Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke on being “Raymond and Ray”

You never know when two actors will have chemistry onscreen, but from the moment you watch Apple TV+’s Raymond and Ray, this is immediately evident with cinematic legends, Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke. In a press meeting with the actors, Susan Hornik reports on this exciting new show available now on Apple’s streaming service

The dynamic duo play the roles of estranged half-brothers, who come back together when their abusive father passes away, as they deal with their complicated relationship. 

“These parts were so well written, and we both really felt at home with these characters,” Hawke says. “In the best sense of the word, it was easy, a joy every single day. When characters are written three-dimensional like that, if you are good at what you do, you can just dive in.”

McGregor in turn notes, “I’ve always felt that Ethan and I were somehow cut from the same cloth.” And adds, “We’ve had similar kinds of careers, where we are both interested in working on many different kinds of projects – big films, small films, as well as theatre. But I couldn’t have imagined that working with Ethan would be quite as satisfying as it was, right from day one.” 

“It felt like we hit the ground running,” the Star Wars actor says. “Right away, we had the kind of natural kinship you might feel with a brother you haven’t seen for years. I don’t know exactly where that came from, but it was just there. I think we both understood that these two guys are kidding themselves. They each think it’s the other guy who has all the issues when they are both in mayhem under the surface. Their personas perhaps mirror something about me and Ethan as well, in the way that Ray doesn’t care for the rules very much and Raymond is always worried about following them.” 

Travelling to the town where their father is, and meeting people who knew him, the characters begin to examine their relationship with him, and how little they understood him.

“We have these ideas of who our parents are, in how we perceive them, but one of the men keep getting hit with is they only saw only one aspect of this person. But there were other people who had different, positive relationships,” says Hawke. 

Hawke remembers how at his grandfather’s funeral, his mother felt “very much” the same way.

“She sat there, watching everyone give these speeches and started seeing different cuts of a person, and of their life; what this person was as a professional, as a lover, a human, a parent,” he remembers. “So this movie seems really wise about what you perceive as bad at first could be good later – it’s like that Faulkner line, ‘the past is never dead. It’s not even past.'”

To McGregor, his role as Raymond stood out as someone different from any other character he’d previously played. “He’s a guy who is just uncomfortable most of the time. Yet, through the course of the movie, he is able to get in touch with his very justified anger towards his father. And then in rather spectacular form, Raymond finally cracks. It was such a fun challenge to play that.” 

McGregor appreciates how the characters deal with their vulnerabilities throughout the film.

“Surely the film is a journey towards them being able to face up to the pain they have suffered, the hurt that they’ve locked away. They are dealing with it in different ways, expressing their disappointment, heartbreak, hatred for the way their father dealt with them when they were children. And they unlock and release it in different ways too.”

Hawke acknowledges the themes of forgiveness the brothers attempt to work through creatively and emotionally, as the funeral is a chance for them to reinvent themselves

“It’s more complicated than just forgiving the father, it’s forgiving themselves for giving into anger and self-loathing, and how to accept yourself in the moment you are really in…. Each of the characters has their own relationship with each other. When you don’t have a positive relationship with your father, it does cripple you.”

The film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and is now streaming on Apple TV+. McGregor’s next film, Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pinocchio,” already has strong Oscar buzz surrounding it and will make its debut at the AFI Film Festival.

Photos courtesy of Apple TV+

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