Pooch Hall gets in a new game

Pooch Hall (right) with Eddie Marsan in “Ray Donovan.”
Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME
Pooch Hall (right) with Eddie Marsan in “Ray Donovan.”

PASADENA, Calif. — It’s a complicated chemistry that nets an actor a role, but in Pooch Hall’s case, he thinks a trip back to the East Coast helped him nab the part of Daryll on the new Showtime drama “Ray Donovan,” which premieres Sunday at 10 p.m.

The Brockton-born Hall says he showed up to the audition for the series — about a dysfunctional Boston clan transplanted to Los Angeles — on the heels of appearing at a BET event in New York. “I was fresh with my East Coast swag,” he says with a laugh, “which is definitely needed when you work and live out here.”

Hall brings some of that brash attitude to Daryll, the (newly discovered by some) illegitimate son of Donovan patriarch Mickey Donovan, played by Jon Voight. While some in the family welcome him openly, others, including the title character played by Liev Schreiber, are more wary. He also brings his boxer’s physique, which he was asked to display, by doffing his shirt, in his audition by “Ray Donovan” creator Ann Biderman.


“In the acting world, that’s a good sign,” says Hall with a laugh, adding he didn’t feel objectified. “I’m not ashamed, I work hard to look how I do.” (Daryll is also a fighter so it didn’t hurt that the actor — who spent six seasons playing football player Derwin Davis on the BET sitcom “The Game” — has a pugilist background, having won Southern New England Golden Gloves in 1994.)

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Although Hall had hoped to return to “The Game” for its current season, when he could not come to terms with the network when his contract expired, he went out for the “Ray Donovan” role. As sad as he was to leave his old TV family, he’s thrilled about the one he has joined. “There’s ‘The Game’ and then there’s Liev Schreiber and Showtime, that’s a different stratosphere. It’s the game-changer.”

We chatted with the always affable Hall at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

Q. Was it hard to say goodbye to “The Game”?

A. Absolutely, there were a lot of tears. But it’s also like the start of a new chapter. When you start out in this business and you love movies, there are certain actors in those movies. And now I’m working with five of the actors I loved watching that I said, “One day I’m going to work with that person.”


Q. I’m guessing you were a big fan of “The Champ”?

A. Yeah, Jon and I actually have a lot in common. We both were trained by Jimmy Gambina. Jimmy trained him for “The Champ” and me for “Black Cloud.”

Q. So are you trying to pick up some of his traits since he’s playing your dad?

A. It’s going to be interesting to see certain mannerisms. A lot of my stuff in the pilot is with Jon and I’m around him a lot, and not only do I look up to him as an actor but as a son [as the character]. There’s this little mystery and he takes a liking to me, as he has in real life. So you’ve got to be a student of the game, just watching Liev and talking with them. They’ve been doing it before you and they’ve done it on a level where it’s like holy [expletive]! I just recently watched “Enemy of the State” again on a plane for Jon. And I just picked up “Deliverance.” It’s pretty ill [laughs]. Just the subtleties and the choices he makes as an actor, I just respect. And Liev is the man.

Q. Your character straddles a couple of worlds on the show. Do you have any idea where that’s going?


A. You have some black kids who grew up in white neighborhoods who say, “I want to see what’s up with my roots and see what’s real.” And what’s funny is that’s not where he’s going. He wants to see what’s up with his brothers who are tough Irish kids. The complexity of that is mind-blowing as to how that’s going to play on his identity.

Interview was edited and condensed. Sarah Rodman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.