Liev Schrieber takes a leap of faith into TV

Showtime • Actor is intrigued by his starring role in "Ray Donovan."
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Liev Schreiber is an award-winning actor with a memorable voice. A voice so impressive he's done a lot of work narrating documentaries, as well as commercials for Infiniti cars.

"I wish that I could remember 10 percent of the things that I've narrated," Schreiber said. "I really would be a genius if I could."

The Tony-winning actor whose film career includes everything from the "Scream" trilogy to "The Sum of All Fears" to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," is starring in a television series for the first time. He plays the title character in the Showtime drama "Ray Donovan," a tough Hollywood fixer who's handles things with actions, not so much with words.

"The older I get, the more I look for less lines," Schreiber said with a smile. "I think that's probably one of the things that drew me to Ray as a character is that he didn't talk much. It's a nice quality. I think, for me, as someone who feels compelled to talk more than I should in many situations, it's very healthy for me to play a character like this."

A complicated character. A tough guy from south Boston who's the one to call when a star athlete wakes up to find a dead woman in his bed or when a macho action movie star tries to keep the fact that he's gay hidden from the public.

Ray will give you a warning. If you don't listen, he'll be back with a baseball bat.

He's very good at what he does. But Ray has problems he can't handle.

His father, Mickey (Jon Voight), a murderous thug, just got out of prison and Ray couldn't be less happy about it.

"It's a very complex character," Voight said. "He's a dangerous fellow to himself and to others, but he's got a lot of dimension. So I'm really very challenged, and I'm excited to be playing the part."

Ray's brother, Bunchy (Dash Mihok), was abused by a priest when he was a boy and it made him a substance abuser. His other brother, Terry (Eddie Marsan) is an ex-boxer who now has Parkinson's disease.

Ray marriage to Abby (Paula Malcomson) is on the rocks, owing to Ray's infidelity. And Ray's two kids, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and Conor (Devon Bagby), learn it isn't easy to escape their father's shadow.

And there are more family secrets coming in the first few episodes.

The series, from creator/writer/producer Ann Biderman ("Southland," "Public Enemies"), is tough, violent and engaging. It echoes back to other flawed anti-heroes, but "Ray Donovan" is a show all its own. It opens strong and in-your-face, and it isn't long before you start to see all layers of the characters start to be revealed.

"To have a character who can excel at something and yet has a fatal flaw that is tied into that isn't gratuitous to me," Biderman said. "I think it's how you do it, and hopefully, we've done it in a way that elevates it a bit and gets above the cliche."

Schreiber has studiously avoided a regular series role for years. He did a four-episode arc on "CSI," but the 12-episode first-season of "Ray Donovan" will be his longest TV gig to date, because a regular role is "a thing I've always been terrified of as an actor," said Schreiber, whose first love is the theater.

"It drives me nuts because what I want to do is I want to rehearse for 10 weeks, I want to perform for eight days, and then I want to go home. And the thing that terrifies me about television is that I have to play the same character over and over and over and over again."

But when he read the script for the "Ray Donovan" pilot, he started to see possibilities.

"I kind of got it in my head that this is an interesting way to work" because "you actually get to grow a character over time."

"I'm scared, but I'm excited about it. It seems interesting." —

"Ray Donovan"

The series premieres Sunday at 11 p.m. on Showtime. (Times may vary depending on your cable/satellite provider.)