Showtime Brothers: A Tale of Two Hollanders
In the 13 years since CBS’ ‘The Guardian’ went off the air, the Mt. Lebanon-raised siblings who inspired and wrote the series, Scott and David Hollander, have continued to export Pittsburgh nationally.
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David Hollander photos courtesy CBS
For Scott and David Hollander, “The Guardian” served as an unexpected launch pad — in very different ways.
David, who now works in premium cable as showrunner of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan,” was inspired by the work of his brother Scott — executive director of Pittsburgh children’s-advocacy organization KidsVoice — to create “The Guardian,” which was set at a Pittsburgh children’s legal-aid organization. And as that show led David to “Ray Donovan,” “The Guardian” also helped spread the word about KidsVoice — whose model of helping children has been adopted elsewhere around the nation.
Although “Ray Donovan,” which returns Aug. 6 for its fifth season, is set in Los Angeles and focuses on a family with Boston roots, Hollander says he still incorporates elements of his Pittsburgh background while crafting characters and their conflicts.
“It was the idea of a Boston family set in L.A. and the idea that you can bring in an old style of thinking from a much different culture that’s closed and family-based and has its own rules and identity and bring it into a place like Los Angeles that in many ways is identity-free,” says David, 49.
Scott Hollander photos by Tom M Johnson
“Ray Donovan,” created by Ann Biderman, stars actor Liev Schreiber as the title character, a fixer for L.A.’s rich and famous. Ray has family troubles of his own, including a troublemaking father (Jon Voight). David has been with the show as a writer since its first season; he was promoted to showrunner in season three.
“When I read the script for the pilot, I connected to the idea of a transplanted city person because I spent so much time in Pittsburgh [before moving to Los Angeles], and I have a strong connection to that kind of world,” he says. “And I’m writing about Irish-Catholic people. I was not surrounded by a lot of Jewish kids like myself where I grew up. Most of my friends were Irish-Catholic or Italian-Catholic. There’s also that local pride, and it’s a father-son-family story — and that’s where I live.”
Rewinding to the Hollander siblings’ formative years offers a glimpse of what was to come. David and Scott’s 81-year-old dad, retired attorney Tom Hollander of Thornburg, says the boys and their sister, Leslie, showed early hints of the career paths they would follow.
“When he played [team] games with the kids on the street, Scott would always pick the kid first who would usually get picked last [by others],” Tom recalls. “I was struck by that because he did it routinely. He loved children. Anytime a baby was around, Scott was taking care of the baby. He showed an interest in children early on.”
Before he entered kindergarten, David’s imagination was at work dreaming up a make-believe family.
“He’d tell us about this family at dinner,” Tom says. “We’d go through episodes with this family, and hearing about them was the centerpiece of many of our meals.”
Growing up on Vee Lyn Drive, the siblings walked to school and played at nearby Wildcat Field with neighborhood children.
“Every day after school, all day all summer, you would just roam around with your friends and at night play kick-the-can [or] capture the flag — play on the street and [in] ballfields,” Scott, 53, says. “We went to Mt. Lebanon Park without crossing a street, and we’d have a pool pass and walk to the pool at age 8, which was a pretty neat thing to be able to do growing up. [But] ... there was not a lot of diversity — in all ways, economic and other things.”
Scott, the eldest sibling, says he learned about social-justice issues from his parents, including his father’s work integrating Mt. Lebanon and suing the school district over the separation of church and state at high school commencement ceremonies. But he says his upbringing led him to think all families were like his.
“Once I got to college a lot of my friends were from single-parent homes, and they had really strained relationships with their parents that I’d watch play out with some of my roommates and the way they treated their family members and that would carry over into their dating relationships,” Scott says. “It just opened my eyes, and I became interested in child development and started taking classes.”
Scott performed in theater but only through high school, while middle child Leslie, 51, studied acting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to study and perform at Circle in the Square in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
As a child, David, the youngest sibling, appeared in plays at Little Lake Theater and other venues around town. He also acted in a few locally shot commercials and industrial films. He started college at Northwestern University in the acting program, but he realized his true love was writing and directing. Tom Hollander credits his late wife, Barbara, with stoking the family interest in theatre and performance.
“We all started when we were little in theater camp,” says Leslie, now a pastry chef in northern Virginia. “Scott didn’t do it as a career, but he was really good. David was really musical and had a band in high school. In a lot of ways, it wasn’t acting as the goal as much as you were culturally inclined, socially responsible and wanting to have a voice and make an influence.”