Hank Azaria Q&A: ‘Ray Donovan’
“It’s an idea I’ve had in some form or another since I was a teenager and started imitating the generic 1970’s baseball announcer voice,” reveals Hank Azaria about the origins of Jim Brockmire on his new IFC series “Brockmire.” In our recent webchat (watch our exclusive video above), he would wonder if broadcasters like that had the same voice when they were doing things outside of the broadcasting booth. It got to the point where he thought it would be funny to see that person have a meltdown while retaining that “golden-throated way of expressing himself.” He adds that his “Simpsons” co-star Harry Shearer once told him that, “guys like that can say anything they want as long as they give the count afterward.”
The rookie comedy airs its season finale on Wednesday, May 17. The show centers around the broadcaster for the Kansas City major league team. In 2007, after walking in on his wife having sex with several different men, he goes on a drunken tirade while on the air. The resulting shame forces Jim into a self-imposed exile from America. A decade later, he’s back in the states (still regularly drunk and high) with an offer to be the in-stadium play-caller for a minor league team in Morristown, Pennsylvania owned by Jules James (Amanda Peet).
The idea for the character first manifested itself in a 2010 short for “Funny or Die” using the same voice and outfit that Hank uses for the character today. From there, Hank was paired up with writer Joel Church-Cooper and the two developed a movie around the character. The movie was all set to go until they lost their financing four days before they were set to start shooting. Azaria and Church-Cooper then reworked the project into one that would be suited for cable.
Azaria could be a major player in this year’s Emmy derby for Best Comedy Actor. He’s already a six-time Emmy winner with four of those wins coming in Best Voice-Over Performance for “The Simpsons” in 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2015. His other two were for Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor for “Tuesdays with Morrie” in 2000 and Best Drama Guest Actor for “Ray Donovan” last year. He said that the trophy he claimed last year was very gratifying for him: “It’s not that I was counting on it or it was a big lead up for me. I just feel that in the last five years, I have come to really enjoy my work and really feel like I know what I’m doing.”
He will be back on the Emmy ballot for “Ray Donovan” as a guest star again this summer. Azaria could also compete as Best Movie/Limited Series Supporting Actor opposite Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer in the upcoming HBO telefilm “The Wizard of Lies.”
In our interview above, we also chat about his work on “The Simpsons” and how he really enjoys getting to voice the lines of Moe Syzlack, the bartender: “I really enjoy Moe’s homespun, colloquial, working class, depressed poetry that he engages in. That worldview is the most gratifying to act and vocalize.” However, the voice that he enjoys doing the most is Professor John Frink because of how much fun it is to talk in such a silly voice.