Call Answered: Yuval David: "What Would You Do?" + "Madam Secretary"
Yuval David has been seen in every medium including Film, TV, and Theatre. He’s the familiar face you all know. Yuval divulged all the intricate details of his approach to this business we know as show. He’s appeared on 100 episodes of ABC’s hit show What Would You Do? and was lucky enough to work with the legendary Michael J. Fox on his series The Michael J. Fox Show.
In addition to his work on TV, Film, and Theatre, Yuval has quite the online presence thanks to his surprise marriage proposal video going viral in 2015 (over 1 million views). He has continued to create invigorating online content as a vehicle for social change.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I think that I was born with the artistic and creative spirit of being a performer. Being a storyteller and using fantasy play was something I loved as a child. In fact, my family recalls stories of how I would conceive, direct, and star in my own productions, and use my brother, cousins, and friends as the rest of the cast.
I remember seeing plays as a toddler, and witnessing the performers on stage solidified my desire to be an actor. I immediately felt part of that world, and wanted to be more active within it.
2. You have worked in every genre of performance...film, TV, stage, voice-overs. Which area do you love to work in the most? Which genre do you find most challenging? Being a regularly working actor is a true blessing. I consider myself lucky. But, it takes dedication and perseverance, understanding this is a business, and that approach allows me to keep working continuously. In addition to being cast in major productions in TV, Film, Theatre, and Voiceover work, I also love to create my own content. Being creative requires creating. So, I am consistently doing or creating something that feeds my creative soul, and that I hope inspires others in some way!
So, back to your question as to which area I love to work in the most, the answer is I simply love to work. Doing this is my life’s passion, and I am fulfilled by doing, creating, and collaborating on good work. Each genre has its own challenges, but it is the challenges that are exciting and add color and patina to the performance.
Performing on stage brings its own unique challenges of dealing with live audiences, so concentration and focus is key, all while remaining in the moment and sharing the symbiotic relationship with the audience in the art of theatre. While some say that there is no room for error in live theatre, sometimes those “happy-accidents” happen which make the performance even better. The risk of that is exciting for me. But I find the moment of entering the stage to be when fear and nerves disappear.
Film and TV have their challenges as well, as the audience is just as important. Understanding editing and cinematography makes me a better actor in film and television. So, knowing how to be a very technical actor is vital here. But, what makes for an engaging performance is being real, being genuine, and revealing the character’s truth and my own truth; all of this together is a challenge. All of this makes for a better performance. So, the biggest challenge here is to make this artifice feel real…giving a solid performance even as there is a crew and equipment in your face or doing so on a set.
In voice overs, the challenge is to only focus on how my voice is perceived, how I can create complete characters and share the narrative without the visual manifestation of myself. This actually is great training for every other part of acting.
Across all of these, I cannot say that one is more challenging than the other. Acting and performing in theatre, film, television, and voice overs provides similar and different challenges within each genre, within each platform and medium. I love it.
3. You have been in many episodes of ABC's What Would You Do? What was the most fun scenario to film and which one just broke your heart? The magic of What Would You Do? was in how moving moments and funny moments would often happen even when we least expected them. Some of my favorites were playing a doorman at a club and deciding who could enter or not, a hairstylist from hell who did horrible things to a client’s hair, a man who cut in line at a grocery store and won the one-millionth customer prize, and many more. So, “what would you do?” is a question that the audience asks themselves just as much as I did as an actor dealing with real people in the show’s scenarios.
Doing that show was an actor’s dream. I was able to play different characters, and focus on keeping them completely real and genuine, so the marks (the real people who entered the hidden-camera scenarios) would interact and respond in a real way. This was wonderfully exciting for me.
Throughout my career and work as an actor, I have enjoyed improvising and creating theatre in public. Guerrilla Theatre, creating theatre for an audience that does not expect to be an audience, and creating and exploring my characters in public, within scenarios where people in public thought my characters were real people.
I have done this with some of my web series, like One Actor Short. Here I go out onto the streets of NYC with my production team, and create a film, with a cast of complete strangers! I am gearing up to create the next one.
Immigrant on the Subway: This one was part of a series of Improv theatre segments I did on the subway. As a complete social experiment, it is both a social commentary and a way to make a captive audience of NYC Subway riders all laugh. I like brightening people’s days.
Pranks of Kindness: While prank videos are fun to watch, I wanted to do some that are kind in nature, as opposed to mean-spirited pranks.
4. Was there ever a time during filming, you just didn't know how you would respond to a particular incident? All the time — I actually love when that happens. But, isn’t that exactly the point of “being in the moment?” With as much planning and preparation as an actor can do, the actor still needs to let go of all of that, listen and react to what is happening. Those tend to be some of the most exciting acting moments. I truly love when something unexpected happens, staying in character, and responding to whatever is happening.
I connect “not knowing how I would respond” to being in the moment and genuinely reacting to stimuli. While that obviously happened regularly in my acting experiences on What Would You Do? and most definitely within my productions of One Actor Short, Public Improv Experiment, and Pranks of Kindness, it also happened in so many of my other acting experiences on camera and on stage. Within completely scripted work, that is the element that keeps things fresh. I actually like doing that, as it is a fun way to play with the other characters. Not that I am trying to make them “break character,” but it is very fun to keep them on their toes.
While on set of The Michael J. Fox Show, the director Scott Ellis and his team said that my playfully different responses on each take made it hard for his team not to laugh while filming our scenes. But, that is the kind of work that gives the director and editors material to play with themselves and make some choices for editing. I think the art of it as an actor, is how to maintain continuity but still maintain genuine reactions responding to the stimuli in the moment.
The same thing is how I play with the other actors. Lately, I have been lucky to play villainous roles, and I love keeping things fresh with each of my acting choices, and surprising my acting partners with my choices. Again, the art of it all is maintaining continuity for filming and editing purposes, but allowing my responses to stay fresh and being a giving actor to the other actors in my scene. That means giving the energy and focus to my performance that gives material for my scene partners to play with themselves.
5. How do you feel being on this show changed you? Throughout my career and my work, I focus on the concepts of narrative, character exploration, and imparting information. In doing so, each role I play is a character exploration, and in exploring the characters, I ultimately explore myself. Being a working actor provides the gift of therapy — since I am the vessel, the actor playing the character, I am also exploring, analyzing, presenting and sharing myself.
My life-long journey of being an actor is parallel to my journey of being a healthy person. As I keep becoming a better actor, I also become a better person. This especially becomes clear when I share the concepts of character and narrative in workshops I lead for organizations, corporate business people, and governmental bodies who aim to relay a message in a better way. I truly teach acting classes, and assist them in refining their own processes of communication, presentation, and performance.
My work on What Would You Do? taught me a lot about the business and the network-side of the process of taking a great concept, producing it into a great and successful show, and collaborating with a great team.
My work on shows like The Michael J. Fox Show, Days of Our Lives and many films, have all taught me similar things. The more I work in production, the better I become in production, whether as an actor, director, writer, producer, or filmmaker.
I have been lucky to work and be part of great productions, and I always have something to learn. Much of it has to do with bringing my talent, skill, education, and experience to the table, but also judiciously utilizing all of that from a business perspective. This is a business, and with understanding the business side of this art, longevity, achievements, and successes can be reached. I am a work in progress, and I love it.
6. Does being an Israeli-American/openly gay actor influence the roles or projects you go after? Well, I am not sure if that specifically affects the roles and projects I go after. But, it does affect the projects I create myself. I create and produce web-series, documentaries, and videos for organizations and causes pertaining to LGBTQ, Jewish, Israeli, American, and philanthropic causes.
Art for social change is a major concept in my life and creativity. I use my creativity and productions to affect society for the greater good. So, yes, being who I am is important to me, and I fuse my creativity with being an advocate for the communities of which I am part.
As for how my identity affects my acting roles, that might play into casting choices, and how casting sees me. I used to think that I could play everything, that I can play every role. My passion for being a character actor, with having done my own one-person-shows, allows me to play many different characters.
Now, mainstream casting tends to focus on our types. “What is your type?” “What type do you play?” Typecasting is still quite present, and is a reflection on how network executives, producers, directors, and casting directors aim to represent specific characters and their character traits.
So, who I am, and my own character traits do affect how I am an actor. Even though I can play a diverse range of characters, something from me will forever be present in each character, because I am the one playing the characters.
I am proud to be Jewish, American, Israeli, Gay/Bi/Queer…I especially enjoy representing these characters, as I advocate and represent these communities when playing a character who is of these communities. I get to present a unique perspective into the communities I am part of and of which my characters are part. That being said, I do not always play characters who are of the communities to which I belong. Since I love morphing into different characters, and since I speak multiple languages and specialize in accents and dialects, I have opportunities to play characters that merely look like me from a physical standpoint.
7. Do you ever feel being so open has had a hindrance on your career? This used to be a major issue with being part of the LGBTQ community. When I first began acting, people would try to present themselves as more “straight-acting,” and the industry focused on presenting heteronormative characters. That was an industry standard at that time, and I learned that in order to proceed in the industry, I might have to “keep my private life to myself.” But, the worlds of theatre and art have always had a significant LGBTQ presence, and we have always been an integral part of those worlds. We had a home there, we always have. The worlds of TV and Film were different, though.
During my early days in Los Angeles, I was surprised by the massive amount of closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who were major actors, directors, producers, casting directors, and network executives. I thought it was odd that these people could not openly be their true selves due to a fear of ramifications on their careers if people knew about their sexuality.
I chose not to be closeted, but there were those with whom I did not share my private self. I judiciously selected when to share more of my identity. Yet, throughout all of this, I was very active within the LGBTQ movement, advocating on behalf of it, and actively striving for better representation and human rights. I remember how funny I thought it was when people would whisper and wonder what my sexuality was. I thought to myself, if anybody really wondered, they just needed to look online and see how outspoken I was (and still am) as an activist and advocate within and for the LGBTQ community.
8. A few years ago, your surprise marriage proposal video to your husband went viral, currently ranked at over one million views. What was that day like and the days after? That was such an amazing moment in my life. We very much enjoy celebrating life and love, as both are treasured gifts that must be nourished. We were amazed by the response it received. But, one of the greatest things about it has been the outpouring of messages from people around the world who were inspired or moved by it.
9. What are some upcoming projects you can tell us about? I focus on creating content that is entertaining, uplifting, and inspiring. Like my various series below: Better World with Yuval David and What Makes You Beautiful. I also directed, co-wrote and co-produced, the sci-fi horror The BetaLoop.
In addition to my productions, I regularly am the MC and speak at events pertaining to the arts, LGBTQ causes, Israel, philanthropy, and humanitarian aid. I am proud to share my passions for making this world a better place, inspiring and supporting others, and using my creative voice to affect positive social change.
10. Rapid Fire Questions:
Coke or Pepsi? Yuck. Neither. Super Tuscan Wine, Argentinian Malbec, Belgian Beer and Ale, a complicated cocktail, and Ginger Beer.
Twizzlers or Red Vines? Sheesh. Neither. Dark Chocolate, Popcorn, and Gourmet Ice Cream.
Peanut Butter: Crunchy or Smooth? Ooh. I can answer this one. Smooth.
Favorite go to Emoji when texting? 😉
More on Yuval:
“The self-expression of the creative and genuine artist resonates with the collective consciousness. Artistic expression is vividly imaginative and ingenious when created and shared. Art is a reflection of society. The artistic and creative representation of society is vital in the process of society moving forward, developing, and progressing.” “And, ultimately, art is a vehicle for social change.”
Yuval David describes this as he describes his own process.
Award-winning actor, host, filmmaker and producer Yuval David has become acclaimed for his work, including evocative and sometimes provocative performances on screen and stage. Each role Yuval brings to life he treats as a masterclass in using art as a fundamental agent for social change.
His profound ability to get to the heart of his characters’ humanity and relay a very real life experience to his audience has landed him major series regular and guest starring roles in some of the most widely celebrated and talked about television series and films in recent years.
Whether he’s appearing in CBS’ hit political drama Madam Secretary or ABC’s long-running primetime hidden camera show What Would You Do? his appearances not only entertain with heart but explore the human experience. No role is squandered as Yuval always uses his robust platform to embed a vital element of using his art for social change, engaging his viewers and inviting them to take an active role in improving the world around them, while simultaneously empowering them, making them feel deeply appreciated.
His mission led him to host, narrate, create and curate video content across YouTube and across social media, and he currently produces almost a dozen web-series, all of which entertain, uplift and inspire viewers, following with his central mission, and regularly performs his one-person shows in theatres.
The charming, sharp-witted, captivating and funny powerhouse of energy is frequently invited to emcee and speak on behalf of countless cultural, humanitarian, philanthropic, social and political initiatives, including the Israeli Consulate in New York, most recently hosting Israel’s 70th Anniversary Celebration in Times Square, in front 30,000 at the event and millions of live viewers around the world. He has become a go-to host and narrator for short- and long-form video content and documentary features for Jewish, Israeli, LGBTQ, Arts, Cultural and Humanitarian Organizations and Initiatives, including The National LGBTQ Task Force, the Jewish National Fund (JNF USA), and Stand With Us.
As a social journalist and public speaker, sometimes this advocacy work takes on a more literal approach. He regularly travels across the United States and abroad, in recent years bringing him to the illustrious heights of Capitol Hill and to powerful major multinationals and nonprofit institutions, to speak about the significance of using art for social change. Yuval empowers people to see themselves as advocates for their communities, uniting together to support their own communities and others, and seeing these efforts as equally important.
In addition to Madam Secretary and What Would You Do? Yuval’s on-screen credits also include The Michael J Fox Show, Unforgettable, and Days of Our Lives; leading and supporting roles in films such as Incipient, Beauty and the Beast, Nephilim, Awakening of Spring, You, and The Fifth Estate; and lead roles in contemporary and classic theatrical works, including: Broadway in The Game; Off-Broadway in Daddy Issues, Bunburry, Romeo and Juliet, and In The Swing. As much as possible, Yuval enjoys performing in regional theatres across the United States and abroad. Yuval regularly does voice overs for animation, commercials, narration, documentaries, and industrials. As a TV host, Yuval specializes in human interest, environmental, travel, foodie, culinary, and lifestyle shows. He is the host of multiple shows on television and online.