Actor Jeremy Piven has kicked it into high gear lately. Between his new film “Keeping Up with the Steins” and consecutive Golden Globe nominations for playing super-agent Ari Gold on “Entourage,” this Jewish single is definitely not flying under the radar. Spark Networks’ CEO David Siminoff talks with Jeremy about his acting, his Bar Mitzvah, and his ideal woman.
DS: You have a new movie opening May 12th. Tell us about “Keeping Up with the Steins.” I belong to a group called the Reconstructionists and we prayed, as my father said, To Whom It May Concern.
JP: It’s about the competitive world of Bar Mitzvahs and while not everyone knows what a Bar Mitzvah is, everyone in the world has a reference for it, and it’s a beautiful Jewish right of passage. This [film] is taking a comedic look at it.
DS: The Bar Mitzvah is becoming such a mainstream rite of passage in so many ways. Last season on “Entourage” you threw a Bat Mitzvah for your daughter and in the movie, you’ve got this mega-bash.
JP: I grew up in the outskirts of Chicago, somewhere called Evanston, and I come from an artistic family, a stage theater family. We didn’t have a lot of U.S. currency so I was Bar Mitzvah’d in a church. I belong to a group called the Reconstructionists and we prayed, as my father said, To Whom It May Concern. A very liberal group, a great group of Jews and I am very lucky to be a part of a congregation like that. I was playing football at the time, continued throughout high school and was one of the few white boys that actually played. There were a lot of brothers out there in the temple or in this case, church, that were taking the yarmulkes and folding them like they were pocket squares – they didn’t know what to do with them. So I had a very interesting Bar Mitzvah experience, and a very simple one, that I wouldn’t have traded for the world. My Bar Mitzvah was perfect.
But out here in L.A. and especially in Brentwood where the movie takes place, people really compete against each other for the most lavish and large, ostentatious, incredible Bar Mitzvah they can have. Like a battle royale of Bar Mitzvahs.
DS: Were there other nice Jewish boys in Evanston or were you kind of alone in your experience through all of this?
JP: There weren’t a great deal of Jewish families in my immediate sphere. But I had an amazing rabbi and an incredibly eclectic upbringing. I feel very blessed in that way. My father has always been very religious and came close to being a Cantor or a Rabbi, but instead became an actor and he was always the one taking us to Temple. So I can definitely draw on the experience of my father and how he guided us through our Judaism.
DS: Have you ever tried online dating?
JP: I never have, to be honest with you. I have a friend in Chicago that did it and had an amazing result on JDate. At this point for me, just because I’m kind of high profile, I think it would be an odd experience.
DS: You would get a lot of email, yes. Surreal.
JP: It might be a lot of emails, but I am certainly open to it. I remember I went to a JDate event and they all said, “You know you’re not Jewish!” and I was trying to convince them that I was Jewish. Let it be known that I am indeed Jewish.
With that being said about JDate, if there’s someone that you think is really right for me, don’t hesitate.
DS: (Laughter) All right! We actually have some ideas.
JP: Okay, good. I do have an ideal woman…the body of Jessica Alba, the brain capacity of Stephen Hawking… Maybe that’s why I’m still single.
DS: How would you describe your ideal woman? What is she like?
JP: Um, maybe that is my problem. I do have an ideal woman. Someone open hearted and loving, self-empowered, smart, funny, sexy, beautiful. All of those things would be fantastic. Maybe like the body of Jessica Alba, the brain capacity of Stephen Hawking… Maybe that’s why I’m still single.
DS: (laughter) Okay, so you were nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Series for “Entourage” and I heard you brought your mother to the event. A lot of JDate members tell us their mothers are very involved in their dating life. What’s your relationship like – does she take an active interest in who you’re dating?
JP: She doesn’t take an active interest except that I think she does really want me to connect with someone. She does want that. She wants the best for me. She had that and my sister has it, but she’s not one of these overbearing mothers.
DS: You mentioned you played football in high school. Do you have any favorite Jewish athletes you particularly followed or follow?
JP: (laughter) Well, obviously Sandy Koufax, right? He was amazing.
DS: How about Mark Spitz?
JP: Mark Spitz was Jewish?
DS: Yeah, Mark Spitz, he’s a nice Jewish boy.
JP: That’s genius, that’s definitely one of them. And the boxer Mike Weisman, remember him?
DS: Your character on “Entourage,” Ari Gold, has become a sensation and by all accounts is the most popular character on the show. Do you think of Ari as a hero, anti-hero or villain? He has been described as all three.
JP: I think it’s my job not to let any one of those override the others, to keep all those balls in the air at the same time. I am honored to do it and to embrace it. None of us are angels throughout the entire day. We all have moments where we have road rage or something else. We’re all in touch with the different sides of ourselves and it’s how we choose to take the high road or not, in our day-to-day struggles. That’s part of this character’s struggles, and I think it’s really fun when I don’t take the high road, to be honest with you. Because [playing Ari] I don’t have to suffer the consequences that society would rain down on upon me. That’s very cathartic for me. I can get all that out.
DS: Ari started out as kind of a quintessential agent, everything ruthless and superficial about Hollywood, but you bring out so much humanity in the character, he’s become beloved. When did you really realize that audiences were warming to him and your performance?
JP: Second season, we were all at the premiere watching it and I remember there was a sense that the character was getting laughs and getting a nice response from real emotional moments that wouldn’t necessarily be laugh lines. So I kind of knew at that moment that, “Wow, the audience is with this guy. They’re with his journey.” But to me, that’s the best way to get laughs, through the investment of the moment and stuff that you can identify with…watching someone else go through their journey. Those laughs are better than that kind of written laugh line. So when that stuff started playing well in front of an audience…I felt like we were on to something.
DS: Actor’s studio question for you. If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing? I just love playing with kids and I think it would be amazing to be involved with kids in some way.
JP: I love my little niece Lily Rose, my sister’s baby, and Pearl. I just love playing with kids and I think it would be amazing to be involved with kids in some way. You remember the people who have an influence on you when you are growing up – there’s nothing that has more weight than that.
DS: Boy, you would be awfully popular on JDate.
JP: Really? So I guess it’s up to you to find me a wife. No pressure though.
DS: Deal. I just want an invite to the wedding if we do.
JP: You’re there, my friend.