Joshua Malina, best known for his roles as Will Bailey in The West Wing and David Rosen in Scandal, appeared on campus on Tuesday, Nov. 1 to speak to students in Cahn Auditorium. Malina spoke about his life as a Jewish actor and his struggles at the beginning of his career and his present success.
He grew up in New Rochelle, New York and went to high school at Horace Mann in Riverdale, New York. He then attended Yale University where he got a degree in theater. Although Yale’s theater program wasn’t as prestigious when he attended, he received his first major role after college as Tom in Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway show, A Few Good Men. He actually got this role because his parents told him to call family friend, Aaron Sorkin. Malina joked, “That’s how I’m going to become an actor? Just cold call Jews?”
Getting exposed to the acting world through Sorkin definitely paid off as now Malina boasts 70 acting credits on IMDb. His path wasn’t easy though as he was cast in a short lived sitcom called Imagine That that got cancelled after only 6 episodes. He had just bought a new home for his family and had 6 months of anxiety as he searched for a new job. After finding out that a season regular on The West Wing, Rob Lowe, was leaving the show, Malina emailed Aaron Sorkin and asked if they would consider casting him. Sorkin loved the idea and created a character especially for Malina.
When asked about his acting style, Malina said, “I don’t think of myself as trying to influence a character too much. Jews are text-based people, the script is the script, and the character is the one that says these things”. This technique has worked well for him as he was cast in another hit show, Scandal by another talent in television, Shonda Rhimes. Malina talked about how both Sorkin and Rhimes have very text heavy scripts filled with dialogue and how they are intelligent people. His experiences with them have been especially positive because they care about the people that work for them.
The highlight of Malina’s appearance was his revelation as a serial prankster. He recounted tales of stealing his costars’ phones on Scandal’s set and going on their Twitters to tweet, “I’m horny”. On The West Wing, Malina sent flowers for Valentine’s Day from one male star to another which resulted in a confrontation where his costar had to tell the guy that he had a girlfriend.
“Since I’m really interested in the television industry, I thought it was really cool to hear him talk about his experiences working on sets,” Jen Schonberger, a Northwestern sophomore said. “Hearing him talk about his experiences guest starring on other shows and pranking his co-stars was really cool, and he was really funny about it.”
One of Malina’s fears is being killed off on Scandal so the other members of the cast gave him a fake script where his character died. Malina claimed this was one of the best pranks ever played on him in retaliation to his devilish ways.
Overall, Northwestern students enjoyed the event. Overall, students enjoyed this event Northwestern sophomore Charlie Yelin said, “He spoke really honestly which was cool and him and Harry Wood played really well of of each other. It was a great talk.”
Malina gave hope to Northwestern students pursuing degrees in theater that they could succeed in the industry. He especially supported potential Jewish actors to become part of the community. “I have learned that if there is an opportunity in the Jewish world or realm, there aren’t as many great Jewish role models.”
(Image Courtesy of vignette2.wikia)
(Image Courtesy of vignette2.wikia)