Exclusive: James Woods on the Shocking Ray Donovan Season Finale
Spoiler Alert! Don't read this story if you have not yet watched the season finale of Ray Donovan.
Sully, we hardly knew ye! James Woods' Whitey Bulger-esque Boston mobster bit the dust in Sunday's Ray Donovan Season 1 finale, double-crossed by his old partner in crime, Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight). Woods gave TV Guide Magazine the exclusive lowdown on why Sully had to get gunned down.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you always know this would be Sully's fate?
James Woods: [Creator] Ann [Biderman] is one of my oldest and best friends in the world, and I only did the show essentially because she called me up and asked me to do it. And when we were discussing it I said, "Damn, I don't want to do a second season." Not that I don't want to. I'd love to. I love Liev [Schreiber] and I love Jon Voight — he's the reason I became an actor. He talked me into becoming an actor when I was in college. He saw a performance I did. But, the show would do a mini shark-jump there. You can't have the world's most infamous, FBI's most wanted, wandering around killing people. It would be bad storytelling. In the zeitgeist of the whole piece, Sully had to go.
TV Guide Magazine: Why did Sully trust the duplicitous Mickey?
Woods: Here's how I justified it — he's been a mole for 20 years and got to stretch his legs and his trigger finger, so maybe there's a part of him that takes the chance he might go down blazing. On the other hand, he's also been out of the world for 20 years. Maybe there's a part of him that believes there's some odd honor among thieves.
TV Guide Magazine: So how did you master Sully's wicked Boston accent?
Woods: Well, I'd like to say that I'm a genius, but I grew up in Rhode Island, so I was nearby. To be honest with you, I struggled with it, and I was surprised because I went to MIT, which is in Boston. It's like when people say to do a Southern accent, the accents vary town to town in Mississippi. So we had a very adept and extremely talented accent coach, and she stayed on us all the time. I worked very hard on it, as did everybody else. It's harder on the guest stars — I was a guest star even though I was in almost every episode — because the contractual cast, they live that accent. We're dropping in and trying to get it right. It was a bit of a struggle, but it's what I do for a living. And I've had some success. But the irony was, it was almost harder for me because I grew up near the accent but not with it. My accent was just off. It's harder to do an accent that's similar.
TV Guide Magazine: You haven't been working much lately. Why?
Woods: I went through a hard period. My mother was dying for four years and I kind of quit working to take care of her. I kind of never wanted to work again. The wind was out of my sails. It was a very hard time, watching someone you love suffer like that. I just loved her so much, and it was a very big loss for me. And then when I went to work, it was nice to work with people who I love and know. I love Jon Voight and I love Steven Bauer. Ann is one of my dearest friends, and [Showtime's] David Nevins and Michael Apted, who directed the finale. It's great to be getting a second shot with people like that.
TV Guide Magazine: So are you ready for the James Woods renaissance?
Woods: To be honest with you, my agent hates me because my joke is that I'm retired from show business, but I'll make a triumphant return under certain circumstances. One of them is that I never want to do a series for a long time because I've done it. And I loved my last series [Shark], and I loved the people I worked with and worked for. I loved Ray Donovan, but doing the same thing for a long time is difficult. In cable, it's not so difficult, however, because they are willing to have open-ended arcs that close at the oddest moments. You're not feeding the syndication beast.
TV Guide Magazine: Are there any other cable dramas you'd like to do an arc on?
Woods: I loved The Killing. And there was discussion about my doing a season with them, and the problem was it shoots in Vancouver and I would've had to be there every day, where it rains. But these cable shows are so tempting because they are exactly what my career was based on when it used to be movies. We have videogames masquerading as movies now. I say to my friends, "Tell me the plot of any one of these big movies. Who do you care about?" Nobody. I can't tell you the plot of any of these movies. But what's great about all of these wonderful cable shows is that the writing is so good, it's not hamstrung by everything needing to be a closed story for every 44-minute episode because of syndication. You know, on Shark, I said, "Why don't we do more stuff with Danielle [Panabaker], the girl who played my daughter? Why don't we do a three-episode arc when she smokes pot for the first time?" They said, "We can't do arcs in the show because if we do arcs and the show is out of order in syndication, then people don't understand the arc." The thing about cable is you have the option to tell these wandering story arcs built around a character like mine who can come in and out. I remember on The Walking Dead, I was thinking, "When is Michael Rooker going to come back?" And lo and behold, he did! If they wrote a phenomenal season or two in Homeland or one of these other great shows, I would certainly consider it. I am, as you can imagine, offered my own series all the time, which is a wonderful thing. I'm very grateful and very tempted, but there has to be a really compelling reason.
TV Guide Magazine: Your last episode of Ray Donovan aired opposite the Emmy Awards. Any expectations that we'll see you at the ceremony next year?
Woods: I have four Emmys because I have a couple of voiceover ones I won [in addition to the ones for the TV movies My Name is Bill W. and Promise]. But I'd always love to get another nomination. I'm always incredibly honored and touched. I'm a sucker for them. I'm so moved when people acknowledge my work. Honestly, I'm a softie about it. I'm really grateful. But in my humble opinion as a viewer of the show, I can't imagine Jon Voight not being a slam dunk for the best supporting actor category. But I'm a guest star on the show, so that's a different category. It would be fun, and I hope it happens. That would be lovely. If I get to go too, I'll be thrilled to be part of the party.
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