Pooch Hall is the talented actor currently portraying Darryl Donovan on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and he’s the face behind so many other memorable characters. He’s also a rapper, model, and most importantly, a father of three. Recently I had the chance to sit down and talk with him about Ray Donovan, life, love, and even got him to talk nerdy with us on what superhero he’d love to portray when Marvel and DC finally come knocking on his door.
Pooch Hall is one of those actors that you see on-screen and you just know they’re going places. You sit down and you talk with him and you feel like you’re talking to your best friend. That’s exactly the way I felt when I spoke with him and I couldn’t be more excited to see the places this talented young actor is going.
Pooch: “Big, big Rob. Happy Monday morning brother.”
Hey, happy Monday morning. Thank you very much for the interview. I really appreciate it.
“No. Come on, man. I appreciate the love and getting everyone familiar with Ray Donovan. I am catching a lot of love online.”
Hey, it’s an absolutely awesome show and you guys are doing a wonderful job. We’re loving it.
“Thank you sir. I appreciate that my brother. Appreciate it.”
Okay. Well, to start, for those people who haven’t been blessed enough to see Ray Donovan, would you mind telling us a little bit about who Darryl is and what he is all about?
“Absolutely. Darryl Donovan is the black sheep of the Donovan family – like literally. He’s the illegitimate son of Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight), an ex-Irish mobster – Boston mobster. I’ve got to be clear about that because people from Boston always tell me about getting things right that pertain to Boston. Darryl Donovan is the illegitimate son of an ex-Irish Boston mobster and he is trying to find his way into this family that is pretty much run by his half brother, Ray Donovan (Live Schreiber), who is a Hollywood fixer and who’s like the man. He’s got a nice house. He’s got money. He drives a nice car and he’s cool as a fan. I’m trying to be accepted by all the Donovans so far. My brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) and Bunchy (Dash Mihok), I’m kind of in-the-fold and then, you know, I’m kind of running with my dad who is Mickey Donovan. But then there’s Ray, the only one who I don’t really have that type connection with. So that’s who Darryl is. He’s out there trying to find his voice because the Donovan family as crazy as it is, is really sexy and magical.”
It’s even looking like he’s finding that voice what with the last few episodes. With Mickey and Darryl branching out, running prostitutes, selling drugs, and, at the end even Darryl who seems to be the straight arrow for the most part, even Darryl seemed to perk up a little bit when he saw that money. Even with his car being used for collateral, how would you say he is doing right now?
“I think Darryl being who he is and hearing the stories from his mom about who his father is and then to have this weird plan. He’s never been around prostitutes. He’s never really been around anything crazy until Mickey came back into the fold during Season 1. Then I bury a priest, I meet my dad, I saw him get shot. Now this kid has never seen this stuff and then I go down to Mexico to see my dad and I love it. It stresses me out and I get my ass kicked. It’s like here it is. I am still trying to be with my dad though and be raw, but I’m weak and we do a heist. Then I go to a track and find myself literally becoming a thug with my father. It’s like Darryl’s not really thinking. I think it’s more about, “I think this is what a father and son are supposed to feel like,” and when Mickey kind of comes up with a plan or something it is hard not to be intrigued or drawn into it somehow. Then next thing you know it’s like, “Wait a second.”
I’m running a delivery service. I’ve got all these sexy chicks around me. Money is coming in. Yes, the drug scene is kind of dangerous but I’m not really directly involved. It’s not like I’m on the street side of it. These girls are selling it and I think it’s really fascinating and Darryl is really interested. It’s the kid who is told not to touch the stove because the stove will burn you but still wants to touch the stove and, even if the stove does burn him, there is something about it. “Whoa. Maybe if I don’t touch it as fast next time I won’t get burned as hot. I won’t get burned that bad.” I know but I don’t like being told what not to do.”
He’s gotten burned a few times now. But I want to go back to you mentioning Darryl and getting his butt kicked here and there. Darryl’s a boxer and, if I remember correctly, you were as well or you still are? How’d that factor in?
“Yeah. I boxed in Brockton, Mass and I’m 23 – 0 as an amateur fighter. I think the boxing situation didn’t even come into play until they saw me training and they said “Yeah, this kid can really fight.” With that being said, we kind of touched on it because, in Massachusetts, being tough is a way of life and that is just how we are. It’s plain to see in Ray, Terry, and even Bunchy has a sense of toughness about him too. I didn’t grow up there but I do have that toughness in my blood, being from the east coast and from the northeast in general. We are just tough people. I grew up in Brockton. I grew up where Marvin Hatley and Rocky Marciano are from and being tough is a way of life. You know how to fight or how to be tough. It’s mandatory and I think we are just a tough bunch.”
That toughness certainly comes across during your scenes. With the toughness, though, for you, also comes the training. How is the training? What’s that like?
“My training regime? I get trained for about an hour and a half at Wild Card West and it is grueling – boxing, a little bit of weight training, stretching. But with Darryl’s character this year and because it’s happened in such a short period, we don’t go too much into Darryl’s boxing world because Darryl’s so occupied with the girls, the coke, and driving them around. We don’t go into that this season.”
Sweet! Alright, so jumping to your creative processes! When you step into Darryl’s shoes, what do you do to keep him feeling so centered, down-to-earth, and real?
“Well, my mom passed away and that was a hurt that I have never felt before. I remember the hurt that I felt and experienced when she passed, and when I got the phone call, and the process of her being…identifying her. She didn’t get killed but just looking at the body at the morgue. These were real emotions. And one thing about Jon and Liev, and what they do for me, they are like my mentors, so they helped me get this hurt in places and taught me certain tools to help get the proper emotion. Especially with what is going on because if you think about it we don’t predominately live a normal life.
But then you’re like Darryl’s brother, Bunchy, especially when one of the girls said “Can you come and give me breast milk. I’ll pay you.” Whatever gift that he had to get her to go there or for him to just be like “Hey I’m trying to do right by my dad and my brother. Someone who works with them wants breast milk. This woman has breast milk and I need it”. Whatever he did to get her there is amazing. Then you have Darryl who’s so guarded. For me to be not raised in a good home, and then to go into these different emotions like I am being hurt by this guy who’s my dad but I was always taught to respect and I love him. I don’t want to see anything bad happen to him because I know what that pain is like. I am just going to do my job as a good soldier and – out of respect of the fact that I had a real father figure there for me – I want to tap into these different emotions to make sure I am giving the proper performance for sure.”
Well, your performance is top notch. We can definitely feel the brotherly love coming out and the father/son love between you and Jon.
“Oh, absolutely. That’s what I have been hearing online. People have been saying about me and Bunch. “I can really feel that you guys are really brothers,” and they go, “I really feel like you and Jon are like father and son,” and we kind of are. Because Jon treats me like a son outside of the show. I mean we spent Father’s Day together, we have dinners together, we call and check in with each other the way a normal father and son do. You know what I mean? I probably talk to Jon almost as much as I talk to my real dad. We just…we’re men. We just talk about life. You know what I mean? But we have that trust and we have that surrender where we can open up to each other and just talk about stuff and that chemistry shows on screen.”
I know from my point of view it definitely does. I want to quickly turn our attention to The Game because the finale is right around the corner. What was it like coming back to help close out the series you helped make so successful?
“Well I think it is definitely fair to say that I have been a part of hits. I’m like the hit maker. (laughter) Not to toot my own horn but The Game had its success and I was a part of that. I was in a film called Jumping the Broom and it had success. I was a part of that. You know I am always honored as having much success and I am a part of that. To be asked to come back to The Game after I went to Ray Donovan, it’s almost like going back and, kind of like Lebron James, I went home to kind of throw my jersey on again, throw my cleats on again and just breathe life into that character and just bring some success and some magic and some joy to my character but also to say goodbye and thank you for what it allowed me to do and have.
I love this industry. I love what I do. And I go into every project like no holds barred, full metal jacket. (laughter) And I want it to be the best thing ever. I want people to walk away from whatever project it is, saying “Yo, that was an awesome movie. That was an awesome show. That kid Pooch Hall is special”. It’s not that I need that accolade, but like I said I love working in this industry. I like the work. I want to work. I want to breathe life into other characters, but I want to make sure when I do it my characters are memorable. And my character on The Game I wanted to be memorable where they ask me back. My character is definitely memorable on Ray Donovan as the black son in a crazy Irish family. For me, it means I am doing my job. I am holding up. I am holding my own.
I just want to do my job to help the project succeed.”
You’re definitely a hit maker. That is for sure. Since we’re talking about making character memorable, I want to dip into the fun questions. You’ve talked before about how you were a fan of the Justice League and superhero shows, movies… With all of that, what would you say is the one superhero role you could not turn down if they walked up to you and asked you today?
“I would to be honest with you, and I hope this gets out. I would love for this to get out. I would like to do two superheroes. One I definitely want to play and one that I want a chance to play. If they would do a reboot of Blade, I’d love to play Blade and I’d like to be Vic Stone in Cyborg in whatever Justice League. I’d like the opportunity to do that. Because I think having my character traits, my life traits…There’s a lot of vulnerabilities that I possess, a lot of strengths that I possess. A lot of focus and a lot of precision that I possess to where I already feel I’m already a superhero dude. And I would love to reboot Blade and do it the right way. I mean I know they did it with Sticky Fingaz; it wasn’t right. It wasn’t the right time. It was fresh off of Wesley Snipes.
But now, allow me to play Blade. Allow me to play Cyborg. I hope Marvel and DC hear this. I don’t want to play Green Lantern. I don’t want to play Luke Cage. I mean Luke Cage has already been attached to a good friend of mine. I know they are talking about Tyrese possibly playing Green Lantern, John Stewart, and my boy Michael B Jordan is playing Human Torch. That’s crazy. That’s awesome. (laughter) Since they are talking about superheroes and since they’ve been the topic for the last fifteen years and had so much success, if you wanted to reboot Blade and tie him into any of the new series on Netflix or Marvel movies… Or DC, if you wanted to go do a whole new character, because I play football and Vic Stone was a football player and, you know, he was young. I would love to play either Cyborg or Blade in a reboot.”
We will get it out there! We’ll tweet it and Facebook and get everybody paying attention.
“I mean shoot you guys are definitely getting messages out there in the other interviews. I’m like… Yo man, I love you cats! My man, Big Rob, standing with me. Keep putting it out there bro. Come on up on this stage at ComiCon. We’re at Comi-Con right now. (laughter)”
Final question I’ve got for you. It’s a two-parter. It’s one I always ask because I love the answers everybody gives. It’s going to move our focus back to your work on Ray Donovan as Darryl. What is one thing you hope the audience learns from your portrayal of Darryl and what is one thing you’ve personally taken away?
“I think one thing I would like the audience to recognize is that you are talking about a boy who is trying to become a man but he’s looking to how every other young man on this globe will look towards as they growing. They are looking for their father to help them become a man. Now he didn’t really have a relationship with Alan, the step-dad, so he’s looking for that little father figure and to really get some guidance as “You know what I just want to make sure I’m doing things right”. Now technically how he was raised based off of how his mother is.
She talks about my father…it’s like do not respect the guy. He’s like yeah was involved in some bad things but then again it’s not just him, it’s my brothers too. Terry’s damaged, Bunchy’s damaged and Ray is damaged. And I’m looking at it as like well I can be…I literally can be the golden child and try to break the mold. But I’m kind of not really going there. You know maybe that is just a thing with the Donovans. Maybe we are not meant to be good. And that is kind of what it is. We are so bad that we are good. And Daryl l becoming a young man, when you start thinking about life and going on tours and life and start setting up your life and your career and stuff and like “Well what choice and I going to make to make sure this happens?”.
But right now he’s going down a life of crime but to him it’s not crime because it’s his father and there seems to be a good thing coming back meaning the relationship. I’m spending time with my dad. We’re making money, going out with hot chicks. I’m like kind of strutting around wearing a black suit I’m looking like my brother Ray. I’m dressed for success. And that is something that looks towards Daryl l and just not being dumb but just kind of being a little naïve and kind of vulnerable to what he wants to be like. And I think the satisfaction of what he’s receiving at the moment when you see the season unfold is not going to be what his choice of where he’s going to end up or where’s he’s going to go.
As a man and as a father of three myself, it’s kind of like, it’s about choices bro. And you can f your life up by just doing the wrong thing. It could be like, “If I just went home at 11:30, If I didn’t…If I just didn’t take that last drink, man I really wish I wouldn’t have went down…I really wish I didn’t get in that car” I think for me it’s about making choices because there is a legacy you have to leave to where depending on when you bring kids in or when you can look back to face yourself “Did I do everything I could to where I can look back and be proud?”. And be like, “Hey I made mistakes but hey I’m happy with how my life is” and I think that is one thing I’m learning from this character. It’s changed over time. You know it’s about choices and making sure you can look yourself in the mirror and say, “Hey I’m happy with who I am and where I’ve been. I understand where I’ve been I’m happy with who I am and I’m looking forward to where I am going.”.”
Tune into the series finale of The Game this Wednesday at 10pm ET. Pooch reprises his role of Derwin Davis.
Watch Ray Donovan every Sunday at 9pm ET/PT on Showtime.