Acting, Writing, // April 21, 2014
Ari Barkan – ACTOR
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ari Barkan and I am an actor!
There is no other profession that allows you to become someone or something that you are truly not. There is no other profession that allows you to study a character and to become that person for a brief period of time. No other form of media that allows you to express yourself through characteristics of others, and other things. Acting gives you the platform to be inside your own little box and to create and exhibit physically something that other professions do not leave the room for you to do. For me, acting is an opportunity to let go, and be something different; a different person, a unique being. It gives me the platform to express how I feel through different characters. If I am genuinely happy, I can exhibit that feeling through a comedy. If I am genuinely sad I can express that through a dramatic work. However, acting gives me the feeling of comfort- that it’s okay to go from happy to sad, in a safe transition, for the sake of the project. And vice versa with going from sad to happy. It’s all psychological – which is why sometimes really great actors lose themselves way too deeply in characters – but that is not necessarily a bad thing. These actors usually are rewarded with an Oscar.
What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an actor?
To answer this question, I need to think back at my first acting gig. I was in 7th grade and I portrayed Mr. Hastler in a full two-evening production of The Pajama Game. Now, this was no ordinary middle school – it was Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, NY and they had an amazing theatre program with a fully equipped theatre that was so good that it could even be used by major broadway productions. It was all top of the line. So it was not your ordinary 50-seat wooden stage type production. It had a capacity of up to 200 people, and even had an orchestra. It was amazing, and that gave me my first taste of the adrenaline rush that comes with acting, especially in front of a real live audience. Sadly though, the acting bug faded in me, and was not re-ignited until my second year of college. I went to Brooklyn College, took a few acting courses there and started to do background work on the advice of my other actor friends.
What are your favorite subject(s)/genre?
I personally do not have a favorite genre, however I am a big fan of mafia-films. Casino is my favorite movie of all time. I love Goodfellas, Godfather I & II, The Sopranos, etc. But I truly don’t have a favorite genre. I love dramas, I love comedies, heck…I even like some chick flicks. I am just a fan of the movies; a fan of cinema. I love the history of film, and I love the art that goes along with it.
How do you work and approach your subject/character?
I can honestly answer this question now because for the past month I have been preparing for a very serious and heavy dramatic role for a big short film that I have been cast as the lead in. This was the very first time where I found myself preparing and not playing myself. In the past, all my speaking roles did not require much prep as I had only need to make some very minor adjustments. But now, I find myself digging deeper for a psychological turn to this dramatic force. I play a man who is dead (but forgets that he is) and is being transferred to the after-life. That is all I can say about it. Its a deep psychoanalytical observation of the human mind, and our thought on if there really is a heaven or hell.
“The Ferryman”, which is the title of the film, examines the process from death to the afterlife. It studies what happens in between. I am really excited for this. My approach to this has been of three stages. Stage one is a full memorization of the lines. Stage two is getting the accent and voice down. Stage three is the prep itself – how to approach specific scenes; how to approach different vocal tones; how to approach different key words. It is a three step process – some of which I helped put together, in general, from what I learned at my short time at The Lee Strasberg Institute in NYC.
What are your favorite performances, actors?
Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and John Turturro – that’s my top five actors of all time. Meryl Streep and Catherine Blanchett are my top two favorite actresses. I have found basically any role DeNiro has ever played to be an inspiration. The man is a living legend. DiCaprio convinced me he was a true star after watching The Departed. I was lucky enough to meet him and work alongside him in a small featured role in The Wolf of Wall Street. I have never seen a work ethic like that before. He is brilliant. Another brilliant actor is Matthew McConaughey. After doing what he did in the film Mud, then going to the Wolf of Wall Street, then watching his performance in True Detective – there really is no doubt that he has become one of the finest actors today. A true genius. He makes decisions in his acting that really make him exceed in this industry. It is not easy to do what he does but, he makes it look so damn easy!!!!!! He is becoming a true legend, in my opinion. Hoffman, may God rest his soul, was the finest of the fine. He was a true method actor if I ever saw one. No one else has gotten lost in their roles the way that he did. He was a real pioneer of the term character actor. He was, and always will be known as one of the most intense journeymen of stage and cinema. Turturro – me and him go way back! I went to middle school with his son, and he was in attendance at The Pajama Game! I am not sure if he remembered me from that particular performance but fast forward to 2012, and I am playing a very featured sidewalk washer in his feature film, “Fading Gigolo”. I was recently told by a crew member on that film that when they screened it for the crew earlier this year, my little scene got the biggest pop from the audience, so I can’t wait to see it! It hits theatres later this month! Everyone should watch Quiz Show, Secret Window, and O’ Brother, Where Are Thou?
What are the best responses you have had to your work?
I have had a lot of good response to my work in Fuzz on The Lens Productions’ “Catch of The Day”, a horror film, and “Twas the Night” by the same guys, this time for Funny or Die. Also, my rehearsal work for this upcoming short film I am doing has garnered very good criticism from everyone including my family, friends, and the director of the film, Josef Abramov.
What do you like about your work?
I can really associate this question at this moment with a webseries that I am in called “Baba Fira”. Its Russian webseries about a grandmother and her grandson. I play the grandson, and my friend, actor and filmmaker Gary Cherkassky, plays the grandmother. Gary is one of my best friends and is truly a genius.
What advice would you give to other actors?
I would say that if you are just starting out, you need to take it slow and truly come to terms with the fact that unless your mom or dad are the head of a major studio, nothing will come to you in one day, or one month, or even one year. In acting, everything is slow until it is not. You have to fight your way in. And once your in it, you can’t leave. This is what major Hollywood actors have told me when I asked for their advice. Frank Vincent, Steven Schirripa, Vince Curatola, Mike Carlsen, Joseph Sikora, Dominic Colon and Bobby Moynihan have all told me that once you are in it, you are in it to win it. You cannot give up. You have to be proactive. You have to be intuitive. You need to take chances. You need to have faith. I am still growing and am still looking for my big break. I smell it. I can taste it. I am working with a wonderful manager, Laura Lichen of Laura Lichen Management based out of Los Angeles. This all comes with a three-component vehicle – you need to have talent, luck and faith. Never give up. And background work is not evil. Its not frowned upon. Brad Pitt was an extra. It just takes time, and while your building your much bigger future, a pay check from doing background work will not only help, but it will let you learn the insides of this industry like nothing else. And how else are you going to get your SAG card? For some, being non union is okay and it lets them get a lot of work to build up their reel. But somewhere down the road, the harsh reality is that it will be time to pursue that union card – and doing extra work is the surest way of getting that union card.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I see myself having been in 5 or 6 major films, and being a series regular on a television show
P.S. – The Fuzz on The Lens crew are the guys behind the Staten Island Clown prank!
I have a small part in a major feature film coming out this summer called “Staten Island Summer” where I play “Speedo Guy”
My page on my managers website: http://lauralichenmanagement.com/Ari_Barkan.html
My full resume: imdb.me/aribarkan
Some info about me:
Born on April 13th, 1990.
Dad is a doctor
Mom owns an art gallery:
Alexandre Mantacheff Art Exchange
1220 Surf Avenue
Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY