JTA – Flames The “Jew” Debate aired over the years, but the conversation took the final affect to a new level of prominence.
Katherine Haines Casting as outspoken Jewish comedy pioneer Joan Rivers More photos in a TV series (which was eventually shelved) Bradley Cooper wearing a prosthetic nose The role of Jewish conductor Leonard Bernstein in a blockbuster film has added fuel to the discussion on whether non-Jewish actors should be cast as Jewish characters.
The latest that can be caught in the crosshairs? Steve Carell.
The non-Jewish actor plays a Jewish doctor in the upcoming psychological thriller “The Patient,” which premieres August 30 on Hulu. In the 10-episode series, Carell’s doctor character, named Alan Strauss, is kidnapped by a serial killer named Sam Fortner, played by Domhnall Gleeson. Sam asks Strauss to correct his desire to commit violence.
The show was created by Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, producers of the hit drama “The Americans,” who both grew up in Jewish homes. On a virtual panel Tuesday during the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, the pair defended their casting decision.
Here’s what Weisberg had to say, Via Variety,
“When we came up with the original idea, the character was not originally Jewish. And then you start, as you always do, looking for ways to add uniqueness and depth. And we came up with that idea pretty quickly. But it allowed us to tap into things from our lives… [it] Just added certain dimensions and then writing a certain way got a lot more fun actually. I would say he was number one. And casting Steve, who’s not Jewish, I think our feeling as television writers has always been, that we’re in an area where people are pretending other people. That’s what everyone does all the time. And that’s our main take on that. But we understand that some people feel differently about it and that’s okay too. But that’s where we were coming from.
And here’s what Fields, whose father was a rabbi, had to add:
“Jewish subjects are very personal and important to each of us. My father was a rabbi, so I grew up in that world. Who also grew up with a Jewish family. So we do something very personal for ourselves.” And, ultimately, I think a big part of our belief as storytellers is that what we’re doing is trying to increase our common humanity. And that’s something like Which Steve does brilliantly in this part and Domhnall does his part brilliantly. And we hope that eventually people stay away from the exclusivity that is on the show.”
as our friends Kevlar explainsWeisberg was raised in Chicago by Bernard Weisberg, a civil rights lawyer and judge, and the city’s first commissioner of cultural affairs, Lois Weisberg—once described as “perhaps the city’s most important architect (or savior) of cultural Chicago. And Fields’ father, Harvey J. Fields, was a Reformation rabbi who headed Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto before settling in Beverly Hills as rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles until 2003.