Watch: Jeremy Piven goes from Ari (‘Entourage’) to Harry (‘Mr. Selfridge’)

Jeremy Piven readily allows that transitioning from Hollywood superagent Ari Gold on the hit laffer “Entourage” to 19th century retail magnate Harry Selfridge in the period piece “Mr. Selfridge” has been quite the experience.

In a revealing video chat with Gold Derby, he says, “It’s very interesting being approached now as Harry as opposed to Ari … instead of being smacked on the back and barked at, the approach is different because he was a turn of the century gentleman.” 

This new role allowed him to tap into his own family history since his character “saw Selfridges [department store] as his theatre. He really kind of invented the idea of the windows being a scene out of a play, and you create this world and you dress it as such… It was kind of a risk to play it that big to be honest with you… My theatrical background allowed me to have a reference for getting in there and having a guy play it as if it was theatre.”

As for playing an innovative entrepreneur, Piven admits: “I don’t have any great ideas … I don’t know any other way that to be than to be hungry and be a student and to be collaborative.” However, he does understand Selfridge’s risktaking: “Wherever the note comes from, let’s take a chance. If you dare to look really stupid, that’s the way to be. My only regret would be to be sitting in your room after a day of shooting wishing “god I wish I would have tried that.”… I’m definitely guilty of wanting another take, I’m that guy, I like to just mix it up… and fall on my face.”

The actor characterizes Selfridge as “a guy who struggles with himself … These are the kind of characters that you’re just lucky to get a shot at playing. Whether it’s on television or film or stage or whatever, the arenas don’t matter anymore.” However he does note that “one of the perks of working on television, you just get so many shots to try things and find the arc of a character and let it breath.” 

Reflecting on his three-year winning streak at the Emmys for “Entourage,” he says “In terms of that particular role, it was a real lesson in outing your ego aside… Check your ego at the door to play a guy who lives from his ego, it is incredibly ironic … It was a great run.”

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