The creator of HBO hit Entourage, Doug Ellin has a few things in common with the characters he has shaped. The show is about four friends from New York who live the high life in Hollywood after one becomes a movie idol. The New York-reared Ellin, meanwhile, is enjoying being showrunner on a smash after years of penning B-movie screenplays and sitcom gags in Los Angeles. Ellin, 38, spoke with B&C’s Michael Malone about turning Entourage into a hit, his alter ego on the show, and how much longer viewers get to live vicariously through Vince, E, Drama and Turtle.
How did you end up on Entourage?
Mark Wahlberg and Steve Levinson came to me and said, “We’ve got an idea. Do you want to write it?” At first, I said no. I never jump at anything that I don’t get, and it took some time until I got it. Initially, the show was about a group of losers who hang around a movie star, and I had to figure out how to basically make it a family and give everyone a purpose. Once I came to grips with that, I found something I could write.
Which character is the most natural for you to write for?
They all are. We started out with loose templates of Mark’s characters, but I’ve kind of morphed them into my four best friends. Writing the characters’ voices is easy; it’s coming up with stories that’s the real challenge. I know these guys intimately and take characteristics from everybody. I use my own personality in Eric.
We rarely hear negative comments about Entourage. Where are the naysayers?
At the end of the day, everybody appreciates that these guys really take care of each other and have each others’ backs. And they’re not just rich, spoiled guys—they’re kids from a lower-class upbringing who live in the moment. Initially, there was concern that the guys were gonna be predators, but they’re really not. You don’t see a lot of gratuitous sex; they generally have respect for women. At the heart of it, there’s a sweetness, and I think people appreciate that.
What’s one smart decision you made with the show?
Adrian [Grenier] was not the type we were looking for. We were looking for much more of a [grittier] Mark Wahlberg type.
The initial pilot was a much tougher show, and I think that would’ve been a mistake. With a guy like Adrian, you get that sensitivity, and it made it a little more palatable that this guy had so much money.
What’s on your TiVo?
The Wire, 24, Rock Star, SportsCenter. I still TiVo Seinfeld; I watch that every night when I get home.
What else are you working on?
This! I’m in seven days a week. We’re going in to season four right after season three. I have nothing else. My kids and this.
Viewers don’t want to see these guys get old and fat. How long can Entourage go on?
Because it’s really a show about friendship, I feel like we could do a season without the movie business. We could do a season about their relationships. I’d like to think we’ll do at least six or seven years, but I’m hoping for 10. Everybody really gets along, and I feel like we’re getting better. We were all kind of disappointed with the pilot, and we’ve worked hard to keep improving.