Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jeremy Piven of Entourage

HAVING already won three Emmys and a Golden Globe award for his role as Ari Gold, the acerbic Hollywood agent in Entourage, Jeremy Piven was again nominated for the same role in the recently concluded Golden Globes.

Now on Season 6 and currently airing on HBO, Piven’s character remains a central figure in the hit TV series as Ari Gold is on pace to become more powerful than ever. You have to catch the ongoing episodes to know more, though.

Because for now, I’ll just leave you with a 2007 feature I wrote about the actor and one of TV’s surprisingly endearing characters for the i Section of the Manila Bulletin.


“THERE are no asterisks in this life, only scoreboards.”

Forget about that new James Woods courtroom drama, only a real shark like Ari Gold can say something like that in convincing fashion. Ruthless, relentless and always at the top of his game, Ari is the Hollywood agent that makes his client’s stars wildest dreams and sometimes, even worst nightmares come true in HBO’s hit comedy series, Entourage, now on its third rampaging season.

Based loosely on the Hollywood experience of acclaimed actor Mark Wahlberg who also acts as its executive producer, the Emmy award-winning Entourage takes a look at the day-to-day life of Vincent (Vince) Chase (Adrian Grenier), a hot young actor in Hollywood, and his entourage, three longtime buddies from his hometown of Queens, New York: his best friend and manager Eric “E” Murphy (Kevin Connolly), his half-brother Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon) and his loyal pal and the group’s designated driver, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara).

But make no mistake about it. Ari Gold, who steals just about every scene he’s in, is the life of this party. Played with livewire tenacity by character actor (and frequent John Cusack sidekick) Jeremy Piven, the morally-challenged Ari is emerging as the, well, gold standard by which TV supporting actors are measured. And Jeremy has Emmys and Golden Globe trophies to prove it. Ari is an agent people either love or hate, well, mostly hate. A frequent name-dropper, he is well-known throughout the industry, and his clients know that even though he’s such a pain to work with, there's no better agent to propel them to the top.

“This show has been pretty far-reaching and so that's been an amazing experience for people to really take to it.” Jeremy enthuses. “And it’s interesting because my character has a certain energy and I think some people see me and they immediately assume that I’m going to have that type of energy so they give me back what I’ve given them. So they immediately are very abrasive with me. Guys will hug me, and smack me on the back, and yell and bark in my face. And it’s very interesting because I’ve really grown to realize that that’s not really the way that I want to be greeted. I’m not a fan of strangers barking, you know (laughs).”

Yes, Ari is wound up in such a way that the method of his madness lies is his unwitting sense of irony. Like HBO’s own Tony Soprano, Ari’s take-no-prisoners persona is somewhat balanced by his fierce devotion to his family. He may fear no man, but he certainly bows to the demands of his materialistic wife, who is nonetheless exasperated with his fast-faced lifestyle.

“If you want a Beverly Hills mansion, a country club membership, and nine weeks a year in a Tuscan villa, then I'm gonna need to take a call when it comes in at noon.” Ari snaps at the long-suffering Mrs. Ari, played by Perrey Reeves.

“I think there’s a lot of duality going on with us, so there’s an angel-devil thing going on with this guy,” Jeremy notes. “What’s just really fun to play is that he says the "un-sayable" and the unthinkable a lot of times, and then he has an enormous amount of love for his family. His wife wears the pants and at work he goes and crushes everyone. So that’s really fun to play.”

Ari’s relationship with “E”, Vince’s manager is also one of the series’ highlights. Eric's advice to Vince often agitates Ari, who feared that such advice could steer Vince towards the wrong projects. As much as they hate each other’s guts, Eric and Ari have entered into a marriage of convenience that has resulted in mixed blessings for Vince.

“There are certain actors that have a little Elvis-dust on them and they kind of blow up very early. And some of them may not have a lot of patience to read scripts,” Jeremy says. “So their best friend, they give the job to them and then their agent has to sit down with their best friend who’s maybe been in Hollywood for like 11 minutes and suddenly, he’s speaking to the best friend ‘cause he can’t find the actor. It happens all the time. And those moments are what’s interesting because this hot-headed Type A racking ball agent has to contain himself to deal with this, what Ari calls E, a ‘pizza boy’. So he’s got to deal with the ‘pizza boy’ while the real deal is off golfing somewhere. So he’s got to keep a lid on all that frustration, hence where you get a lot of the thrust of our show.”

A minor subplot and another marriage of convenience in the show is Ari’s relationship with his gay assistant, Lloyd (Rex Lee) who has pledged his “undying loyalty” to him after he got the Jerry McGuire boot from the agency that he helped build in Season 2. Lloyd's ethnicity and sexual orientation are the constant targets of Ari's venomous and often hilarious barbs, but as much as he hates to admit it, the cut-throat agent does rely heavily on Lloyd to handle the day-to-day minutiae of his work life and also knows that he needs his resourceful assistant to ensure the success of his career.

In Entourage, Ari’s willingness to go to great lengths, heights and even stoop to the lowest of lows to get what he wants for his clients, his family and more importantly, for himself is what keeps the show a must-see.

To keep tabs on Ari’s “scoreboard,” visit HBO Asia's official site here for Entourages schedule. Also, watch past seasons of the hit series on JackTV and etc Entertainment Central.

Here's the best of Ari Gold in 2009 (Warning: spoiler alert and some foul language may not be suitable for very young audiences):

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