In the title role of Ray Donovan, Liev Schreiber has been nominated for five Golden Globes and three Emmys for his performance as a fixer who does the dirty work so his rich and powerful clients come up smelling clean. In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert, Liev admits wryly that “doing a functional serial killer for seven years has been … challenging”. But if life tends towards the seriously unfunny for his character, there is a lighter side to Liev himself.
With season 7 now first on Showmax, we rounded up 10 fun facts about him:
His mother was a hippie
Liev’s described his mother Heather as a “far-out Socialist Labour Party hippie bohemian freak who hung out with William Burroughs”. Due to a bad experience with LSD, she was admitted to hospital several times and, when Liev was a year old, his father threatened to have her admitted to a psychiatric institution. Heather responded by going on the run with her son until private detectives finally tracked them down in a commune in upstate New York when Liev was three. Following his parents’ divorce when he was five, Liev lived with his mother in a squat on the Lower East Side in New York. They slept on a mattress on the floor and often had no electricity or hot water.
“My mom was a very bohemian person who didn’t really value worldly things that much, so squats were kind of romantic and adventurous to her,” Liev said in an interview on Popcorn With Peter Travers.
“She drove a taxi, so I was alone a lot during the day. When people … bring it up I think, ‘yeah, I had a scary childhood’, but I always think I had a really adventurous, wonderful childhood.”
Acting is in his blood
Liev’s father, Tell Carroll Schreiber, was a stage actor, director and acting teacher, and his paternal half-brother is Emmy-nominated actor Pablo Schreiber, who is known for his roles as George “Pornstache” Mendez in Orange is the New Black, and as Mad Sweeney in American Gods. Pablo also starred in the Oscar-nominated movie 13 Hours and has been cast as Master Chief in the Halo live-action series currently in production.
Charlie Chaplin was his childhood hero
Liev’s mother banned him from watching colour movies, so his favourite childhood actors were the silent-movie and black-and-white era film stars Charlie Chaplin and SA-born Oscar nominee Basil Rathbone. Of course, all that changed when he saw his first-ever colour movie, Star Wars, in 1977.
It’s Liev as in ‘chicken kiev’ – not ‘leave’
Liev’s mother was a fan of Russian literature, and said she named him after her favourite writer, Leo Tolstoy (“Lev” in Russian, pronounced Lee-yev). His father, on the other hand, says he was named after the doctor who saved his paternal grandmother’s life. You can just call him by his family nickname – Huggy. (PSA: Seriously. Don’t do this. Liev’s 1.9m tall. And a boxer. Also, Ray Donovan.)
He blames his looks
There are those who describe Liev as “unspeakably hot”, “man candy” and “swoon-worthy”, but that’s not what the actor sees when he looks in the mirror. “I have the kind of face that people want to punch,” he said in an interview with Vulture. “I have Slavic fat pads (cheeks) that make me look like a chipmunk, and arched, predatory eyebrows. With that, you’re not going to get funny. That’s why I play so many bad guys.”
He is ‘the finest American theatre actor of his generation’
That’s according to The New York Times. Liev started his training as a thesp at the prestigious London theatre school, RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts), and later attended the Yale School of Drama. His love of the stage, and Shakespeare in particular, has remained with him since. He’s performed on Broadway and done several Shakespearian plays, including Othello, in which he played the villain Iago (his dream role is King Lear). His performance in the play Glengarry Glen Ross earned Liev a Tony Award in 2005.
His big film break was playing a transvestite
Apart from Ray Donovan, you’ll recognise Liev as Cotton Weary in the notorious Scream movies, Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate, Marty Baron in Spotlight, and mutant supervillain Victor Creed (aka Sabretooth) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But did you know that his first movie role was in the 1994 Steve Martin comedy Mixed Nuts, in which he played a transvestite named Chris? “Bow to my ba-ba-ba-boom, baby!” One of our favourite scripted lines ever to come out of Liev Schreiber’s mouth has to be this line from My Little Pony: The Movie (yes, we’re still talking about the same Liev Schreiber), in which he voices The Storm King. He’s also the voice of Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Spots in Isle of Dogs.
He’s not (just) a badass
Liev is a man of many talents and diverse passions. He got his start in the performing arts doing bal- let as a kid. In high school, he played the bass clarinet and later began writing his own plays. These days, his hobbies include boxing, fencing, surfing, meditation and cycling with his sons, Alexander (known as Sasha) and Samuel (known as Kai).
He’d like to write and direct more
Liev’s first Golden Globe and Emmy nominations were for his performance as legendary Citizen Kane director Orson Welles in RKO 281, but being an acclaimed director isn’t just an act for him. Liev made his debut as a writer-director with the 2005 movie Everything Is Illuminated, starring Elijah Wood, which won two awards at Venice and Special Recognition from The National Board of Review. He directed two episodes of Ray Donovan so far and co-wrote this season’s crucial final episode.