'Entourage' Hits Hollywood Anew

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New agent, same "Entourage."

The four lads of Hollywood are back as the savvy HBO showbiz comedy, executive-produced by recent Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg ("The Departed"), caps its third season with fresh episodes starting Sunday, April 8.

After splitting from driven talent agent Ari Gold (Emmy winner Jeremy Piven), hot young actor Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his close comrades now rely on the advice of rival agent Amanda (Carla Gugino, "Threshold").

As the new tales begin, she wants Vince to make a movie based on an Edith Wharton novel, but he and his manager/best friend Eric (Kevin Connolly) aren't sure. Neither are Vince's half brother Johnny "Drama" (Kevin Dillon) and their buddy Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), who are more focused on throwing Vince a the birthday bash to end all birthday bashes. Elsewhere, Ari annoys assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee) and alarms Amanda by seeking any and every way back into Vince's career.

Conceding that "Entourage" embellishes Hollywood types and situations, Connolly says the show remains realistic "to a point. This is a half-hour comedy, so of course, things are exaggerated in terms of things like girls by the pool. I wouldn't say that's necessarily my life, but there are a lot of similarities to how show business works. I actually think people look to 'Entourage' to learn about the business."

Among the many in-jokes in "Entourage," one of the best is Dillon's portrayal of Drama, a struggling actor often in the shadow of his sibling -- which Dillon understands, being the brother of "Crash" Oscar nominee Matt Dillon, who found fame first. In Sunday's episode, Drama poses near a billboard for his new television series, hoping passers-by will recognize him and seek his autograph.

Dillon recalls when he first read the "Entourage" part, "I didn't really think it was a spoof of me so much, but I thought, 'I might have a real shot at this.' It kind of made everything a little bit funnier, though the script was written without me in mind. When I did the audition, they all busted out, and I saw that Mark Wahlberg really loved it. I knew he was on my side big-time."

A number of stars' siblings have tried for their own acting careers, and given his slot on "Entourage," Dillon wouldn't be surprised to hear from them. "I'll probably run into them eventually," he says, "and they might have something to say." As for his current success, Dillon reflects, "When it happens a little later, you appreciate it more. Patrick Dempsey is a friend of mine, and we were talking recently about our careers. We were like, 'Look at us now!'"

Connolly deems his "Entourage" alter ego a blend of series creator Doug Ellin and executive producer Stephen Levinson, who is Wahlberg's manager. "I just want the character to be in a different place at the end of each season," Connolly says. "At the end of the first season, he officially becomes [Vince's] manager. The next season, he's moving toward becoming a producer, and then toward starting his own company. For me, it's really about constant evolution."

As inside-Hollywood as "Entourage" is, Dillon stresses it's also a friendship saga.

"That's what makes all the guys likable, that they have each other's backs," he reasons. "They're womanizers and this and that, but they love each other so much, they would do anything for each other." Connolly adds, "I can't tell you how often people come up and say things like, 'I'm the Turtle of my group.' They identify themselves with the different characters."

In scheduling "Entourage" after "The Sopranos," which returns the same night to start its final run, HBO is hoping for a big upside: The fourth season of "Entourage" starts in June, right on the heels of the current one.

"We're working on that now," Connolly reports, "and I'm really excited about it. I think it's going to be some of our best stuff yet. It's a huge deal for us to be on after `The Sopranos'; we're looking to hold some of those viewers and open our show up to a whole new audience."

Connolly has lived the "Entourage" lifestyle to a degree, as a gossip-column staple while dating heiress Nicky Hilton. "It's not always the easiest thing in the world," he allows, "but it does come with the territory to a point. I got myself into that situation. I was dating someone in the public eye, and when it ends as it did with us, it's something you just have to deal with."

Also like his series character, Connolly is expanding his professional horizons, having directed an independent movie. "Gardener of Eden" is scheduled to premiere later this month at New York's Tribeca Film Festival, and he says, "It's funny. My life has never been more like the show."

Dillon hopes "Entourage" will mirror his own life by having his brother appear as a relative of Drama. In the meantime, he's putting all he can into the show, proven when he broke his arm on the set.

"We were doing a basketball scene and I landed on Adrian's foot, twisted my ankle and fell onto the pavement. My arm just splintered; it was pretty ugly. They put a big plate and 10 screws in there. It's better now, about 95 percent there. The day after the surgery, we had a photo shoot, so that's really giving for your art."

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