Actor Jeffrey Tambor Says His Role on ‘Transparent’ Has Made Him ‘More Connected’ to His Jewish Roots
Jeffrey Tambor, the lead actor of the hit Amazon Prime series “Transparent,” explained in a recent interview how his role in the show has made his feel closer to his Jewish heritage.
The award-winning actor, who plays a Jewish transgender woman named Maura Pfefferman, told The Jewish Journal that it all began with a fake trip to Israel for an episode of the show. “Transparent” features a scene in which Maura and her daughter fly to Israel, but in fact they never traveled to the Jewish state for filming due to “scheduling and shooting reasons,” Tambor said. Instead, a mock version of Jerusalem’s Western Wall was built on a Paramount Pictures back lot.
“As a Jew, I wanted to go [to Israel] so very much — it’s a life goal,” Tambor said. “But I felt as if we did go. And I felt changed by it. That moment at the Wall was one of the most astonishing days of my acting life. I completely burst into tears because they made it look so authentic, with the background artists praying against the Wall.”
The experience was “very transformative, like an awakening” for the actor. Tambor added, “This whole year [of “Transparent”] got me more in touch with my Jewish roots, shocked me awake. It’s ironic that Maura led the way, but I’m much more connected than I’ve ever been… I’m just more in touch, more interested, more spiritual. My connection is much more strong.”
Tambor also talked to The Jewish Journal about going to Hebrew school as a child, his “beautiful but a little stressful” bar mitzvah and the positive reception “Transparent” has gotten from fans. He noted that occasionally he finds himself speaking Yiddish off the cuff on the show, which he considers a nod to his parents.
“Sometimes we’re allowed to ad lib a little bit and these Yiddishisms that I didn’t know that I knew come out,” he said. “In one scene, I was signaling to Judith Light and I said, ‘Farmach da pisk.’ It means be quiet, shut your mouth. I’m channeling my parents, who spoke Yiddish when they didn’t want me to know what was going on.”
Tambor was honored on Sunday with the Israel Film Festival’s Achievement in Television Award at a gala in Beverly Hills.