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HBO's Boys of Summer

The hit show "Entourage" enters its sixth season in 2009 with more stories of male bonding and outrageous fun.
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Entourage, July/August 2009

(continued from page 6)

Yet the character of Ari really was underrepresented in the pilot. "We didn't envision him as a series regular," HBO's Lombardo says. "But once we saw Jeremy and saw how well he worked and interacted with the guys, he became the fifth member of the crew."

Piven, 43, had his own hesitations about taking the part. He'd had good roles on a couple of hit sitcoms—"Ellen" and "The Larry Sanders Show," as well as "Cupid"—and had worked his way up to supporting roles in films such as Old School and Runaway Jury, when the "Entourage" pilot came his way.

"I had one scene in the original script," Piven recalls. "And I'm going to sign a contract to do a piece where I play the sixth lead behind a character named Turtle? But I saw potential in the character."

"Jeremy inhabits Ari in a way I never would have imagined," Lombardo says. "We haven't seen that character before."

The challenge, Piven notes, is to find the vulnerability in a man swathed in a seemingly invincible shield of withering sarcasm and scorn for the world—to make audiences care about more than whether his next one-liner is as wicked as his last one. "Call me Helen Keller because I'm a fucking miracle worker!" he crows at one point.

Says Piven, "I try to make him as accurate as possible, with dramatic license. So he's wildly abrasive but dedicated to his family. He's an absolute pig who is also absolutely monogamous. It's our job to make sure the audience doesn't just write him off, that Ari doesn't alienate people. There are times when I say something and I'll think, Everyone is going to turn on me with that one. Ari Gold wouldn't have the patience to represent Jeremy Piven."

Unlike Ari, Piven does enjoy the occasional cigar, as he demonstrates on this issue's cover.

"I've been smoking them for about 15 years," he says. "I stumbled into it when I first visited Cuba. Once you taste a great, smooth cigar, it's hard to go back. "I try not to abuse the privilege of cigar smoking," he says. "I'll usually have one at the end of a long day, like a celebratory moment after putting something extra into the work. I've never had the opportunity to smoke in character—I don't know if Ari would. He's such a Type-A wrecking ball. He probably wakes up at dawn and goes running, as the boys are coming home from the clubs. But if it was a case of wooing Ridley Scott, he'd be knee-deep in the Montecristos."

With its blend of inside jokes and real-life stars playing themselves, the line often blurs between life and art on "Entourage."

"Everything you see on the show has happened to someone," Dillon says. "None of it is make-believe. Most of it happened to one of us on the show."

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