Jeremy Piven stars as Harry Gordon Selfridge in "Mr Selfridge." (ITV Studios for MASTERPIECE )
Jeremy Piven is about to pull off a job transition that would give any other actor whiplash.
He's currently filming the "Entourage" movie, in which he reprises his Emmy-winning role as Hollywood agent Ari Gold. As soon as that wraps, he'll re-grow a beard and head back to England to film the third season of the much politer "Mr. Selfridge," in which he plays the carnival barker of a 1900s department store manager, Harry Gordon Selfridge.
The Evanston native, whose parents founded the Piven Theatre Workshop, smoothly moved from playing Harry for the show's second season (airing at 8 p.m. Sundays on PBS) to immersing himself in Ari's fast-paced world. Piven isn't sure the transition will be as easy the opposite direction.
"Once you put [Ari's] power suit back on and you shave and you're standing in front of Drama and E and Turtle it just kind of comes back to you. You just kind of enter into that and just start swinging for the fences as hard as you can," Piven said during a recent interview. "Now to downshift might be more difficult; we'll see. They may have to just use an elephant tranquilizer gun on me and shoot me in the neck just to calm [me] down into playing Harry."
Piven talked more about both characters, his time in Chicago and his mom.
But first, take our Jeremy Piven quiz.
Are you coming back to Chicago anytime soon?
No, I wish I wish I could. I'm going to go right from here back to England for Season 3 of "Mr. Selfridge."
You're shooting "Entourage" now. I imagine you had to get rid of your "Mr. Selfridge" mustache and beard?
I had to shave it for Ari. I am clean-shaven at the moment and then I will grow it at the speed of light. That's going to be an interesting transition but we're going to make it happen.
Does it take a while for you to get that beard going?
I can probably grow somewhat of a beard in about 10 days. Everyone's got a talent, so I guess that's mine. You've got to have something, right? So that'll happen. What I'm trying to do with him now is for the first month I think they'll probably construct a mustache for me to put over the beard so it looks like the mustache has overtaken the kind of lighter beard and we'll kind of work our way into it that way.
I've seen pictures of the real Harry and he had huge mutton chops. Are you ever going to do that?
I was thinking about doing it and then I couldn't pull it off the way he did. He's winning with muttonchops and I would be losing. I would look like a lost, wandering Hasidic Jew, probably, you know?
Is that going to be a hard transition going right from fast-talking Ari to Harry?
I'll let you know. I know that the transition from Harry to Ari was very smooth. ... Harry Selfridge is a guy who professionally embraces the light and inspires people and leads with passion and love, whereas Ari rules with an iron fist and is reactive and is so much more draining to play. I mean I'm just crawling home at the end of the day after playing Ari Gold. But Harry, it's almost like it revitalizes you to play him. It's the antithesis in a weird way. So to go from Harry Selfridge to Ari was a smooth transition. I just kind of revved myself up and figured out a way. Once you put that power suit back on and you shave and you're standing in front of Drama and E and Turtle it just kind of comes back to you. You just kind of enter into that and just start swinging for the fences as hard as you can.
Now to downshift might be more difficult; we'll see. They may have to just use an elephant tranquilizer gun on me and shoot me in the neck just to calm down into playing Harry. Harry was a proper, turn-of-the-century gentleman and I feel like the best work I've ever done in my life because it's more subtle. He lives in a very serious duality where he's incredibly evolved and passionate when he's at work, but but he has his demons and can do the wrong thing and embrace debauchery.
So in other words, when you get back to London, Harry's going to be going for a couple of days?
Well, I mean if I were a complete and utter hack and didn't care about what I do. [Laughs.] One of the great things that my family taught me was to respect the space you occupy when you act. And I learned that from working with them and watching them and they really lived that. And I try to live that. So as actors we are voluntarily schizophrenic in this life.
And you say, "How do you switch back and forth?" Well, that's my honor. That's what we do. The show will progress another five years, so we'll now go to 1919 and the wardrobe will be different because all the departments are so authentic and on their game. They're so on their game it's incredible.
And you put on what they call braces—what we call suspenders—and it lifts the pants way up and it hems you in and kind of gives you this kind of the lift, where you're almost more upright and your posture is straighter and the shoes make you feel like you walk differently. He's a guy who moves through space differently and it's a different time.