Hank Azaria on His Varied Roles: “Once you’re known for doing different things, people want you to try different things”

Hank Azaria in Ray Donovan

Even if The Simpsons ended tomorrow, actor Hank Azaria — who seemingly voices half of Springfield — could spend the rest of his life living off his Simpsons money. However, of the primary cast he’s probably the one who does the most outside projects, including film and television. One of Azaria’s most acclaimed non-Simpsons roles is his portrayal of sociopath Ed Cochran on Showtime’s Ray Donovan. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Azaria talked about his career as an actor who has spoken with hundreds of voices.

When the interviewer points out to Azaria that one of the things that makes him such a great actor is his ability to disappear into a role, he says, “The older I get and the more I do the more I realize this is much more a blessing than a curse, probably because as an actor you’re just around so long that people do know who you are. And also because I do enjoy doing just so many different things. And once you’re known for doing different things, people want you to try different things- so I definitely enjoy my career more as I go along. There were times in the past I felt typecast, like after The Birdcage, for a while people only saw me as playing accented roles or outrageous comedians and it used to frustrate me. But, you get to the point where you become just so grateful that people know you for anything. I feel so fortunate. ”

One of Azaria’s great joys is his role on Ray Donovan because it gives him the opportunity to do things he could never do as himself or in a more subdued role. He explains, “I think the fun is that it’s about being given permission to act in ways you never really do. It’s just about honestly trying to figure out the three or four ways this guy might try and get what he wants at any given moment- whether that’s getting furious, or trying to cajole a person. When you’re playing a character that’s not constrained by societal norms, or caring about what people think about him? You’re just free to do whatever you want within reason.”

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