When HBO’s single-camera Hollywood comedy “Entourage” premiered last year, the show’s main thrust was to profile the misadventures of young A-list feature film actor Vincent Chase and his trio of friends/relatives/hangers-on. But in promoting “Entourage’s” second season, which begins today, HBO featured an ad campaign highlighting Vincent Chase’s agent, the charmingly amoral Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven.
Mr. Piven’s portrayal of the Type A Hollywood agent who uses threats, praise, fear, humor, seduction and his personal neuroses to get what he wants struck such a chord with viewers that HBO created a Web site around what has become Ari Gold’s singular catchphrase, “Let’s hug it out, bitch.”
Doug Ellin, “Entourage’s” creator, said he knew he wanted Mr. Piven for the role three years ago, “before the show was even a possibility.”
Mr. Ellin said that the character was modeled after real-life agent and Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel, as well as Mr. Ellin’s own agent, Jeff Jacobs, but that much of the character comes from Mr. Piven himself.
“He brings tremendous reality to it,” Mr. Ellin said, noting that the wrong actor would make Ari Gold just a nasty caricature. “There is a sparkle in the eye that makes you know at the end of the day it’s all talk.”
Mr. Piven, who has never been nominated for an Emmy, has been acting since he was a child growing up in Evanston, Ill., where his parents ran the acclaimed Piven Theatre Workshop. Workshop graduates include Lara Flynn Boyle, Lili Taylor, Aidan Quinn and siblings John and Joan Cusack.
Numerous feature roles, plus a recurring role in ABC sitcom “Ellen” and a lead role in the short-lived 1998 drama “Cupid,” helped Mr. Piven build a solid but low-key resume.
Mr. Piven’s agent, ICM’s Brian Bunnin, said Mr. Piven’s performance passes the test with perhaps the most demanding audience-talent agents themselves.
“People think he is spot-on,” Mr. Bunnin said, noting that he is relieved Mr. Piven has made it clear he is not playing his own agent.
“The character is mischievous, the character is vulnerable, the character is loving, the character is powerful,” Mr. Bunnin added. “All of these adjectives, that is what we all are in Hollywood. It shines a very bright spotlight on a side of the business. Those of us in it laugh and revel in its reality.”
Others to Consider
2004 Comedy Supporting Actor Contenders
Winner: David Hyde Pierce, Frasier (NBC)
Other nominees: Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development (Fox); Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS); Peter Boyle, Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS); Sean Hayes, Will & Grace (NBC)