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Judaism Made Jesse Eisenberg a Good Actor

Eisenberg explains how his Jewish background influenced his acting in a new Black Book essay.
By: Ashley Baylen
Published: December 7th, 2011 in Culture » Society » News
Jesse Eisenberg
Actor & Playwright Jesse Eisenberg on the Thrill of the Stage
By Jesse Eisenberg

My friend Dan once explained to me why he likes Jewish people: “In most families, you sit around the dinner table in silence until you absolutely need something from the other end. That’s when you’re forced to speak. But when I eat dinner with a Jewish family, the tiniest comment sets off an entertaining debate. Someone will say ‘I like this pasta’ and it’s immediately followed by controversy. ‘What, you didn’t like what your mother made last week?’ ”

Dan grew up in polite Alaska but moved to New York to attend acting school, where he experienced for the first time a culture and kind of dialogue that was, for me, the only way of life. In my family, every conversation was a debate complete with philosophical tangents. A discussion about the Yankees would quickly devolve into an argument about salary caps and then into a theoretical consideration of hegemony, and finally, inevitably, a shouting match about Israeli policies in the Middle East.

So for me, acting was a seamless transition from living. I would yell at my real sister at home, travel to the theater, yell at my fake sister on stage, and then head back home to apologize to my real sister. (In our house, every argument had two acts.) For Dan, the theater was a place to experience new thrills–what he would call the “exhilarating little orgasm” you get from acting when it feels, even for a moment, entirely real. Although Dan and I came to the theater from different places, we both felt the same buzz.

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Related articles: Jesse Eisenberg, Jewish, Black Book, Social Network, Asuncion, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Israel, Middle East
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