Pooch Hall Talks New Show ‘Ray Donovan,’ Working With Spike Lee And Short-Lived Rap Career

Pooch Hall’s journey to Hollywood’s elite has just taken another leap forward. After starring in small films and his popular stint as Derwin Davis on BET’s The Game, Hall parted ways with the show last year and has taken a hefty role alongside some top-shelf actors.

On Showtime’s new series Ray Donovan, Hall plays the surprise half-brother of Liev Schreiber, a Hollywood fixer who seems to solve everyone’s grimy problems but his own. His father, played by John Voight, also comes home from prison five years early and shakes up the already unsteady status quo in the Donovan family. Pooch talked with VIBE about his new role, working with Spike Lee and why fans shouldn’t hold their breath for another Derwin Davis cameo.—Desire Thompson

VIBE: Tell me about the show Ray Donovan. It looks like it’s going to be pretty intense.
Pooch Hall: I just want to start by saying how happy I am to be apart of such a great production. It’s a show that has been established by Ann Biderman, the executive producer, Mark Gordon, and Bryan Zuriff. They’ve assembled an all-star cast so it’s kind of like the ’92 Olympic Team. We plan on winning not one, not two, not three but all of the [Emmys]! [Laughs] It’s a show that takes place in California and follows Ray Donovan (played by Liev Schreiber) a Boston native who is a fixer for Hollywood’s rich and famous. He has an immediate family and an outside family. That’s where I come in. I play his half-brother and I’m a fighter with my other two half-brothers in the Donovan fight club. You’ll see in the pilot he doesn’t know about me and when he’s introduced to me, he isn’t really accepting of me and I’m trying to figure out why. He’s kind of this mysterious character. Our father Mickey, who is played by Jon Voight, comes back to Hollywood after being released from prison and just shakes up a bunch of problems and craziness for us as a family and for Ray Donovan as a fixer. Things get crazy.

Prior to The Game, you did another family drama that was centered on the importance of family called Miracle’s Boys with Spike Lee. Any lessons you’ve related to your new role?
A lot of what I’ve learned as an actor comes from that. Working with Spike, I learned a lot about family and professionalism as an actor and a man. It got me ready for this moment right here. If I didn’t work with Spike, I wouldn’t be where I’m at, working with John Voight, Paula Malcomson and Eddie Marsden.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from Voight and Schreiber?
To trust my instincts, listen and not be afraid to try different things. A lot of my scenes are with John and he is always trying to find the best nuances and unlock hidden boxes of magic in a character or a scene, and he allows me to see what we can find.

You boxed in real life for a while. How did that help your character?
It adds another layer because it’s not just a regular show with stand-ins. I’m doing my own stunts and we train together. The boxing element adds to the the greatness that’s already there?

What was the fitness regimen like?
We (Dash Mihok, Eddie and Liev) all trained together. We would box, do calisthenics, leg work and core conditioning. I’m trying to get my next job as a biracial action hero. Conditioning and staying fit is a big part of the casts’ lifestyle.

What happened to that rap career?
When I started Ray Donovan, I had to put that on the back burner but I wasn’t trying to compete with anyone. I did it for fun. I don’t want to disrespect hip-hop by being something I’m not. I’m Pooch Hall. My strength is in front the camera and holding dialogue. If the music happens to present itself again then we’ll see what happens. Right now I’m working with Lee Davis who did 3 A.M.with Spike Lee, and we’re moving forward with that. Hopefully it will get the green light soon.

Speaking of hip-hop, have you listened to the new Kanye West or J.Cole albums? Which artists get you pumped in the ring?
Kanye definitely. I haven’t heard all of Cole’s but I love the “Let Nas Down” joint. However people feel about Kanye is their opinion but I think he’s a genius. I like when people put out music that makes you think and listen. My favorite artist has to be Jay Z. Jadakiss is my guy and Drake. It’s interesting because my character is music-oriented and Ryan Gosling did some music for Ray Donovan. You’ll find that true artists will make the best music out there.

What do you think your fans will learn about you in your new project?
They’ll see that there’s nothing I can’t do. I think athletically I can be okay with any role but I’m willing to go over and beyond for my work. My fan base is so strong and loyal, and they wanna see me evolve. I’m where I’m supposed to be and I want to challenge myself with the people that are doing it real big. Jon has worked with Will Smith. I want to be up there with Will. I want to work with Denzel (Washington). I know it won’t be peaches and cream but I’m willing to put in the work. I know Will, Denzel and Jamie (Foxx) did so that’s what I’m willing to do.

Will you ever make a return to The Game?
The opportunity [for a cameo] presented itself in the beginning with Showtime letting me do both shows so I did the premiere and that was it. I can’t speak on [BET’s behalf] but if it was me, as a network representative, knowing that they had an actor that helped make The Game what it was and he’s on a higher profile show with A-listers, I would have jumped on it. I’m at Showtime now and they show me so much love. The fact that they’re not threatened by another network is great because they know what they have and are solidifying their place in Hollywood. That shows how true they are to the fans and the shows. It’s a testament to where I’m supposed to be at so I want to make sure I can be the best Pooch Hall/ Darryl Donovan I can be.

Catch the premiere of Ray Donovan on Sunday, June 30 at 10 PM ET/PT on Showtime.