Royalty of the Hollywood variety has always needed cover for any litany of indiscretions. In Tinseltown’s Golden Age, studio-appointed puppet masters like Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling were responsible for tending to movie stars’ troubles, whether that meant covering up affairs—for, among others, Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller—or managing a suspicious death, like that of Jean Harlow’s husband Paul Bern.
In June, a modern version of this cloak-and-dagger operation lands on Showtime via Ray Donovan, a new drama starring Liev Schreiber as the titular problem-solver. “The fixer is this iconic character who’s been around since Hollywood’s been around,” Ann Biderman, the show’s creator, says. “It’s a very entitled town and people here get away with a lot of stuff—but they can also get into trouble.”
The bespoke-suited, Mercedes-driving, Boston-born Donovan makes those troubles disappear. Early on, he deals with action stars and a complex web of infidelity and Oscar winners and the cutthroat admissions process for Los Angeles’ most prestigious private school. Donovan’s own issues, namely a problematic family life and an ex-con father, played by Jon Voight, complicate matters.
Biderman, who’s done serious research on Hollywood’s seedy underbelly, says Schreiber seemed a natural fit for the role. “He just has a certain kind of old-fashioned masculine quality that Ray needed to have,” she says. “He brought to the part a soulfulness and intelligence—apart from the brutality.”
Brutality is what fans might want to see, considering the popularity of TV series about pros who clean up the messes of the rich and famous. “I’ve been keeping files for years on the gestalt of the town, on crime and lawyers and private investigators and cops,” Biderman says. “Human behavior is what it is and at the end of the day, that’s what people respond to. Not glamour.”
Ray Donovan premieres on June 30, but Showtime has released the pilot. Watch the full first episode here: