Just over a year ago, Ray Donovan fans were stunned when Showtime canceled their favorite show after seven well-received seasons. Showrunner David Hollander was shocked himself and spoke to Vulture about the baffling decision, saying that, “We had no indicator that the show was ending. We were behaving creatively as though we were in mid-sentence.”
The fan response was vocal and immediate, with loyal viewers rallying to the side of Hollander on social media and making so much noise that Showtime reconsidered their decision and then reversed it. The network announced this week that Ray Donovan will return with a wrap-up movie, giving these characters the closure that fans demanded.
Hollander himself was overwhelmed by the response to the cancellation, recalling to Vulture, “There were petitions and letters and really angry posts. It got pretty heated. I mean, journalists who didn’t even really like the show were expressing outrage. And Liev [Schreiber] and I both knew it was necessary to complete the story as well and were fueled by the fans and were loudly disagreeing with the network’s choice.“
At the end of the seventh season, Ray (Liev Schreiber) went to therapy, Terry (Eddie Marsan) struggled with depression, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) cheated on her new husband, and Mickey (Jon Voight) did what he always does: caused trouble. The problem is that none of these arcs felt final in any real way. In fact, the closing scenes of the sixth season finale felt more like a series finale than the seventh, leaving people scratching their heads and wondering if they would ever know what happened next to the Donovans.
Luckily, Showtime listened to the angry fans, many of them fueled by Hollander’s interview, according to the showrunner. “Not long after our discussion went out, Showtime came back to us and floated the idea of a movie that Liev and I would write and produce together, that I would direct and of course Liev would star,” says Hollander. “Liev and I had a really positive experience making the season seven finale in those roles and I, for one, had been excited about continuing that new form of collaboration with Liev. Once Liev and I felt like we were comfortable with creative directions, we agreed to get into that discussion with the network.”
The film will be here more quickly than you might think. Hollander says that most of the pieces are in place for a spring shoot in New York, and Hollander will be coming off his update of American Gigolo with Jon Bernthal (to air on Showtime), and Schreiber is wrapping a film this week as well.
And they know where to take these characters for their final arc. “It’s very ambitious,” teases Hollander, “and because it’s feature length, we were able to work in very cinematic language. Not that the original seasons of Ray Donovan weren’t cinematic, but certain devices are available to us in the two-hour format. Obviously, we left a lot of questions unanswered at the end of the seventh season. We are answering those questions in honest, and also, I believe, in very surprising ways.“
Ultimately, Hollander credits the fan response for making this happen, something that surprised even him given how much he stayed away from that spotlight in the past. “Before this happened, I personally preferred being invisible for the most part, and that also meant, for me, not getting too involved with the fans’ feelings. My job was to reel out the story in the most dynamic way possible. If that meant a frustrating arc or a slowdown or a reversal where people were uncomfortable or frustrated for a few episodes. You can’t always be in a high place with a long running show — you have to move through the peaks and valleys.”
As Hollander was working his way through multiple seasons of drama, the fans stuck with him, turning the show into what he describes as a “living organism,” saying, “It’s become clear to me that the living organism that is Ray Donovan is not just a collaboration between those of us who make the show, but a collaboration, a shared ownership, with our audience.“