In the Zone With Amit Rahav

2 views 5:26 pm 0 Comments May 15, 2024

Amit Rahav feels emotions really intensely. When he gets overwhelmed or anxious, the 28-year-old actor can quite literally feel the blood exploding through his veins and rushing to his heart. “It’s sort of like an addiction to insanity,” he tells PAPER.

Maybe this is what makes him so good at channeling the dark, heavy roles he’s become known for. Since starring in the 2020 breakout hit Unorthodox, Rahav has gone on to play compelling characters within this historical drama space, first in 2023’s Transatlantic and now in the new Hulu series We Were the Lucky Ones. In the new show, which is based on a true story about a Jewish family that was separated at the start of World War II, Rahav plays a photographer who goes on a journey of self-transformation through his work.

It’s a character that was seemingly made for him. Being a queer Jewish actor, it’s vital for Rahav to infuse his culture and identity in whatever role he takes on. Having grown up hearing stories from his grandmother who is a Holocaust survivor, these stories are embedded in his DNA. “I always want to speak up for my identity and my heritage,” he says.

Below, we sit down with Rahav to discuss the new Hulu series, Chinese medicine and Lana Del Rey.

You kind of got your ‘big break’ when the pandemic just started. Your first feature with PAPER in 2020 was a Zoom photoshoot.

On my mini fridge in my bedroom that I just moved into. It was a new apartment and I was posing on my mini fridge, which is cute, but it’s also crazy to look back on and think that we just had to work with what I had. I literally just moved into this apartment and had this tiny, tiny fridge, and that was my photoshoot artistic choice.

What has your journey been like since then? Since starring in Unorthodox, doing auditions during COVID, and then the writer’s strike… What has it been like as a working actor?

For any actor in the past four to five years, it’s been like a rollercoaster. Unorthodox came out, and it was a massive thing. But I was in my apartment, and I hadn’t seen anyone. Then back home, I went back to acting school and did a bit of theater. Then came Transatlantic, which was such a refreshing shoot to have after the pandemic, because I was in the South of France and it was the most beautiful scenario to be in. For four months, it was the best weather, great cast and crew. I really enjoyed this as a sort of ending to the pandemic. But then right after that ended, I went to London for some meetings, which was my first time in three years meeting people in person and taking general meetings. Then I got We Were the Lucky Ones. But right when that wrapped, the strike happened, and right when that ended, there was a war on in the Middle East.

I think acting is a crazy job in itself. You never have the certainty of what’s about to come. You never know. That’s why I try to practice gratitude whenever I can. But it made me more resilient, in a way. I had to hold on to the actual things that are stable in my life. I started doing pottery, which was really grounding in a time of [uncertainty]. Again, acting is such a profession where you never feel that you’re in control. But then when the world is out of control, where do you find your own core? It was a whole journey through meditating and being with my friends and family and just being grateful for what I already have. It’s constant work that I’ve developed and I’m still exploring.

Do you think all actors are empaths?

What do you mean by that?

Just that they feel the energies of the world around them and that affects their work.

Yeah, it can be so exhausting. I don’t know about all actors, but I know about me. I feel emotions in such a strong way. Like physically in my body, I can feel my emotions. When I’m feeling great, I’ll feel extremely great. But when I’m feeling low or getting anxious, I feel it exploding in my body. I feel it in my veins and the blood rushing to my heart. I don’t know if most actors are like that, but it’s sort of like an addiction to insanity. I do think that empathy is a very big key for actors. That’s why I love being around actors and talking to actors because there are many similarities between us.

What do you think is your greatest strength as an actor?

I think what I just said is my blessing and my curse. I feel emotions so strongly, so it’s very easy to put myself into a heavy, dark state of mind. But also, in my day-to-day life when I’m supposed to just be a human being, I have to learn to control it a bit more. It’s like training a beast that lives inside me. And when I act, I have an outlet for it. Like I can let it off the leash. But then in my day-to-day life, I have to hold it next to me on a leash and sort of nurture it and make peace with it. That’s why I love acting, because then I can just let it go crazy.

Who are some actors that you idolize, or maybe you try to emulate in your roles? Maybe specifically for We Were the Lucky Ones.

For We Were the Lucky Ones, I watched The Pianist and Son of Saul, and in both of these performances I found something so delicate and small and intimate. That really helped me channel Jacob. Specifically in Son of Saul, the film opens with an extreme close-up on Saul’s face, and you see every wrinkle and every line and every tiny expression on his face. I loved how he overcomes the whole situation that he’s in. He’s swiping the gas chambers. That’s his job. And he needs to sort of lie to the Jewish people who are coming into the showers and are being executed. And then he goes in after they are executed and collects their belongings and looks for gold and diamonds. He has to be very practical and technical and very detached from his emotion for him to be able to do that unbelievable job. I could understand how this person got to that mental place through his performance, and it was very inspiring for me to watch before going on set.

How important is it to you to infuse your culture and your identity into your roles? Do you ever feel like it’s a sort of typecast situation, or no?

Not necessarily. I’m very grateful for every role that I’ve been doing up until now. I always want to speak up for my identity and for my heritage. Being Jewish, but also being queer, is such a main part of my identity. So telling that story tells a story of my own ancestors. But the Holocaust had so many more victims than the Jews. LGBTQ men were executed there. We can see it in the film Bent, which is so good. It’s about gay men in the Holocaust. It devastated me.

As a queer person, I feel like telling a story of racism and ignorance is important at any time. And again, in the Holocaust, it was against the Jews, but it was also against gay men and people with disabilities and people of color and the elderly. All sorts of minorities were affected by that, and it really means the world for me to tell these kinds of stories that represent me, where I come from and who I am.

You’ve been doing a lot of fashion editorial type shoots lately. Who are some of your favorite designers, or how big of a role does fashion play in your world?

I love fashion so much, because it just allows you to express yourself in such a wild way. And it’s in such a safe space, because it’s fashion. It requires you to expand your own limits and borders and to think outside of the box. But also, there’s always thought behind it. So it’s such a beautiful way of expression. I love Loewe and what Jonathan Anderson does. I really liked how he dressed everyone for the Met Gala. I really liked this team that he crafted. I think I’d want to be a part of this team.

Favorite look at the Met Gala?

Such a hard question. Hmm, Lana. I loved Lana’s look.

Yeah, hers was the best.

I also just really, really love her. She’s so good. It’s like when you listen to her, you can’t not be transformed. You hit play and you’re in a whole different world and state of mind. If you drive somewhere and you play her, which is what I do, when you leave that car you will be a different person. Listening to her words and her music, I don’t know, she smashes my heart every time.

The great poet of our time.

And also so relatable. We’ve all been through what she’s describing. I am subletting an apartment on Genesee, which she sings in “Sweet” on her new album. I listened to that song in the shower, and I was like, holy fuck.

Do you have any other niche interests or hobbies that people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m super into working out. I dislocated my shoulder on a film that I did three months ago, and I couldn’t work out because I had to recover. I enjoyed it at the beginning, but then it became horrible not being able to move. Now I’m just starting to get back into working out, and being in LA, everyone is so hot and so fit. Everyone looks like the Hulk. I’m objectively a tall guy, but being in LA, everyone here are giants. I feel very insecure going into the gym. And then being in LA and seeing all the supplements culture, I feel like I’m becoming an addict for aloe vera. Apple cider vinegar and medicinal mushrooms like cordyceps. Vitamins. I’ve become kind of like an LA cliché. I’m always preparing some kind of elixir. I’m always mixing something. Overnight oats. Something’s always happening in the kitchen.

In another life, if you weren’t an actor, what would you be?

Maybe a supplements shaman. Like a Chinese medicine specialist. I’d do acupuncture and cupping, and then I’d take your blood and tell you what’s bad for you, what’s good for you. I think I’d be that.

My grandpa got stung by 150 bees about twenty years ago, and he’s like the healthiest man ever. I think that’s why. Because in Chinese medicine, they sting you with bees on purpose because it really boosts your immune system.

Oh my god. This is the first time I’m hearing about that, and I consider myself very knowledgeable about these things. This reminds me that the other day, I felt a little bit of a cold, so I went to this place on Sunset and got vitamins injected into my butt muscle. I got vitamin B. It was red and sparkly. After that, I went to cryotherapy where you stand in minus 150 degrees for three and a half minutes. It was snowing in that small room. You can blast your ears with music to get you dancing. I was listening to “Prada” because I needed to get my body moving.

That’s like a Lana song title. “I Walked to Sunset Boulevard to Get My Vitamin B.”

Yeah, and then went to cryotherapy.

What’s your dream role?

I think that up until now, I’ve been doing a lot of heavy, sad, tragic things. I’d like to do some indie, maybe queer, maybe uplifting roles. But I do like heart-wrench, so maybe a modern queer Romeo and Juliet that doesn’t end with a tragic ending. I don’t know. There are so many amazing roles that I’d love to do. I’d love to be a bad guy at some point. A psychopath.

No comedy?

I love comedy. I always look for comedy when I act. That’s my default move, to look for where I can add a bit of lightness and humor. I mean, in my personal life, I’m so distant from the characters that I play. I think my friends would say that I’m funnier and lighter [than my roles]. So I do always look for where I can add [humor]. I think the best thing is when it’s a mixture of pain and death and darkness, but also humor and laughter. So I’m looking for a more complicated role than just comedy, although I would love to do anything. So I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Photography: Tyler Matthew Oyer

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