Jeremy Piven crunches his lips. He wrinkles his brow. He juts out his chin. Finally, just when it seems like he’s run out of facial contortions, he squeezes his eyes shut and releases a stream of utterly authentic-looking tears, right on cue.
The 45-year-old actor is on a soundstage in Culver City, Calif., on a cool June afternoon, enjoying his last few weeks of portraying talent agent Ari Gold on HBO’s Hollywood satire Entourage before the show wraps up shooting its eighth and final season. Normally, Piven’s Ari is more of a screamer than a weeper. But after all those years of shouting into cell phones and hurling obscenities at assistants, Piven is getting a chance to show Ari’s softer side. Mrs. Ari (Perrey Reeves) left him at the end of last season, taking the dog and the kids with her, and at the start of this season (premiering July 24 at 10:30 p.m.) his most important client, superstar Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), returns from rehab after developing a bad drug habit helped along by his porn-star girlfriend (played by real-life porn star Sasha Grey). In the scene Piven is filming today, Ari sits alone in his sleek, glass-walled office and has a breakdown.
”I love the duality of the character,” Piven says later, describing how he’s played the role over the past 88 episodes. ”At first glance you think he’s a pig. But then you come to realize he’s doing it all for his family.” He continues, ”And the way this final season has unfolded, I get to pull back the layers and reveal what really matters to this guy. I get to show his humanity. I get to cry. How great is that for an actor?”
Pretty great. Especially because Piven totally nails the scene, sobbing like John Boehner at a Céline Dion concert. Turns out this may well be an actor with a far wider dramatic range and greater emotional depth than anyone who watches Entourage might have guessed.
Either that, or he had some really bad sushi for lunch.