Who is the real Jeremy Piven? That’s not such an easy question to answer. After spending eight years perfectly capturing the loud, manic and whip-smart Hollywood agent on the hit HBO series Entourage, you might think you have an idea, but it would most certainly be wrong.
In real life, devoid of sets, scripts, directors and multiple takes, Piven couldn’t be further removed from his Entourage character, Ari Gold, the role that launched his acting career into the stratosphere, netted him three Emmy awards, a Golden Globe and planted the phrase “hug it out” firmly into the pop culture lexicon. In fact, the actor contends that none of his previous roles have really zeroed in on who he really is when he isn’t busy being someone else.
“[Ari Gold] was so high-energy, so overly emotionally invested, and that’s not who I am,” says Piven.
In essence, the true Jeremy Piven is a craftsman, a thoughtful and introspective Chicago thespian that relishes in taking a screenplay and molding his characters into existence. And in Entourage, the actor did the near-impossible and turned the nigh-insufferable Ari Gold into television’s most likable Hollywood agent.
Now, with his latest series, Mr. Selfridge, Piven is once again creating one of television’s most memorable characters. The show, which launched its fourth and final season on PBS March 27th, follows Harry Gordon Selfridge, an American retail giant who attempts to open one of the world’s finest department stores in early 20th century London. The lavishly produced period drama, which is a co-production between PBS and Britain’s ITV, has garnered considerable acclaim from critics and audiences on both sides of the pond. Piven, especially, has received praise for his complex portrait of the show’s main character. Selfridge, a genial showman with dark secrets hidden behind his friendly exterior, is worlds away from Ari Gold, but Piven still manages to give the role its due complexity.