Why The Actor In The Mattress Firm Commercial Looks So Familiar

Mattress Firm –- the mattress retailer that's become so weirdly ubiquitous that NPR did a tongue-in-cheek report investigating the conspiracy theories around why its stores are everywhere – has a funny new ad campaign built around the premise of "junk sleep," which is "sleep that is of neither the length nor quality that it should be in order to feed the brain with the rest it needs to perform properly," as defined by Dr. Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre (via the Harding Medical Institute). The ad campaign blames "junk sleep" for embarrassing mishaps that could happen to any sleep-deprived person. One commercial, for example, shows a woman named Kate "sleep typing" -– writing an email without paying attention to it –- and accidentally hitting reply all on a message that was only supposed to be for one person. Whoops! 

This scene is dramatized in a style that's meant to humorously evoke a psychological thriller. It has a dreamlike suburban-street-at-night setting, a tense score, and grave narration from a familiar deep-voiced, serious-faced actor. You probably recognize his face and voice, but you might not remember his name or where exactly you know him from. If you don't, we'll tell you: He's Liev Schreiber, who's known in his personal life for his relationship with actress Naomi Watts and for being the half-brother of actor Pablo Schreiber, and professionally for his many notable roles in film and television.

Liev Schreiber made us Scream

Schreiber's breakthrough role came via "Scream." In Wes Craven's era-defining slasher franchise, Schreiber plays Cotton Weary, a young man who in the first movie has been framed for the murder of Sidney Prescott's (Neve Campbell) mother Maureen, with whom he was having an affair.

He has a larger role in "Scream 2," which takes place after he's released from prison. Weary would like to totally clear his name and become famous for his story of wrongful imprisonment, so throughout the movie he pressures Sidney Prescott to join him for a TV interview that will get him what he wants. He's briefly considered as a suspect in the new string of Ghostface murders, but eventually he helps Sidney defeat the real killers after she promises to do the interview with him. He gets the credit for being the hero, because he actually was pretty heroic. 

By "Scream 3," Weary has achieved the celebrity status he desired and is the host of a talk show called "100% Cotton," but he gets killed in the opening scene of the film by the latest Ghostface when he refuses to reveal the whereabouts of Sidney Prescott.

Liev Schreiber is a narrator extraordinaire

Schreiber's deep, pleasant voice has made him an in-demand voiceover artist for documentaries, commercials, and animated movies. His longest-running and most recognizable voiceover gig is the HBO football documentary series "Hard Knocks," which he has narrated since 2001. He's narrated every season of the show except the 2007 season, which was about the Kansas City Chiefs and narrated by hometown superfan Paul Rudd. The docuseries embeds with an NFL team and gives an intimate look as the players and coaches go through training camp and prepare for the season ahead.

In an interview with Dan Patrick, Scheiber said that he loves doing voiceover work, and "Hard Knocks" is particularly great because it's so well-written. He also said that people don't recognize his voice and realize that he's the narrator of "Hard Knocks," because his VO voice is so different from his regular speaking voice. He explained that his narration is inspired by John Facenda, an iconic broadcaster who was the voice of NFL Films from the 1960s to the 1980s.

We hated to hate Liev Schreiber in The Manchurian Candidate

In 2004, Schreiber starred in director Jonathan Demme's sneaky good remake of the classic political thriller film "The Manchurian Candidate." In the film, he plays congressman and vice presidential candidate Raymond Prentiss Shaw, a Gulf War veteran who after being subjected to mind-control experiments has become a brainwashed assassin who can be activated by trigger words, along with the other members of his unit, including Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington), who is working to unravel the conspiracy.

Shaw's own power-hungry mother, Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, gave him over to the brainwashers so she could control him on his rise to become President. The Shaws are disturbingly close. Eleanor is truly one of the worst mothers in cinema history.

Like Cotton Weary, Raymond Prentiss Shaw is a character who's an unsympathetic victim, a type of character Schreiber is very good at playing. Sight & Sound Magazine called his performance "oleaginous," meaning oily and obsequious, an exceptionally good word choice to describe Shaw.

Liev Schreiber showed his fangs in X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Schreiber played another complicated character in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," the much-maligned first standalone film about "X-Men" franchise icon James "Logan" Howlett (Hugh Jackman). He plays Logan's half-brother Victor Creed, also known as Sabretooth. Creed has many of the same powers as Logan –- sharp, slashing claws and a healing ability that has extended his life much longer than a normal human's –- but he's violent and unstable and willing to hurt innocent people, which Logan is not. So they become nemeses, who don't like each other but respect each other's abilities and will work together against a common enemy, which they do in order to defeat Weapon XI (Ryan Reynolds), who has been sent to destroy both of them.

An early idea for Hugh Jackman's final Wolverine film "Logan" would have seen Schreiber return as Sabretooth, but according to Entertainment Weekly the filmmakers decided to go in a different direction and Schreiber was busy working on "Ray Donovan" anyway. So there was no satisfying end to Wolverine and Sabretooth's cinematic story.

Ray Donovan sells you a mattress

If there's one thing Schreiber is best known for, it's playing the titular character on "Ray Donovan," the Showtime crime drama beloved by dads that ran for seven seasons and will be getting a movie next year -– which Schreiber co-wrote with executive producer David Hollander, who is directing –- to wrap up the story. Ray Donovan is a fixer for powerful people, a stoic, serious man who knows how to get things done for his clients, whether it's by paying for it or by cracking someone in the head with his trusty baseball bat.

Schreiber's performance in the Mattress Firm commercial is meant to evoke Ray Donovan, as Schreiber is being a fixer, telling people how to escape a situation they've gotten themselves into (if "junk sleep" is impacting your daily life, buy a mattress from Mattress Firm). He's even dressed like Ray Donovan, in a suit with no tie.