When Kerris Dorsey started acting on Ray Donovan, she was 14 years old. Now 21, Dorsey’s performance as Bridget Donovan has blossomed in the years since — “literally puberty,” as she jokes — turning Ray’s daughter into a well-rounded, three-dimensional character in her own right. Ahead of Ray Donovan’s season-six finale, which aired Sunday night, Kerris spoke to Vulture about the progression of her performance not only through this season — her best to date — but the entire show, as well as what she’s learned working with an excellent ensemble, how the show’s big move to New York changed everything, and where she’d like Bridget Donovan to go next.
How is Bridget different at the end of this season?
She’s very different. Most years, there’s an evolution for Bridget because she experiences so many crazy things. But this year, in particular, she comes away with new perspective. She’s actually being involved in the things she didn’t used to want to be involved in. She’s taking part in Smitty’s mistake in killing a cop and literally getting her hands dirty, and seeing that aspect of the underbelly of the Donovan family that she’s been trying to get away from. The whole season, there’s been a push-and-pull between her and Ray and wanting to get away from him — and wanting to distance herself to the point of literally moving away. There’s something interesting and symbolic about them being all together and under one roof [in the season finale].
What do you think sparks that change? Is it just in the Donovan bloodstream? Does the revelation of her father’s suicide attempt make her feel more needed? Why is she making sandwiches and picking up chainsaws?
It’s a mixture of a lot of things, but that revelation of Ray trying to commit suicide is such a drastic thing. Even though she has a low opinion of him and what he does, I don’t think she really saw him as human in that way. That’s such a human thing. It’s that and — as I was trying to rationalize the chainsaws and bodies and sandwiches — also the kidnapping. It was a crazy thing to experience, to see Mac kill himself in that way and imagine Ray in that position and go, “I have a responsibility to this man.”
How did you change as a performer this year?
Episode ten was the one I got kidnapped in. I always think of episodes like that as “acting boot camp” and I’ve had a lot of acting boot camp last year. I think I cried in every scene. Every time I was on camera, I cried. The last few episodes, I was so stoked to get like pushed around because the boys all get to get pushed around but I don’t. Also, over the last couple episodes, I was going through a really rough time in my personal life, and that was a really interesting thing for me to learn — my art and acting and being on the set can be a funnel for all that energy. It can be a really positive thing.
How have you changed as a performer over the run of the series?
When I did the pilot, I was 14. I just turned 21 yesterday. Those are the most formative years — it’s literally puberty, which is kinda awful. [Laughs.] Being able to work with Liev [Schreiber], Jon [Voight], Eddie [Marsan], and Dash [Mihok], and all of our writers and directors. Being able to work with them for six months out of every year is the best kind of training you could have as an actor.
A really huge thing that I learned is that doing good work, doing good acting, is important — you’re an actor, do your job — but, on top of that, you need to be invested in the whole product. You don’t exist in a vacuum. You need to be able to open your eyes to everything beyond acting. That was something I’ve realized over the years. When I was a child actor, it was about doing my work and being “a good little actor kid,” but there’s more to it. You can ask questions. You can be involved in every aspect of the process.
How much input do you have into that process? Can you say, I don’t think Bridget would do this? No one knows her better than you.
I am really lucky that I can give a lot of input. I leave a lot of it up to [showrunner] David [Hollander] because I do think he knows more than I do. He’s seeing every aspect from all angles. He’s gonna know better than I’m gonna know. Having said that, he is so open to my suggestions. It is always a conversation. We have tons of conversations about everything. He’s open, but, ultimately, I defer to him. But I will always give my two cents.
It’s not true on all shows.
I’ve worked on things with showrunners that are so exact. I worked on a show where I think I missed an “and” — some connecting word that felt kind of silly to me. And the showrunner came in and was like, So, do you just want to read the script again? Go ahead. I was like, Oh, wow.
How do you think the move to New York changed the show?
We have a new crew, but I don’t think that’s something you see on screen. How it changes for the viewer … I don’t know, New York and L.A. are so different. They just have such a different vibe. Even architecturally. Everyone talks about the different energy between L.A. and New York. It’s really palpable. I think the move gave the show a chance to reboot and reset a little bit. It’s a long time to run for five or six years. I’ve heard from people who are watching that it gave it a different vibe. And gave it a kind of “bump.”
Like you said, six years is a long time. So where does Bridget go next?
She’s married. That’s something. [Laughs.] I hope that the last episode is kind of the next season for Bridget. My hope is that I get to be a “proper Donovan.” That’s where the character has been leading, even though they try to pull her away sometimes. She’s never gonna do things without giving her input because she’s a really strong person, but I’d love to see her be impacted by this last year and have it change her perspective on the family and her dad as well. We’ve seen a lot of the Ray-Bridget back-and-forth and I’d like to see their dynamic change a bit.
She feels a little more like her mother at the end of season, someone confident but also now closer and more protective of the family.
Yeah. I don’t think she really wanted to be the matriarch of the family, but those guys need someone to shepherd them. [Laughs.]
It takes a Bridget plotline to get them all together.
Yeah, it’s true.
Have you considered the end of Ray Donovan?
We’re coming back for the next season. I feel like there’s a couple more. I hope we get to finish the story and tell it properly and give an ending to it. I used to think I had a concept of what was going to happen, but that always changes. I don’t know where we’ll go in terms of storylines. I’m hoping we do all of the characters justice. I hope some of them find happiness.
This interview has been edited and condensed.