Actor Jeffrey Donovan feels the ‘Burn’

The actor, who recently appeared in the film ‘Changeling,’ leaves his theater gig to whip himself into Speedo-shape for his USA Network series “Burn Notice.
By Choire Sicha for The LA Times

Jeffrey Donovan has been living in the cozy Wrigleyville district of Chicago, doing the sex farce “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” Soon he’s headed to prep for filming on Season 3 of USA’s “Burn Notice” — which returns to air more of Season 2 on Thursday. He also recently appeared in “Changeling.”

Your theatrical show is closing — well, you’re moving on.

It’s a hit! They extended through March. And I was always intending on leaving — I need a little break. For “Burn Notice,” I train six days a week to get in almost-athlete shape so that I can survive six months of grueling shooting and not get sick.

What is this magical regimen?

I train Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So I get up at 6 in the morning and I eat for two hours.


Not exaggerating! A typical person burns around 2,000 calories a day. But on the show, I burn about 5,000 calories a day. Then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday I do martial arts, mixed martial arts, jujitsu, grappling. Then on Sunday, like God, I rest. Then during the show, you break down — you lose all that muscle mass. And that’s my life.

That’s disgusting.

Hey, man. In these dire times, as you know, I am blessed that I have a job.

I feel like perhaps I’m not going the extra mile like you are.

I barely read. I hardly watch TV. And I’m not in tune with the pop culture. My training is to look like I’m an ex-operative for the CIA.

And yet you rarely appear shirtless after all this work.

Well, I can count, in the first season, two shirtless times. And the second season, I would say at least two in the first half — but this opening, that starts off the second half [of the] season, I’m in the least amount of clothing I’ve ever been. I’m in a little Speedo. I was shaking right before the take.

Now you know how the ladies feel.

Oh, my God. I don’t know how they do it, in these little thongs and little bikinis?

Besides your trainer, who advises you the most?

I would say it’s a team effort. Obviously I have my agent who I’ve been with — I’ve never had another agent! — going on 14 years now. Sarah Fargo in New York and Brad Schenck in Los Angeles. And I trust them. They get me. They know that I’m in this for the material. You don’t see me at L.A. parties. You don’t see me at premieres for movies I’m not in.

Your theory is that burning too fast is burning out.

If it took 20 years since I’ve gotten out of school to get to a place where I’m in an Oscar-contending movie, then hopefully I’ve got 20 years to come down from that — and I’ll be in my 60s before I’m unemployable.

Are you putting something away for that?

Yes, I’m saving a lot. Of course it’s all gone now that the market took it away.

You should have spent it on cars and drugs.

The latter wouldn’t help me too much in life, and the car — I drive a Camry hybrid. I’ve had that for three years. I remember I was doing a movie about 10 years ago. I was in a hotel lobby and this very pretty young man walked in and he had this really brand-new, tricked-out $60,000 car. And I saw him and said, “Who is that?” And someone said, “The lead of the new TV series — they got a six-episode order.” And all I thought was, “Oh, you’ll be selling that in a year.” The show didn’t even air.

I grew up really poor. We grew up on welfare — a single mom with three boys. We didn’t have anything. Christmas would come around, she’d rewrap gifts she’d given us before. We moved about 10 times in my childhood. When you come home from school and the lights don’t go on, you think: We’re moving! You can’t pay electric bills on welfare. We became very frugal. You realize even if you have something expensive, you have to make it last. So when I got “Burn Notice” 2 1/2 years ago, I thought: I’ve got my Camry, I’ll stick with that.

When you grow up without money, you either end up crazy and overspending or you end up very sensible.

I’m not a miser. I’m generous with my friends and I’m generous with travel. I love to travel. I don’t own a watch — but I own my home. That’s important to me. And I own land. That’s important. That will last. They can’t take that away from me.

13 thoughts on “Actor Jeffrey Donovan feels the ‘Burn’”

  1. I’m a 60 year old semi-retired union carpenter, used to coming out of a union hall with 8000 guys on the books and usually around 4000 of those working at any given time. Every time you start a job you have to prove yourself, just like Jeffrey Donovan, and all the actors doing their best on any given day not knowing if their efforts will bring them a good job. On a union job, the day you hire on you are seen talking to some other worker for a while behind some bulkhead and the superintendent sees you, he can bring you your check within that next hour, the trade is that insecure, and that’s why I like watching these new series, as the actors are giving it everything, as they know they can make it or break it anytime in the next few weeks. Once you get yourself established on a job your usually pretty secure until the job is over, anywhere between a couple of months to a year, depending on the size of the project, and it parallels the day by day tension of actors trying to prove themselves. Jeffrey’s story is something I can relate to completely. You learn to live for the day, as there really is no security in work or life. It never seems to get any easier though. So much depends on the luck of the draw for me, and for the actor it seems it the luck of getting a good script 1st, and good direction 2nd, and great actors where everything is working, but what do I know except when it works it sure is fun to watch like the “Burn Notice”, good job Jeffery.

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