Credit: Lacey Terrell/HBO

Hung returns to HBO on Sunday night, and Thomas Jane’s former high school teacher — who moonlights as a gigolo for a clueless Detroit pimp named Tanya — is finally hitting his stride in the show’s third season. But he now has a new younger rival for the hearts of Motor City’s lustful ladies. Entertainment Weekly caught up with a barefoot Jane (That’s his thing. He’s got nice feet, though!) to talk about the new season, Ray and Tanya’s new Orgasmic Living sessions, and what he thinks his craziest moment in the sack will be this year.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The first episode of this season really speaks to the bad economy a bit — especially in the beginning. But Tanya (Jane Adams) has an amazing idea to get your business, Happiness Consultants, booming. Talk to me about Orgasmic Living.

THOMAS JANE: Tanya wants to bring our company into, like, a storefront. So she turns Happiness Consultants into a business where we’re, like, above a muffin shop. And we’ve got women attending a class that Tanya is teaching called Orgasmic Living. It’s just f—ing hilarious. My character is thinking, “This is insane.” But it’s working! Women are coming in! Business is booming.

Ray lost his teaching job. He’s subbing like twice a week.

Yeah, maybe! So teaching is basically over, and everything I’ve got, I’ve put into the business. It’s become everything to me. I’ve got more to lose now. So when we get this young gigolo character moving in, it’s really a threat because it’s all I got and it threatens my income. We throw everything at Ray this year. Everything that can go wrong this year goes wrong.

Last year ended on a sour note for Ray: He lost his job as a teacher. There was uncertainty about whether he’d get back together with his ex wife. Now your new business is thriving, but you’ve got competition from Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff) pimping out her new young stallion Jason.

Right. People are going to try to step in on our money. We do start out on a high note. I fix the house and buy a new car. So now I have a lot more to lose. The stakes are a lot higher. We’ve got younger dudes moving in on my turf. We’ve also got some very wild sexual situations. There’s a manage-a-trois with two chicks that kind of use Ray as a conduit to express their feelings towards each other.

As an actor, you’re kind of respectably living out a lengthy male fantasy on TV weekly. Playing a gigolo, what’s the craziest sex scene you’ve shot on the show? Is there a scene we you should be looking forward to?

One of my favorite episodes this year is when Ray gets involved with a woman who may or may not be a real woman. That opens up all types of crazy s— for Ray. And I really love where that arc takes us.

What’s his stance on man-on-man action? We don’t know him to be gay. But for business purposes, is the idea that money is money and you’re going to do what you have to do to get it the motto?

That’s what Charlie — played by Lennie James — the real pimp who Tanya goes to for advice, thinks. He’s like, “Why are you even messing with Ray? A hoe that don’t do dudes is not a hoe at all. That’s where all the money is.” So it’s a complicated relationship. I get to meet Charlie this year for the first time. That was really fun acting with Lennie.

Speaking of complicated relationships, what’s the deal with Ray and his ex-wife? You guys hooked up last year and it seemed like there would be a happy ending of some sort. But it looks like she’s still apprehensive.

Yeah, she’s becoming an independent woman. She divorces her second husband and she’s on her own. I’m trying to help her out, but she’s kind of on a quest to find out who she is. And she feels lost getting involved in other men’s lives. I think a lot of women can relate to that — getting buried underneath their relationship with their man and losing sight of who they are without that identity of “wife” or even “ex-wife.” I love that we can deal with all this crazy stuff through this very simple concept of a guy with a big penis. It’s so cool.

Ray and Tanya have an awkward dynamic as well. As the pimp, she should have all the power. But there’s a constant power struggle between you two.

She’s crazy. She’s always just kind of vying for power. And she’s too loony to hang on to it. But she’s got some great ideas and keeps pulling something out of her hat at the last minute to hang on to Ray. And I think that the subtext behind it all that the pimp is in love with her hoe. [Laughs]

What’s it like to play this character? There aren’t many guys out there in their 40s who get to play a raw sex object. Usually it’s a young guy. It’s very interesting to see you do it and do it to this extreme.

I was just excited to play a guy with a big d—. [Laughs] I knew that the writing was exceptional in the pilot that they sent me, and I thought it was a unique opportunity to shine as an actor and sink my teeth into some real human issues. It’s sexy and it’s also deep and funny. I’m very lucky this came my way, because I’ll tell you, the decent parts seem to get fewer and farer between. Look at the stuff being nominated these days. It’s not that great. A few years ago, the s— that’s winning and getting nominated today wouldn’t even be considered. Something’s got to change. Of course, there’s the odd exception to the rule every now and then. But even then, those are coming even fewer and farer between.

You’re being lead-in by a different show this season. Are you excited by the potential of the Boardwalk Empire audience sticking around for Hung?

We had a great thing with True Blood and Entourage [leading us in]. But that’s not our audience. Our audience is slightly more sophisticated and much more likely to be watching Boardwalk Empire. The other lineup that we had, personally, I would not watch Entourage and True Blood. That’s just me. Everybody’s got their taste. This is a combination I can understand. Like, “F—, that sounds great.” So I was thankful for the switch up.

There’s still uncertainty with your show about whether it’ll be renewed for another season, or if fans true appreciate it. How confident are you about this season?

This is my favorite season by far. It’s funnier, sexier, and it’s faster paced. A lot more s— goes down. It’s more entertaining, which at the end of the day is our job. I loved commenting on the state of America and the economy. Having to pimp yourself out to pay the rent is a great statement, but it’s a bit of a downer after a while. The economy is still in the shi—r and we’re still struggling. So I feel like, “I want to forget about all that when I’m watching TV. I want more of a lift.” And that’s what we decided to do with Hung this year. There’s much more escapist humor. We’re having fun with the idea of this character trying to make ends meet. And that doesn’t mean it’s any less smart. The writing team is very clever and the ideas are great, the actors we have are terrific. Now it’s just more fun. We’re hitting our stride and making the most out of the characters that we have. Because who knows — this might be the last season, you know? We had great numbers the first season. We had great numbers the second season. But every season’s a struggle. There’s always another show that might be coming up behind us and we might get bumped. If they can cancel Deadwood after season 3 when they were at their peak, anything can go down. I would love to see a season four and a season five. I think we’ve got two seasons in us to tell the whole story. That would be dynamite, but I play every episode like it’s my last one and my job is going to end tomorrow. So it better be good.

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