'Ray' of light: Susan Sarandon joins a darker season 5 of 'Ray Donovan'

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Jacqueline Spendlove / TV Media
Susan Sarandon and Liev Schreiber as seen in "Ray Donovan"

Susan Sarandon and Liev Schreiber as seen in "Ray Donovan"

Who knew rich and glamorous celebrities had so many hush-hush problems? Well, maybe they do in real life and maybe they don't, but they sure keep "Ray Donovan's" eponymous anti-hero busy. Last season's finale episode included some uncommonly high notes for Hollywood's problem solver and his rather dysfunctional family, but those sweet moments are fleeting. Catch the season 5 premiere of "Ray Donovan," airing Sunday, Aug. 6, on Showtime.

Among the fictional elite, Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," 2009) is the guy you call if you need an unsavory problem dealt with quickly and quietly. A native of South Boston, he pulled himself up from his blue-collar roots to mingle expertly with the glitterati as he goes about his shady work making their problems discreetly disappear. He's a firm family man at heart, though the various and sundry members of the Donovan clan are constantly clashing against one another.

The new season sees Ray turning his attention back to his celebrity fixer firm, after season 4 shifted focus to an ongoing crime plot line. A major client this year is played by a major talent: look for Oscar winner Susan Sarandon ("Thelma & Louise," 1991) in a recurring role in season 5.

Things were looking good for the Donovans at the end of last season. Ray avoided prison, and we were even granted an unusually lighthearted scene of him playing video games with his kids. His wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson, "Deadwood"), announced that her cancer is gone, and that she wants the two of them to make a fresh start, while his daughter, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey, "Brothers & Sisters"), was accepted into NYU.

Don't assume the good times will carry on throughout the new season, though. The cast and showrunners aren't saying much about what happens this season, but, as Schreiber told Collider, "It's a very dark year for Ray." He expanded on this in a promo clip:

"Fairly early in the season, something very profound and big has changed in Ray's life -- something I think is going to really shock a lot of people -- and the impact of that on this family, and Ray himself, is pretty heavy."

Schreiber, a presence both on the stage and screen, has earned a good deal of recognition for his role over the past four seasons. He's received four Golden Globe nods and three Emmy nominations, the most recent of which could very well turn into a win in September.

It's not just Schreiber who has seen success from the show. "Ray Donovan" opened to record-breaking numbers, becoming Showtime's biggest premiere of all time. It's won a Critics' Choice Television Award, a Golden Globe and an Emmy, among its many nominations, and averaged 1.2 million viewers last season.

Paula Malcomson stars in "Ray Donovan"

Paula Malcomson stars in "Ray Donovan"

The well-known cast is one major draw of the show, with Schreiber being just one of a number of big-name actors. Oscar winner Jon Voight ("Mission: Impossible," 1996) plays Mickey Donovan, Ray's abusive father who turns up in the first episode after 20 years in prison. Though murderous, selfish and contemptible, Mickey is also charismatic and charming, and the character is a real fan favorite.

Eddie Marsan ("Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell") and Dash Mihok ("The Day After Tomorrow," 2004) play Ray's two brothers, Terry and Bunchy Donovan, who both have their own personal struggles to deal with throughout the series. Pooch Hall ("The Game") rounds out the family as Daryll Donovan, Ray's half-brother and Mickey's son from an affair, who now works for Ray.

Each season has seen its share of talent among the guest stars and supporting cast as well. The likes of Elliott Gould ("Ocean's Eleven," 2001), Hank Azaria ("The Simpsons"), Ann-Margret ("Grumpy Old Men," 1993), Ian McShane ("Deadwood") and Lisa Bonet ("The Cosby Show") have graced the roster of supporting cast members, and there are some big names on deck for season 5 as well.

The biggest of these is surely the ubiquitous Sarandon. The award-winning acting powerhouse has held well over 100 roles between TV and film since launching her career in the early '70s, and the list of accolades attached to her name is dizzying.

She's sure to be another feather in "Ray Donovan's" already well-feathered cap this season. She joins the cast as mogul Samantha Winslow, the legendary head of a motion picture studio, who employs Ray's "fixing" services.

"Susan Sarandon plays someone who Ray comes to work for, who has a very, very, very profound effect on shifting Ray's life," Schreiber revealed in the Collider interview. Sarandon added to this in a Showtime promo: "They both are kind of outside the law, and so, she has a secret that brings Ray into her life."

"We're really dependent on story being generated by guest stars," showrunner David Hollander told the Hollywood Reporter. "There is no big bad guy that Ray has to fight year in and year out, and there is no procedural element of whodunit. So we use new characters to bring in what we feel the zeitgeist is."

See what else season 5 has in store when "Ray Donovan" returns Sunday, Aug. 6, on Showtime.