Exclusive: Matisyahu Talks Acting, Dybbuks, ‘The Possession,’ and the Future of His Beard (INTERVIEW)
Following its release on Friday, ‘The Possession,’ a movie starring Matisyahu, that explores the Jewish occult, has topped box office lists. The Algemeiner spoke with Matis is an exclusive interview preceding the release, discussing his role in the movie, his Hollywood ambitions, scary movies, and of course, the future of his notorious beard.
AJ: Your role in The Possession is the biggest acting role you have had so far. What is it that drew you to this project? How did you find out about it and what excited you about the part that made you want to take it on?
M: It seemed like a great script, when they offered me an audition I read the script, I liked the script. I really liked the themes and I thought it was well written, and it seemed like a good role for me being that I had a certain sense of the authenticity of the Jewish element to it, y’know a little bit.
AJ: Do you get offered scripts often? Do you have to leaf through a few and find a good one that works for you…. or is it kind of once in a while that people will come and say “hey this could be good for you?”
M: This is honestly the first thing that really felt like it made sense for me to do.
AJ: So, with regard to the Jewish aspect of the film, which aims to portray the occult part of Judaism, what did you see that you related to specifically? That shouted out at you?
M: Well , the Jewish aspect of it, is kind of what makes it scary, it gives it sort of a kind of ancient kind of mystical element, but darker undertones, which is kind of one of the things that makes this film unique.
AJ: Did you have any exposure to these kinds of these concepts beforehand in Judaism? Have you studied the dybbuk concept in the past?
M: Yeah, I had never really heard much about the dybbuk just more about shadim (spirits) and that kind of thing, learning in Chabad and all that…. but a little bit inserted here and there in Kabbalah, but I never studied it in depth or anything like that.
AJ: This is a pretty big Hollywood movie; it’s going to make its rounds and will be seen in a lot of places, so how do you think this is going to impact your acting career? Do you see yourself taking on more roles and getting into it more, especially now that you’re living near the Hollywood area?
M: Well I hope to. I have a couple of ideas in the works of projects that I want to get going. I think for me music will always be my first and foremost, at least for now still, I just released a record, so that’s where my head is at right now, it’s in music. But I think if more roles were to come along, and there’s more interest, I certainly enjoyed it and would like to do more.
AJ: A couple more projects? Would you write your own movie? or are you getting more offers?
M: There’s one project that I’m working on, it’s with a friend of mine who’s a writer and we’re gonna have some other people involved… it’s a story… I guess I’m not really ready to talk about it quite yet until it comes more into fruition.
AJ: So it might be another film that you would act in?
M: That’s right.
AJ: Are you also finding that more film offers are coming in at this point already?
M: I’m not really sure, we’ll see what happens.
AJ: In this particular role it seems clear that they picked you in part because of your physical appearance which included your beard at the time. Do you think they would have pitched this to you if it had come up after you shaved?
M: I mean I guess potentially they might have, I mean look, they put fake beards on everybody else up there so it would not have been difficult to try and do that for me, um but I think certainly being that I have had the Chassidic look that could have helped when they were thinking, I think they had me in mind. Not only because of the look but beyond it as well, I had to audition for the part, it wasn’t just because of it.
AJ: So would you ever consider growing your beard back for a movie role if that’s what it required?
M: Yeah I have nothing against a beard, I would grow it back for any multitude of reasons, that being one of them, at some point I’ll have my beard back.
AJ: So, do you think you’re new look will help you get different roles? In your last movie you also played a Chassid, and in this one you play a rabbi. Is it likely that you will now be offered parts that will enable you to portray different characters?
M: I don’t know you know I haven’t thought too much about it we’ll see what happens.
AJ: Back to the film now, our reviewer tells us there are some comedic moments. How do you see yourself as a comedian? Do you have a good sense of humor; was it easy for you to capture the comedy?
M: Um, I don’t know, it’s kind of more of a serious role, I guess there are a couple of comedic lines there, I think those came relatively naturally for me.
AJ: Have you seen the final cut movie itself?
M: I have seen it, yes, it’s great.
AJ: Did it scare you; are you a fan of scary movies in general? What did you think?
M: Not really a fan of scary movies, to be honest with you, but obviously because I acted in it so I wanted to see it, and the movie is good. It’s a good movie, it’s got a good script, it’s got great actors, cool storyline, beyond it being a scary, scary film it’s also a good movie.
AJ: Matis, thank you. We wish you much success with the release.