Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Breakthrough Jew – Jon Bernthal

This one-time jock turned classically trained thespian has found his calling.

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: October 24th, 2013 in Culture » Film » News

Hot, hip, and heady, the next wave of Jewish artists and influencers has already arrived. This is Breakthrough Jew, your weekly showcase of those on the verge of discovery and ready to be a regular figure in pop culture; setting trends, redefining genres, and simply getting it done-whatever ‘it’ is. These days, it’s not enough to know what’s hot now; you need to catch someone when they’re just starting to simmer.

Featuring those in film, fashion, food, and beyond, we’ll find the story before substance is obscured by style, before hype meets backlash, and before talent and purpose gets lost in a maze of Internet chatter. See an artist in the cozy bar before they hit the amphitheater, dine at a chef’s new restaurant before the line begins, and catch a young writer’s work before the demands of ratings and longevity encroach.

Follow our lead and we’ll follow yours – send us tips or suggestions via email, comment below or tweet us @ShalomLife, as we explore the Jewish landscape for pop culture pioneers.

Name: Jon Bernthal

Age: 37

Hometown: Washington, DC

Breakthrough Cred: Starred as ‘Shane Walsh’ in AMC’s hit The Walking Dead

It’s undeniable the positive impact a passionate teacher can have upon a student. In Jon Bernthal’s case, one teacher in particular changed the course of his life. Bernthal had been the quintessential jock, playing sports throughout high school and at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, but essentially being lackadaisical about everything. To fulfill a mandatory arts credit at Skidmore, Bernthal enrolled in a theater class. Enter stage left, said teacher.

“I met this wonderful acting teacher named Alma Becker. Once I found acting, I really wanted to straighten out my life. She told me about the Moscow Art Theatre, a great theater school in Russia. Stanislavski school, Michael Chekhov school, Anton Chekhov school,” Bernthal explained to Hollywood.com.

The burgeoning thespian bid Professor Becker and Skidmore fair adieu, and light off o’er the Pond to study at arguably one of the preeminent training grounds for actors in the world. To the uninformed, playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, and theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavski founded Moscow Art Theatre in 1898. The latter was responsible for developing the “Stanislavski system”, better known as “Method acting”, a technique that generations of actors have since adopted.

“I think what I learned over there was an unbelievable respect for this art form and this craft, and I know my brothers would probably call me an actor douchebag for saying all that but, you know, I think that… it prepared me for that. To take it extremely seriously, and to know how unbelievable lucky I am to have opportunities like this,” Bernthal further elaborated.

To make ends meet during his time in Russia, Bernthal played professional baseball for the Confédération Européenne de Baseball (European Baseball Confederation). Whilst in Moscow, he received further evidence that acting was his true calling, when the director of Harvard University’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), took notice of Bernthal’s performance and offered him a place in the Masters of Fine Arts program. Upon graduating in 2002 with an M.F.A. in hand, Bernthal tried his luck in The Big Apple.

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