Liev Schreiber talks Naomi Watts, fatherhood, and the new series of 'Ray Donovan'
As Sky Atlantic drama Ray Donovan returns, the show's star Liev Schreiber tells Keeley Bolger about relocating to Los Angeles and the mixed blessings of being in a relationship with Hollywood star Naomi Watts.
Liev Schreiber has found himself in a somewhat "difficult" place in life. Partner to 21 Grams actress Naomi Watts and devoted dad to their two young sons, he has to tear himself away from the family home in New York and move, albeit temporarily, to LA in order to film his series Ray Donovan.
"I do like LA," says the 46-year-old who plays the title character, an unconventional family man who 'fixes' the very messy problems of the rich and famous (which most often involves getting his hands dirty, of course).
"But given I average 14 hours a day on the set, LA, for me, is about work," he adds. "I think that's always been the nature of [it], because I'm a New Yorker and I've only ever come out here for work or films.
"And that's difficult, especially when you're trying to raise kids. But we're doing our best."
The long hours on set mean that when Schreiber has precious time off to spend with Watts and their sons Alexander and Samuel, he makes a concerted effort to get out in the great outdoors so he can "expose the kids to the benefits of this place geographically".
One of those benefits is being close to the ocean, where San Francisco-born Schreiber and Alexander (known to the family as 'Sasha') can surf.
For Schreiber, who identifies with the strong emphasis on family in the Sky Atlantic series, the sea has become a therapeutic place, especially during busy times in his life, such as this.
"I love being in the ocean, I've found it's like a big reset button for me," he explains. "Work is difficult and I'm exhausted, but there's nothing like jumping in the ocean to reset your mind, body and spirit and to put it back in a healthy place."
While work might be difficult, with an "emotional" second series and "challenges to Ray's marriage and relationships with his children" in store, it's in good supply for the actor, who's perhaps better known to some for his role as Victor in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
As well as Ray Donovan, there's Pawn Sacrifice, a new film with Tobey Maguire, to be getting on with.
But grafting is nothing new to Schreiber, who had his big screen breakthrough in the late Nineties with his role in the horror film franchise, Scream, alongside Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox.
"I always had a very good work ethic, which I got from my grandfather," he notes. "And there was never any doubt in my mind that if you worked hard enough and you paid attention, there was a reward. I think I understood that. I didn't ever really imagine how I would apply that, but I understood it."
The actor is keen to pass on this diligent attitude to his children, but is aware that there are limits as to what he can show his kids in terms of his own work.
"It's difficult for my kids to be around me while I'm working, because of the nature of the show," he explains. "They come by every once and a while and they know what I do. But you show up on set, and Daddy has people helping him do everything.
"And there's a fancy trailer. I don't know if it's necessarily the best way to inspire a work ethic or show them the value of a day's rate, but it's something I certainly hope they'll inherit along the way."
If Schreiber's children are left with a limited impression of what their dad does in Ray Donovan (after all, he jokes, there's never really a "happy day" for Ray, one where he "takes the kids to Disneyland" or "goes to the beach"), his partner Watts is well versed in what goes on in the series.
"It was a real treat to watch it with Naomi," says Schreiber. "She's a harsh critic, and to see her enjoying it and her family enjoying it was real fun."
But being in a relationship with another actor can be a mixed blessing.
"On the good side, she has a real deep understanding of what it is that I do," he says. "She can relate to it and is compassionate to the battles and struggles and victories and all that. She's also got a great eye for acting and is very helpful and smart about identifying good choices and bad choices.
"The only difficulty - though it's also kind of a blessing - is that we're both working all the time, and that makes it pretty hard," he adds.
"We have short little glimpses of each other at night, exhausted before we go to bed, or in the morning getting the kids off to school.
"It's tough, but I guess that's the same for any working family."
Sky Atlantic, July 15, 10pm