Ronen Rubinstein on “9-1-1: Lone Star,” his upcoming projects and environmental activism

A BETTER TOMORROW: In our chat with American actor Ronen Rubinstein we cover everything from the “9-1-1: Lone Star” TV series to saving the planet

Jacket by Nike; earring by More Than A Vote

Like many of his peers, Ronen Rubinstein’s career path started with minor roles in various movies and TV shows; then slowly but surely, he worked his way steadily upwards. His first movie appearance was in 2011, in Tony Kaye’s “Detachment,” starring opposite Adrien Brody and James Caan. Then came minor roles in “It Felt Like Love” which premiered at Sundance, “Jamie Marks is Dead,” “Some Kind of Hate,” followed by his first big break as a guest star on the hit show “Orange Is The New Black” as well as a series regular on the cable horror-drama series “Dead of Summer.”

Today, the American actor is primarily known for being part of “9-1-1: Lone Star,” the massively successful spinoff of “9-1-1,” where he plays an openly gay firefighter Tyler Kennedy “T.K.” Strand. Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Tim Minear, the first-responders procedural explores the high-pressure experiences of firefighters and a group of law enforcement officers based in Austin, Texas, who are constantly thrust into frightening, shocking and heart-stopping situations.

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It perhaps goes without saying that there is so much more to Rubinstein than meets the eye. As his platform grows bigger and bigger, he is using it to bring more awareness to saving the planet. As a passionate ocean advocate, Rubinstein uses his voice in the fight against ocean pollution and help to get more of the ocean under protection. All in all, as he fights to make the world a better place on and off-screen, it’s safe to say that we’ll definitely see more of Ronen Rubinstein in the months to come.

DAMAN: Hi, Ronen! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. How are you doing?
Ronen Rubinstein: My pleasure! I’m doing great. Exhausted and crazy busy, but very good, thank you.

DA: Many of your previous works caught our attention, but one that really stood out was obviously “9-1-1: Lone Star.” For those of us new to “9-1-1: Lone Star,” can you give us a short breakdown of the show?
RR: It’s the greatest procedural drama on TV? In all seriousness though, “9-1-1: Lone Star” is one of the most exciting, diverse, epic TV shows out there. Also, two words: Ryan Murphy.

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DA: In “9-1-1: Lone Star” you play as Tyler Kennedy “T.K.” Strand. Can you tell us a bit more about your character’s background?
RR: Oh, man, T.K. is a complex one. Loving, sweet and noble on the outside, but very complicated on the inside. He has a recent history of addiction, heartbreak, overdose, divorced household … you name it. Still, I love T.K. with all my heart and it’s been the greatest pleasure stepping into his shoes.

DA: Speaking of which, how did you prepare to step into the shoes of a man like that? What kind of ideas did you incorporate into your depiction of the character?
RR: Well, I have real-life experiences in the past with addiction and heartbreak. I was able to pull it from personal experiences and memories. I also am very close with my father and look up to him, so I had a lot of real-life experiences to use for inspiration. As for portraying a firefighter, I really took the time to learn how they act on calls when faced with immense danger. Calm, cool and collected. These are some of the bravest men and women in the world. It’s beyond amazing what they do.

DA: Did you go through any kind of special training for the “playing a firefighter” part?
RR: We trained with a firehouse right before we started shooting. We also have retired firefighters and active firefighters on set at all times to keep us in check.

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DA: What was it like portraying an LGBTQ character in a leading role?
RR: It’s a great honor and responsibility. I’ve experienced incredible support and respect from the LGBTQ community while playing T.K. I also have spoken to countless people about their experiences of coming out and being more comfortable with who they are just from watching the show. That is the greatest compliment I could receive as an actor.

DA: On that note, what did you take away from your experience of portraying a member of the LGBTQ community that you think you can share with everyone?
RR: I just think it’s beyond time for society to accept members of the LGBTQ community as equals and treat them with respect. What I love about the T.K. Strand story line is that his homosexuality is normalized. Because at the end of the day, it is normal. Nothing taboo or strange about it. It’s 2021 people, come on now.

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DA: Moving on, you also work alongside Rob Lowe in this series. What are some of your fondest memories from working with him?
RR: It’s countless classic Hollywood stories while sitting side by side in our cast chairs. Just kicking it with an ultimate legend. Priceless memories and what a guy!

DA: What would you say is the most memorable experience from working on the show? Something that has really stuck with you long after filming wrapped…
RR: I think the Police Station scene with Rafael Silva. It was one of the freest and challenged I felt on the show. Huge credit to our brilliant director, Bradley Buecker. He really loves to push us and tackle scenes in so many different ways. Also, the chemistry between Silva and I is magnetic and electric at the same time. Magic always seems to happen during our scenes.

DA: Furthermore, is there anything you can tell us about the second season of “9-1-1: Lone Star”?
RR: This season will only be bigger and better. Plus, a crossover!

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DA: Moving on to movies, you also appear in the horror-thriller “Smiley Face Killers.” What can moviegoers expect from this title?
RR: It’s the most difficult role of my career so far, both mentally and physically. In short, it’s a multi-layered character suffering from depression as well as being stalked by a group of psychotic serial killers. It was written by Bret Easton Ellis, so you know the material is going to be risqué and epic.

DA: Do you remember when you saw the “Smiley Face Killers” script for the first time? At that time, what’s the one thing that crossed your mind?
RR: “Holy s–t, what am I getting myself into?” That was honestly my initial thought.

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DA: In this film, you take on the role of Jake Graham. What first attracted you to playing the character and how did you end up being cast for this?
RR: I was intrigued by what the character would require for it to be truly effective. I knew I would have to really go there mentally and physically. I crave these kinds of challenges and characters. Maybe I didn’t crave sprinting on the side of a Nevada highway 99-percent naked, but it sure was exhilarating. I got the part after auditioning for it twice. The first session was just with the casting team. Then came a Skype call-back with Ellis, Tim Hunter and our producer Braxton Pope. I was shooting a film called “Bushwick Beats” at the time and found out I got the part while being on set. It was a very epic moment.

DA: You and your character go through quite a lot of throughout the movie. Still, was it a fun role to play?
RR: It was fun … at times. I was in a pretty complicated head space at the time. As you can see in the film, my body took a major beating throughout the entire process. Overall, the shoot was extremely fulfilling as an actor. Definitely the most challenging role so far in my career.

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DA: What would you say is the number-one reason to watch “Smiley Face Killers”?
RR: We take a very unique lane in the horror genre. You could definitely call it a drama/thriller for the first 75-percent of the film. Between the quiet, carefully orchestrated tense pace and epic score, this movie has elements of classic ‘80s horror as well as beautifully stylized close-ups you would see in an emotional drama.

DA: On the other hand, what do you hope will audiences take away from watching this movie?
RR: I really hope people will connect with our portrayal of someone suffering from mental health issues. One thing I respect tremendously about the story, and Graham in particular, is his outside appearance compared to what’s actually going on inside. I think there’s somewhat of a stigma around what someone suffering from depression might look like. However, it can really be anyone. Graham’s actual reality is juxtaposed with his physique and looks. Society sees these types of young men as strong, sexy, successful and might never expect someone like that to be suffering deep inside. It shows Ellis’ ability to think way outside the box.

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DA: Aside to that, you were also recently featured in “No Escape,” which is also a horror movie. Is acting in the horror genre something you’ve always been keen on doing?
RR: Weirdly no. It just happened to be the jobs that I kept booking. So, in a way, I’m somewhat turning into a “Scream Prince.”

DA: What about your dream projects? Do you have a bucket list of stories or people you really want to work with?
RR:
Brad Pitt and David Fincher. They are my ultimate inspirations in the world of filmmaking and acting. I’m putting it out there!

DA: Last but not least, outside of acting, we learned that you are also an ambassador for The Ocean Cleanup and Project Zero. Can you tell us more about this?
RR: The Ocean Cleanup is one of the leading initiatives in ridding the world’s oceans of plastic pollution. I first heard about them back in 2018 when they were launching their first ocean cleanup in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is literally an island of plastic and garbage that is three times the size of France, floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Recently, they launched their first product, sunglasses made out of recycled plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with all of the proceeds going back into the company’s cleaning efforts.

Project Zero, on the other hand, is on a mission to protect 30-percent of the oceans by 2030. Our planet is nearly 70-percent ocean, but unfortunately, only 7.5-percent is protected by governments or local officials. Our first initiatives are creating sanctuaries off the island of Minorca in Spain and Sri Lanka as well as India.

Blazer and pocket square by Ralph Lauren; shirt by Bugatchi

PHOTOGRAPHY MITCHELL NGUYEN McCORMACK
STYLING KIMBERLY GOODNIGHT
GROOMING DYLAN MICHAEL

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