Thanks to his recurring role on “Ray Donovan,” New Orleans actor Wendell Pierce spent a lot of his summer working alongside veteran actor Jon Voight.
“It has been a real delight,” Pierce said of sharing screen time with the Oscar and Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominee Voight.
Pierce plays Mickey Donovan’s (Voight’s) parole officer, Ronald Keith, on all but one episode of the Showtime drama’s current sophomore season.
The series, starring Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Liev Schreiber — in his first leading role on television — is set in and shot in Los Angeles. Ray Donovan does the dirty work for the city’s elite, making the problems of celebrities, superstar athletes and business moguls go away, by any means. Mickey Donovan is Ray’s father, who’s unexpectedly released from prison, turning the Donovan family upside down.
“He’s (Voight’s) a consumate actor, always working, and it was just really impressive to be working with an Oscar winner, Emmy nominee, Golden Globe winner, someone of his caliber, at his age, who still does really, really, great work,” Pierce said. “We built great rapport.”
Pierce’s Ronald Keith has a gambling problem.
“That is his Achilles’ heel, and one thing about Ray Donovan is he takes advantage of people’s weak spots so he can manipulate them and use them to his benefit and that’s what he’s doing with me. As he tries to control his father, he uses me in that conspiracy,” Pierce said.
Voight helped Pierce tweak his flawed Ronald Keith.
“That’s the main thing with working with Jon Voight, between takes we do so much work in considering the relationship, what’s at stake, what’s going on in the role, what’s going on in the scene,” he said.
“Ray Donovan” was but one of several acting roles Pierce — who divides his time between his homestate, Los Angeles and New York — completed or started work on this summer.
At CBS, he’ll be starring in the new comedy “The Odd Couple,” set to debut in early 2015.
“I’m playing Teddy, a radio producer and friend of Oscar Madison, played by Matthew Perry,” Pierce explained. “We’re just starting shooting, so I’ll be interested myself to see what direction the writers take it in. It’s based on the original characters from Neil Simon’s play, with, of course, an updated version. Originally my character was Murray the cop, so you see, they’ve already made changes.”
Thomas Lennon stars as Felix Unger.
Switching gears, Pierce also shot two feature films — “Selma,” about the 1960s civil rights marches, and “The Runner,” surrounding a Louisiana Congressman caught up in a sex scandal.
The former film from Paramount was shot in Atlanta, and Selma and Montgomery, Alabama.
“It comes out Christmas Day for Oscar consideration,” Pierce said. “I think it’s a huge film that they really have high hopes for. I think it’s going to be a pretty large opening.”
The smaller, independent Nicolas Cage-starring “The Runner” was filmed in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., and is set in the time just after the 2010 BP oil spill disaster.
“I play his (Cage’s) chief of staff (Frank Legrand),” he said.
Pierce was again working in his hometown for part of “The Runner,” and said he gets back to New Orleans about weekly, or at least twice a month.
The 2010-2013 New Orleans-set and -shot HBO series “Treme” gave Pierce an extended at-home gig as one of the show’s main characters, Antoine Batiste, a trombonist struggling along with his family, friends and neighborhood in the city post-Katrina.
“Treme ultimately was divine intervention because it was an opportunity for me to be home at a very important time in my life,” Pierce said. “It was the last four years I got to spend with my mother. She died the last season of ‘Treme.’
“The residual effect (of ‘Treme’) is that we’ve left a cultural document, something that has kind of marked this time and place, and what people were thinking, and how we failed, and how we succeeded.”