‘Mr. Selfridge’ Star Jeremy Piven on PBS Show, His Obsession With ‘Breaking Bad’ and 9 Other Emmy Contender Quickies

“No scenes are easy because I feel like it’s our job to not take anything for granted,” the “Entourage” actor tells TheWrap

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Jeremy Piven is currently all over the big screen, from starring as the infamous Ari Gold in the “Entourage” movie to currently filming the highly-critiqued Spike Lee movie, “Chiraq.”

However, Piven has also been busy filming the PBS drama, “Mr. Selfridge,” for three seasons. The show follows the real-life story of the flamboyant and visionary American founder (played by Piven) of London’s famous department store, Selfridge’s.

“Mr. Selfridge” also stars Ron Cook, Amy Beth Hayes, Tom Goodman-Hill, Amanda Abbington, and Samuel West. In March, U.K. network ITV announced that the show was renewed for a fourth season, with Sacha Dhawan being added to the cast.

Piven is nominated for an Emmy in the Best Drama Actor category, with the show being nominated for Best Drama Series.

Below, Piven tells TheWrap which was the toughest scene to shoot, which show he binge-watches, and what fans say to him when he gets confronted on the street.

TheWrap: What was the toughest scene you had to do this season?
Jeremy P
iven: You look for tough scenes and no scenes are easy because I feel like it’s our job to not take anything for granted. For instance, when Mr. Selfridge’s wife tells him that she is dying — it’s an incredibly emotional scene and you live for those moments. And that’s what is so beautiful about being an actor. So I guess the toughest, or the best if that makes any sense.

Which was the most fun?
It’s going to sound very morbid but there’s a scene where a character named Nancy Webb reveals that she’s a complete charlatan and she’s basically taking my character’s money and they get married and she’s revealed herself to be a gold-digger. It’s a very long scene, and it was just really fun to play that out with her. You know, ultimately, it had a lot of fun transitions within it, so I think that scene was maybe the most fun to play. It was the last episode of Season 3.

Let’s assume that somebody has never seen your show. What would you say to persuade them to watch it?
It might be a little startling to see an American in a British drama, but you have to remember this is a true story about Harry Selfridge, and he was a guy who basically went over to England at the turn of the century and invented a culture that didn’t exist … shopping didn’t exist at the time. He pulled it off and now many years later, the store is still thriving. But the show was about so much more. It was about all the people and his relationships with those people that he affects, and also the duality that he lives in. He has a wife and family, but he also goes out and is a disaster at night and a complete gentlemen during the day. It’s a really fun, entertaining world that has different types of energies than you wouldn’t expect in other dramas.

Who else on your show really deserves an Emmy and why?
I’m just so incredibly lucky to play off these characters. Tom Goodman-Hill plays Mr. Grove and Amanda Abbington plays Ms. Mardle, and their relationship is heartbreaking and they both deserve Emmys. I think anyone could take the lead at any moment and do it beautifully. I’m just very blown away by the talent pool over here. It’s really impressive and inspiring.

Are you a binge-watcher? Or do you like to watch one episode a week?
I binge-watched “Breaking Bad” and “Luther,” but you get happy when you are watching in real-time. I saw the last three seasons of “Breaking Bad” in about a week — I was just devouring it. That was when it ended, so a couple years ago. That was really the last time I binge-watched.

Is there any show that you are watching now?
Well, I’m over here and I’m so far away from everything, I’m in another time zone and we don’t get things in real-time. I’m a friend of Taraji’s [P. Henson] and Terrence [Howard], so I went with them the night they premiered “Empire” in New York, and it was just great to be a part of that evening and Terrence had really never done TV, so he asked me a bunch of questions. I was just a fan from the pilot — I just love everyone involved and it’s just entertaining. I miss that show — I haven’t been able to see it. They are really behind here.

If you could add any new category to the Emmys, serious or silly, what would it be?
I think they need some sort of “Lifetime Achievement.” It would be fun to see people that all came before us, speak and be honored. We see that at the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

There are so many different people that you could choose. I would say, anyone from the Mary Tyler Moore generation, or Peter Falk if he was still alive.

What’s one thing that you refuse to do — where do you draw the line?
No. I mean, that’s one of the fun things about acting. I think you should be having these self-conscious moments while you are acting. I just like to make a fool out of myself every single time, and then just see if I got lucky afterwards. So there’s nothing I wouldn’t even try or attempt. I think when you start getting in your way like that, you start second guessing yourself and cutting yourself short in terms of possibilities.

How do you feel being one of the most quoted TV characters, i.e. from “Entourage?” Does anyone ever come up to you and quote you from the show?
Yeah, I mean, sometimes I hear people scream, “Lloyd!” at me. I just randomly hear “Lloyd,” but it’s interesting because over here, “Mr. Selfridge” is on a major network, and it’s really widely watched and it’s truly nice to have people come up to me and approach me in a total different way, because obviously Harry Selfridge is a total gentleman. So the energy in which they approach me is so different, and much more civilized. PBS does an amazing job, and they are so incredibly limited because they don’t have the volume to advertise. So you know, we are operating on a completely different plank.

How do you feel about the show?
I’m just really proud of the show and I’ve learned so much, and I do believe that every year it gets better. I’m very conscious of the reactions from people, and it’s very heart-warming to hear from people who do see it. We’re kind of an underdog, so any chance I get to get the word out, it really means a lot to me. Listen, I’ve been here for four years doing the show, so there has to be a reason why I’m [still] here.