” he says, “but I knew as soon as I got on there (HBO) would give me a shot. You just have to have faith.”