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Actor Steven Bauer finds the moral core in Showtime drama ‘Ray Donovan’ |

Actor Steven Bauer finds the moral core in Showtime drama ‘Ray Donovan’

| Tuesday, August 6, 2013 9:00 p.m
Steven Bauer as Avi in 'Ray Donovan.'

The iconic notion of a white knight rescuing us from the direst of situations is proving to be too irresistible to pass up. Case in point: Showtime’s new drama, “Ray Donovan,” starring Liev Schreiber in the title role. The show follows the go-to “fixer” for the Hollywood elite whose own family problems prove much harder to tend to.

Starring opposite Schreiber, veteran actor Steven Bauer brings to life the character of right-hand man, Avi, whose loyalty to his boss is carefully tended, while ensuring an ever-present voice of reason. The show presents a more layered perspective than a reliance on strong-arm tactics to get results. Within this storyline of modern-day vigilantism runs a strong undercurrent of moral obligation, a view of the world that doesn’t waste time on minced words. Bucking the stereotypical pretentiousness that might be expected for a Hollywood veteran whose career has spanned 30 years with credits in “Scarface” and “Breaking Bad,” Bauer shrugs off his latest on-screen achievement as the result of being “in the right place at the right time.”

Not surprisingly, he remains tight-lipped when it comes to any spoilers about the ensuing season of “Ray Donovan.” What he does promise is a lot more to come.

Question: What is it about the idea of someone watching over us that has such an appeal?

Answer: I think that, being human, we all make mistakes, and the more complicated our lives are, the bigger mistakes we are liable to make. I’ve thought about this a lot, too. And so, being that God’s really not available for all of us, you know? I mean prayer only does so much — I learned that early on, trying to be a good Catholic. I realized that God maybe doesn’t hear you all the time, so you need Ray Donovan, or someone like that, to come swooping down. If you have the money to pay, if you make gigantic mistakes, and they’re high-class mistakes, that means you’re in a high-class area, and you have money. And for the right amount of money, I think that Ray Donovan can save your life before TMZ destroys it. Let’s face it — they’re everywhere. And if you’re famous, they’re gonna be looking for you to step in poop.

Q: There’s this interesting undertone of morality on the show.

A: I think that Ray Donovan is a really solid person. He’s a really solid guy who’s been through a lot and has seen a lot, and he’s one of those human beings who has this inherent morality in spite of his upbringing. In spite of his father, almost as a reaction to his father being such a criminal, such a sleazy guy. Mickey Donovan’s so sleazy, that (Ray) decided to become really the patriarch of that family. And so he watches the world in that sense. And what’s beautiful about him is that he doesn’t pass judgment on people — he just sort of responds. He responds in a way that’s usually kind — or it’s lethal. He takes charge. But some things are just beyond his grasp of what’s acceptable, so he takes decisive action.

Q: Do you think virtues like generosity or charity can exist when we take enforcement of the rules into our own hands?

A: Well, ideally. I don’t see it often in this society and in the do-gooders. We certainly don’t see it in government that much. We don’t see elected officials who have that kind of white-knight thing. Because Ray Donovan, let’s face it, is really kind of a white knight, a crusader, but it’s not corny for some reason. You sort of buy it because he’s so troubled by demons, that he doesn’t take that out on the world, he sort of fixes. He feels this duty to right the wrongs and just maybe make it a little easier. Unfortunately, most people who do take the law into their own hands or become arbiters of what’s good and evil are not that consistent, and Ray’s pretty consistent. And I buy it. For some reason, I just buy it. Maybe also because of Liev (Schreiber), who is the kind of guy that, when he’s around, you might think he’s a little aloof or turbulent, but then you’ll smile, and he’ll be very gentle with his presence. He’s actually a very generous and a very kind man. So just being around him, you think, “This guy kind of has an overview of the world that’s interesting.” He doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t waste a lot of time moralizing or explaining himself — he just does. He just does. He just acts.

Q: Beyond being a right-hand man, what role do you see Avi playing in Ray’s life?

A: My character is really an extension of him. And he knows I will do anything he says. There’s a loyalty there that’s built in, but Avi, also, is the voice of reason sometimes. And you’ll see it as the series goes along.

And who is Avi? Avi is very, very, very Jewish, Israeli, very moral guy who is also trained in lethalness and knows how to take action, cut through the sentimentality and … everything. But he knows if Ray Donovan goes into that mode — being overly emotional — that he needs to be stopped. He needs to be brought back to earth. I think I also give him an outlet when he can’t afford to get his hands dirty. So, there is somebody who is willing to do it. I’m a willing soldier. I know that there are things that have to be done that are ugly and really unpleasant, and he doesn’t need to get involved. I can take care of it — very simply — and my conscience will be clear. And I think that the beauty of that relationship is that he has someone who is more lethal than him. … I can do the dirty work. But if he goes crazy? I can stand him up right. I can put him in his place. Avi can just disarm him and say, “No, no, you’re not going anywhere.”

Q: Do you think there’s room in this world for a modern-day vigilante?

A: No. No, because I don’t really trust that there are people who have that sensibility or that real, real moral balance. There’s too much room for error. I think it’s great to have someone like Ray Donovan be iconic and sort of represent the ideal of that, but I think it’s very dangerous to allow a window of opportunity for people to sort of claim that they have that. Ray Donovan didn’t claim that — it’s his job. That’s the beauty of it. That’s just his job. He just happens to execute it with a lot of morality. With an interesting morality, you know? So, it really is idealized, it really is idealized. It’s one in a million … one in a billion.

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