Actress Says Role In New Netflix Film Became More ‘Personal’ Because of Her Jewish Heritage
by Shiryn Ghermezian
Actress Lauren London said she discovered new dimensions of her Jewish roots while filming the just-released romantic comedy You People for Netflix.
London stars in the rom-com as Amira Mohammed, who starts dating a Jewish man named Ezra Cohen, played by real-life Jewish actor Jonah Hill. The couple soon decide they want to marry but things begin to get difficult when they try to bring their very different families together because of the clashing cultures. Eddie Murphy and Nia Long play London’s Muslim parents while Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny play Hill’s Jewish mother and father. The film is Kenya Barris’ directorial debut, which he co-wrote with Hill.
You People also features some Jewish scenes, like for example when Hill’s character attends Yom Kippur prayer services with his family at the Skirball Cultural Center, a Jewish educational institution in Los Angeles, and his mom chastises him for not wearing a yarmulke. He is later asked by a synagogue attendee why he’s still single and is pressured by his mother to go on a date with a Jewish girl from temple. In another scene, when Ezra and Amira’s parents meet, her father wears a Muslim headpiece that he says was gifted by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who is a notorious antisemite. When he asks Hill’s Jewish mother if she knows who Farrakhan is, she replies, “Well, I’m familiar with what he said about the Jews.”
London said on the podcast People Every Day on Friday that filming the rom-com in Los Angeles “felt personal” because “some of those areas that we shot in and some of the places that we shot in, I liked that they were Jewish. ‘Cause it was also some stuff that I got to learn via being in the movie that I didn’t know.”
“My dad is Jewish and my mom is black,” the mother-of-two added about her upbringing. “I just grew up with my mother in my household. I didn’t grow up with my dad living with us. My parents divorced when I was really young. I was three, so my experience is of my mother’s experience, because I just grew up with a single black mom.”
London said in a 2016 Twitter post that she gets her “wisdom and respect of self” from her Jewish father. She also once talked in an interview about being ridiculed as a youngster because of her mixed race, according to the website Hey Alma.
“I do remember being teased by my cousins on my mom’s side for not being black enough, and then I’d spend the summer with my dad and be sent to all white summer camps where I was ‘that black girl.’ I struggled for about a minute with that, then I figured it out for myself,” she said. “What it has done for me is I don’t care what people think about my identity. If someone thinks I’m not Black enough that’s their issue. I’m okay with who I am and it is what is. I’m a Black woman like my mother, and I love who my father is, and I love both sides of me.”