“I was stopped by this woman who called me Mr. Selfridge the other day” reveals Jeremy Piven as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his PBS series of the same name. “We took a picture together and her daughter said, ‘Isn’t it funny. She doesn’t know what ‘Entourage’ is.’ That’s fun to me.” In this acclaimed period drama, Piven plays Harry Selfridge the American department store owner who made a name for himself in England. “What’s so beautifully ironic is that Harry Selfridge made his name primarily through advertising. He’s the guy who was taking out full page ads in the Daily Mail when no one was doing that.”
For the actor, wrapping up the show after four seasons “was very emotional. My mother actually was on set that day and my sister was too. That was really great. My mom was my acting teacher from when I was about eight years old. It was emotional. It was bittersweet. I was proud we did all we could do.”
He describes the approach he took to end his character’s journey in detail. “When we tell his last chapter, it’s Shakespearean and we don’t pull any punches. I got to kind of come up against it with the directors and the producers. I think the Brits incorporate this credo of having a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality. But there’s a moment where my character is brought to his knees.” He readily admits, “As an actor you hope to use all that is given in a scene and get out of your own way, to be as present as possible and hope to get lucky. The writing was good, so I got lucky and I got emotional. It was interesting navigating that because that is not their style.”
And, he says “being a producer, I got to be in the mix.” Piven jests, “I was told to never talk about this. So I’m going to actors’ prison.” He thinks this highlights a cultural difference between the two countries. “Americans wear their hearts on their sleeves; sometimes we’re a little too emotionally available or effusive. That’s part of Harry’s journey.”
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