Ray Liotta is known for playing many edgy, disgruntled characters — some may even say he’s the go-to guy for the “bad guy.” But during “A Conversation with Ray Liotta” at the ATX Television Festival, he was anything but a villain. In fact, he had the audience laughing with his no-frills Jersey deadpan delivery.
“You see, I’m funny,” he insisted. “I’m not what I play!”
Everyone remembers Liotta from his many roles in film — specifically Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. He’s also known for his roles in Something Wild, Field of Dreams, Unlawful Entry, and Operation Dumbo Drop — a movie he said Don Rickles loved.
His list of film credits may be unbelievably long, but he has just as many television credits to his name. He was on the soap opera Another World (a role he is proud of) as well as a role in the short-lived adaptation of Casablanca — a series which you will find little to no evidence for obvious reasons (it wasn’t that good). He’s also starred as Frank Sinatra in the 1998 HBO movie Rat Pack, a role he said he was “scared sh*tless” to play even though he was approached by his daughters to play him.
“I was scared of the scared of the judgment that would come at me,” he said, adding that the only thing he and Sinatra had in common was that they were both from New Jersey and that they “both say f*ck” a lot.
Then he realized it was fear of what people are going to say that was holding him back. “This will be a great challenge to just do it.”
He also himself on Just Shoot Me, Modern Family, and Great News, which all led to his current role as Lieutenant Wozniak on NBC’s Shades of Blue.
Liotta admits part of the reason he took the role because his character was bisexual. “That’s a very different thing to do on television,” he adds. “And I’m not on that team.” What also attracted him to the role was working with producer/director Barry Levinson and acting alongside Jennifer Lopez.
“I’m truly going to miss doing it,” he said. “I can do another 13.”
The series is now entering its third and final season and Liotta shared how his character has a close, paternal relationship with Lopez’s Harlee — which is very similar to the one he has with his daughter. In this season, his real-life daughter Karsen Liotta appears in an emotional scene in an episode which drove him to tears.
“It hit me so hard I couldn’t stop crying,” he said. “It was so deep I was making noises.” He adds that he was making noises that he had never made before.
“I know this season is going to be great,” he takes a beat before joking, “I think Jennifer is f*cked up for not wanting to it again.”