Sasha Baron Cohen Acknowledges Past Reluctance to Play Jewish Characters: ‘I Didn’t Want to Be Typecast’
British comedian and actor Sasha Baron Cohen said in a recent interview that he used to pass up offers that he feared would “typecast” him as a Jewish actor.
Cohen, who currently stars as Mossad agent Eli Cohen in the Netflix miniseries “The Spy,” told The New York Times, “I used to be reluctant to play anyone Jewish, because I didn’t want to be typecast as the Jewish actor. There are other Jews in Hollywood besides me. But somehow, people thought of me as ‘a Jewish actor’ even after I played Borat, the most outwardly antisemitic character probably since Leni Riefenstahl directed movies.”
“Finally, a number of years ago, I read Gideon [Raff]’s script, and I couldn’t put it down. So I gave up this position of avoiding Jewish or Israeli roles,” he added, referring to the Israeli director’s project, “The Spy.”
The Netflix show is based on the true story of Eli Cohen, who was selected by the Mossad to infiltrate the Syrian government in the 1960s and given a fake identity as a wealthy Syrian businessman named Kamel Amin Thaabet. The Syrian government discovered his double-agent status and he was publicly hanged in Damascus in May 1965.