Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jeremy Piven Reflects on Jewish Upbringing

ENTOURAGE STAR JEREMY PIVEN will star in “Mr. Selfridge,” an eight-part Masterpiece Classics mini-series that airs Sundays on PBS starting March 31. The mini-series is about an American (Piven) who moves to London and founds a successful department store different from anything the British have ever seen.

In a new interview with the Jewish Daily Forward Piven speaks openly about his Jewish upbringing. (I wrote about Jeremy Piven's reflection on his bar mitzvah on the PopJewish blog in January.) In this interview Piven opens up about the Reconstructionist synagogue he grew up in as well as how his Jewish upbringing influences his acting.

Here are some highlights from the interview with the Arty Semite from

Your online bio says you had a Jewish upbringing. What does that mean?

It means I was part of a Reconstructionist congregation. We prayed “to whom it may concern.” I was bar mitzvahed and my father was very active in his community growing up in Scranton, Penn. We weren’t in temple every week, but we would attend for the High Holidays.

This may be a tough question to answer, but do you bring anything from that upbringing to your work today?

It’s not a tough question. It’s actually a great question. I think I learned a sense of community growing up that I brought to my work. I learned through osmosis that another man’s success will not take away from your own. I felt that in the congregation and I brought that to the workplace — that philosophy wasn’t always embraced by everyone.


Ari Gold was Jewish and often obnoxious. Did you try to protect the character?

Well, yes. Every time I read the script I said, wow, this could be the part where we lose everyone, where the audience turns against the character because he was so offensive. It was my job to give the character as much dimension as possible. The one thing I hung my hat on is that Ari loved his family, was always monogamous and when he acted out it was only because he felt the ends justified the means.