Ronen Rubinstein moved to America from Russia when he was seven years old, which turned out to be a happy coincidence for the producers of Dead of Summer. Talk Nerdy was lucky enough to speak with this up-and-coming actor, who advocates for women in show business, dreams of directing and has a red-hot passion for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What’s been your favorite insight about your Dead of Summer character, Alex Powell?
I’d have to say the fact that his family background is from the Soviet Union—it’s a very strange coincidence—my entire family history is from the Soviet Union. Russian is my first language. It seemed very strange that all that happened that way. The producers and the execs had no idea about my background or that I spoke Russian (laughs).
So they didn’t write that specific to you?
No, the first time they told me was when I was testing for the role. They’re like, “Yeah, let me tell you a little bit about Alex. He’s Russian and his family history is from Russia and we’re going to reveal that.” And I was like, “Wait, what?” It was a miracle, I guess.
In Barney Rubble Eyes (S1E2) Alex helps Anton, seeing himself in the kid. Both are kind of outsiders. Have you ever felt that way yourself?
Definitely when I first came to the states and especially when I had to start learning English. Taking English as second language classes and all that stuff. I definitely was an outsider. It was a bit harder to conform to friends and just the whole environment of America, especially as I grew up in New York. But once I got acclimated to everything it was much smoother.
With DoS being an anthology, what time period would you like to visit and what kind of character would you like to play?
I don’t know specifically for character. I think with Adam and Eddie anything they write is most likely going to be amazing. Time period….it’s probably not likely for the show, but I feel the 20’s is an amazing period, especially to watch on film and television. Definitely the early 1900’s, especially because everything was transitioning to like…sort of getting advanced with technology and medicine. It was just a very strange time in history. When we were just reaching that cusp of kind of being intelligent (laughs).
With the Tall Man’s history that could happen, right?
Their backstory goes all the way back to the 1870’s. That would be really cool too. I’d like to explore the simpler times, when we didn’t grow up in this technology-crazed age. Everything’s right there at our fingertips. I always wondered what it was like when you had to literally go somewhere to read up on something just to find out simple information. Yeah, definitely the earlier the better.
As far as a character, would you want something far removed from Alex?
Yeah, obviously I’d want to do something the complete opposite of Alex. Just because of adding variety to what you play, challenges that you can face as an actor. Then it just becomes more interesting. You don’t want to get…at least I personally never want to get stuck in playing the same stuff. Luckily my career has not had that happen. I’m very grateful for that. So, yeah, something completely out there, the stranger, the more difficult the better, honestly.
This fan question came from Talk Nerdy With Us’s twitter account: are you comfortable or uncomfortable watching yourself on film?
I am comfortable watching it. I actually use it…I have to do it a few times, because the very first time I watch it, I watch it as a student of the craft. I take it as a moment to see what I think works and what doesn’t work for me, instinctually, and then it comes to what works technically, like beats and reactions, stuff like that.
And then the second time and third time I just try to watch it as a viewer, because I find it kind of selfish to not watch it completely because the overall project is probably amazing and there’s so many different jobs that go into a production that as an actor you only have a very small part of. The first time is to watch it as a learning perspective and then I watch it to see how the production was able to do everything.
Are you interested in learning things behind the camera?
Yeah, that would be a dream. One of the ultimate goals as an artist is to expand your muscle and do as much as possible. I would love to write something. I would love to direct. I’ve always had a dream of being able to direct something and being the camera operator. That way you can control the camera. Honestly, they fascinate me, I think more than anyone else on the crew if I had to think of it. Because they’re literally the eyes of everyone that’s going to watch whatever we’re putting on the screen. The cinematographer, director and the camera operators…high praise for them.
Have you been able to work with any of them on your show? Do you shadow them when you’re not on camera?
Yeah, luckily with this production during set-up, or even when we’re not shooting, they let me hang around and watch how everything works. It’s amazing because our camera operators are actually father/son. That is so rare. I’ve never even heard of that. You can just tell their chemistry is on a whole other level. Because they literally know each other better than anyone (laughs).
What unreasonable fear or phobia do you have?
I don’t know about physical things freaking me out, like spiders or something, I think some of my biggest fears are not being able to fully do what I want in life. Specifically like being held back like by where I live or the society I’m surrounded by or the government. There’s a lot of places in the world that don’t have the luxury of even being able to put on the clothes that they want and that’s crazy, you know. That is my fear and I try to face that every day and I think following this career choice is a big step into facing those fears.
I see you have two film projects out this year. Tell us about Smartass.
Smartass is about a young girl, played by Ms. Joey King, who is amazing. It’s like a coming of age story with her. She runs away from home and this takes place in 1988, like around that time period, they’re not specific, but like late 1980’s, and she ends up in L.A., which was extremely dangerous and a lot of gang related stuff was happening at that time. She comes across my character, whose name is Nick, and I’m part of this three group of guys who sells acid for the Mexican gangs and it all becomes intertwined into this four-part story of coming of age, a bit of a romance and a crime story. And then a bit of a side story about one of the guys in prison who also is affiliated with the Mexican gang and that’s how I’m connected and then Joey becomes connected to us and it becomes this whirlwind of an event. It’s a bit of a comedy, drama, action. It has a bit of everything (laughs).
And your other project is called Dude. What’s that about?
Oh, wow. Dude I just finished this year in March. I found out it picture locked a few weeks ago, actually. Dude is about Lucy Hale and her three friends in high school and it really focuses on what girls go through senior year of high school and their dramas and ups and downs. It’s very raw and not sugar-coated. It really shows the reality of high school at least in America, specifically in Los Angeles.
It’s a really great way of changing up the pace because usually high school films like that, especially that have comedy and are raw, usually it focuses on boys in high school and groups of guys and what they go through, but this one really focuses on girls, prom, the pressures that they deal with when separating and going to college and being best friends with these girls all their lives and having to split up. I have a smaller part in this film, but I knew I had to be a part of it because I know it’s going to be something special.
Olivia Milch, I guarantee she will be a future star director. This is going to be her first feature. I play a…kinda like a jock type, but he’s a good guy that has a bit something going with Lucy and then there’s a certain event that happens that really flips the script on Lucy’s character and you’re just going to have to see what it is.
They’re both really great and the big thing I want to say is they’re both first-time features by woman directors. It was an absolute honor and honestly there’s not enough women in the industry overall and it’s amazing because Dude had a female cinematographer, which is so rare. I was lucky enough for this to be my third film with a first-time woman director. It definitely feels good to be a part of something that seems like it’s picking up but still can only get better.
I agree with you, we definitely need to be more open and embracing of women in all the roles in the film industry.
I don’t think it should just be focused on women as directors, it should be focused on cinematographers, sound department, everything and it can’t just be pinpointed as directors because there are so many other jobs that come into the overall scheme of creating a project.
I appreciate hearing a guy say that!
I wish more did honestly.
Finally, what do you nerd out about?
Music! (laughs) Music, man. Music’s been always my number one. It just fascinates me, especially after being able to go to tons of concerts and lucky enough to see some of my favorite artists live. Multiple times actually.
So who are your favorites?
My number one is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They just had their new album come out, The Getaway, and it’s just been on repeat here. It just fascinates me. They’re the perfect example of…they’re a bunch of men that are around 52 years old and they’re still rocking out as if they were in their twenties. Especially their shows (laughs)… like it takes a toll on what they do live and they’ll still perform for two and a half, three hours, jumping around as if they’re back in 1989.
Definitely music is what I nerd out about. I always check to see what new albums are coming out, when I can pre-order them, what previews of the songs they have available. I would definitely say that at the top of my head.
You can catch Ronen in the season finale of Dead of Summer tonight on Freeform @ 9/8 C.