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Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Jewish Paparazzi: Busiest Jewish Actor of the Month

This is part of our Nov/Dec 2007 issue.

Shows about lawyers are nothing new, but the midseason Fox drama Canterbury's Law has a distinction that sets it apart: both leads are Jewish. Julianna Margulies (ER) plays a rule-bending attorney named Liz Canterbury and Ben Shenkman (Angels in America), her colleague and voice of reason, named Russell Cross in the pilot "but they told me they might change it to Bloom," the 39-year-old actor notes.

He views the character as "a decent, standup guy ... who feels tremendous admiration for and loyalty to Liz. There's an underlying respect in the relationship that I really liked, a kind of intimacy in the way they fight. It's like a professional marriage. They're dependent on one another to some degree and they also bump against one another in their approach."

Being able to work in New York (standing in for Providence) was a plus for Shenkman, who remained in the city after NYU drama school. He'd been raised to appreciate theater but not as an observant Jew and did not have a bar mitzvah. "I was raised in the secular Eastern European Jewish tradition," he notes, underlining, "My Jewish identity is important to me."

Shenkman has several independent films awaiting release including Americanese, The Key Man, "a Coen Brothers-esque comedy about an insurance scam," Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (directed by The Office's John Krasinski), and Breakfast With Scott, about a gay couple "who temporarily inherit custody of a sissy-ish kid and have to deal with everything that brings up in their own identity." He also plays Helen Hunt's brother in When She Found Me, Hunt's directorial debut. It's due out in the spring.

-- Text by Gerri Miller

This is part of our Nov/Dec 2007 issue.
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