“Mr. Selfridge” premiered on PBS Sunday (March 31), with star Jeremy Piven stepping into the titular role of the fast-talking American who opened one of the world’s largest department stores in early 20th-century London.
Piven participated in a live chat Monday with the fans, where he talks about his new television role.
Q: “Did you have any reservations about being part of a period piece and now competing with the ‘Downton Abbey’ standard?”
Piven: “No reservations whatsoever. In fact, I couldn’t have planned it any better.”
Q: “What was the appeal of this role?”
Piven: “Harry lived such a full, beautiful and ultimately tragic life that it’s really fertile ground for a series.”
Q: “It feels like you were born to play this part…what did you think when you were approached to play Harry?”
Piven: “I felt honored that they would think of me for this role and as soon as I read the pilot and their plans for essentially the next few seasons I couldn’t resist.”
Q: “Do you shop at Selfridges?”
Piven: “I do. I’m not just saying this because I’m portraying Harry, and I feel like I’ve become very protective of him, yet, it’s definitely my favorite store. It’s Jimmy Kimmel’s favorite store too.”
Q: “Were you involved as producer from the get-go? And what is the biggest challenge producing a series of this scale?”
Piven: “The Brits seem to be able to make the absolute most out of what they’re given. They’re incredibly prepared and work at the top of their game and have been inspiring to me in every department – so my job as a producer was easy.”
Q: “I was instantly hooked when I tuned in last night — you & the other cast are great! What was the hardest/easiest part about this role for you?”
Piven: “I knew Harry was a showman and loved to perform, he thought of retail at theater, and I feel like he has a public face and a private face and the idea of playing that duality was very juicy to me.”
Q: “This character has some traits in common with Ari. How did you approach this character in order to capture the similarities as well as the nuanced differences?”
Piven: “I’m using my voice. My actual accent, which is a Midwestern accent. It’s the same accent that was used to play an agent from Chicago. That’s where it ends. When Harry is in business mode he is a master of the high road, letting nothing shake him, smiling and embracing the positivity that will win the day. In contrast, Ari rules with an iron fist, constantly being reactive and navigates through life completely differently than Harry.
Q: “I love the chemistry with Harry and Ellen Love. What can we expect with those two?
Piven: “Zoe Tapper is so great in the role of Ellen Love. She initially was supposed to join us for just a couple of episodes but was so engaging in the role that Andrew and his team kept writing more for her to do. By the end of the season, Ellen Love will have made her impact felt in a major way. This is a case of an actress stepping up and making the most of a role she was given. She was rewarded because of her brillant execution and it’s inspiring.”
Q: “Looked like a fun show to film. Which scene was your favorite to film?”
Piven: “The entire last episode was my favorite to film. You always have high expectations for the endings of things in your mind and this actually was very satisfying for me. I will say this you guys, starting with the next episode the series takes flight and each episode will be better than the next. I feel confident that if you stick with us you will enjoy the ride!”
“Mr. Selfridge” airs Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.