Ari vs. Harry: Jeremy Piven on his roles in ‘Entourage’ and ‘Mr. Selfridge’

Jeremy Piven talks about showing unknown chapters of history and the life of Harry Selfridge, the character he plays on the show “Mr. Selfridge.”


There are certain actors who are indelibly linked to one role in their career. Leonard Nimoy is Mr. Spock. Daniel Radcliffe is otherwise known as Harry Potter.

Jeremy Piven has appeared in dozens of films and television shows, for the past four seasons starring as Harry Gordon Selfridge in Masterpiece Theater’s “Mr. Selfridge.” But it’s still Ari, not Harry, he is best known as – Ari Gold, the super-agent on HBO’s “Entourage.”

It’s arguably the definitive portrayal of a Hollywood talent shark, and when a performance is that dead-on one has to wonder: How much of Jeremy is in Ari?

Not much, Piven says.

“I think that I’m as far from Ari Gold as you could be -- unless you were to possibly rear-end me in traffic, and then I’d probably turn into an angry person,” Piven said during an interview at the Los Angeles Times offices this week.


His latest character is based on a real person, Harry Selfridge, an American entrepreneur who moved to London in the early 20th century and revolutionized the retailing scene there with his eponymous department store, helping to turn shopping into the “treasure hunt” experience it is for many people today. If Piven’s Ari Gold was played in primary colors, his Selfridge is painted in shades of gray.

“Switching gears completely [from Ari] and then playing Harry Selfridge was really, really great,” Piven said. “Because he was a guy that lived in the light, but at night, he was much more of a train wreck than Ari Gold. Ari Gold was all bark and no bite, because he was monogamous, and he had a wife and all these things. He professed to be such a pig, when the reality was he was at home with the wife every night. Whereas Harry, during the day, was the model citizen, and was out gallivanting at night. So it’s kind of the inverse.”

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It is only recently, he says, that when fans greet him, they call him Harry rather than Ari. Harry, in his own way, is an equally larger than life character.

“He fancied himself an artist and retail was his theater,” he notes. “He was so evolved during the work hours and then he loved to go gamble. He was kind of a risk junkie. He didn’t drink, but he loved to gamble.”

“Mr. Selfridge” airs Sunday nights on PBS stations. The season and series finale is May 22.


For more of the conversation watch the video below:

Jeremy Piven talks about his show “Mr. Selfridge,” about an American entrepreneur who revolutionized the shopping world.