He was raised in Israel, but actor Aylam Orian studied his craft in acting right here in New York City for many years. From the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute to the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Aylam took what he needed and has been using those skills to make a name for himself in Hollywood, appearing on shows such as Code Black, 30 Rock and NCIS: Los Angeles.
His next big role: Playing the main villain in the MGM series Stargate Origin, which is the newest installment of the iconic “Stargate” franchise.
The Levity Ball sat down with Aylam to find out more about the new series and a bit more about his time here in NYC…
1. When did you first know you wanted to work in the entertainment industry?
I always enjoyed playing in make-believe as a kid (cowboys and indians, pilots and plane crew, etc.), and I grew up on watching TV, mostly American. But it took me till after my military service to really realize that I wanted to be in the arts, and more specifically work in the entertainment industry.
2. You were raised in Israel, where before a career in acting you served as a Lieutenant in the Israeli Military Intelligence. Do you feel this experience helped you to be the person you are today, and possibly give you an inside edge into the military world for your current/future roles?
Oh, for sure! It taught me so much, not only about the world of espionage, which is fascinating, but mostly about myself – my limits, how to work hard and give your all, how to persevere, how to not give up. And yes, it definitely gave me an inside edge into the military world – from handling weapons, to hand to hand fighting techniques, to how to stand and move as a soldier – which definitely come in handy in films and TV! In my current role on Stargate Origins, where I play a high-ranking Nazi officer, I didn’t need to think twice on how such a person moves and behaves.
3. Once you got into acting, you studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute and the Stella Adler Studio of Acting here in New York… what big lessons did you take away from your time at these iconic schools?
Oh, so much… that was the best time of my life. I learned so much about myself as a person and as an artist, working with other people, the American culture, and the world at large (these school are so international, that it was like a mini UN there!). So other than a solid acting technique taught in an authentic lineage from the masters themselves (Strasberg, Adler and Stanislavsky), I’ve gained the best friendships of my life from those days, and those schools.
4. Besides acting, what about living in New York after being raised in Israel, did you like so much about?
Everything about it was so different and bigger than little Israel. Even though I was born in the States and visited a few times as a kid, I have never experienced anything like living in New York, alone, while going to acting school. The freedom, the vast possibilities everywhere, the amazing people and places you meet, but also the sheer magnitude of this city and the feeling that you are nothing but a small mouse in it… it was overwhelming. Plus it was before 9/11, so rent prices were through the roof, and the proverbial “living in a shoebox” was a real reality in those days. But I loved it!
5. Where was your favorite place to eat in town?
Well, as a struggling student I didn’t really have the luxury of going out to eat too often. But we had a nice cafe across the street from the Strasberg school – “Corrado” it was called (it doesn’t exist anymore, now it’s a fancy bar I believe), where we did everything – eating, rehearsing, romancing. But I can tell you where my favorite bar was – “Revival” on east 15th street, which is still there! Oh man, how many memories I have from that place… Sense Memories for sure!
6. You have now moved to Hollywood, California… why the change of scenery, besides the sunshine?
I always knew I would have to move there at some point, or at least give it a try. Growing up in sunny Israel, it wasn’t the constant sunshine that made me finally do it. It was the work, the biz. Hollywood simply seemed to offer way more opportunities in terms of work and career, so after 13 years in lovely New York I finally packed all my belongings, and my cat, into a van, and headed out west!
7. You appear next as the big bad villain, Dr. Wilhelm Brücke, in the series ‘Stargate Origins’… What can fans of the original Stargate series be excited for? Are you excited?
I think they can be excited for a new, fresh story, that kinda goes backwards in time, to the beginning of it all, hence “Origins”! The show has a somewhat “Indiana Jones” look and feel to it, which is always cool, including that mix of action, scary moments, and humor. But it doesn’t just stay there. It’s a show that was made by a group of mostly young people, who looked at this whole saga with fresh new eyes, and created something that would appeal to the most hardcore loyal fans, as well as to the current digital generation that consumes content on their phone. So I’m very excited for it! I feel like I’m about to step myself into a “Stargate”, with a huge unknown waiting for me on the other side!
8. How was it working on the show alongside Ellie Gall and Connor Trinneer?
It was awesome. Connor is such a living legend, and such a pro and generous actor, that it was a real treat working with him. I remember in the auditions, when I didn’t know who he was, and had to slap him and push him around… little did I know that the guy I was shoving was a veteran of both Stargate and Star Trek! He later told us about his audition for Star Trek, how he didn’t think he got the role, and how he eventually got the call a week later… it was like being in on a real Hollywood legend! And Ellie is super professional and sweet. She carried this whole show skillfully and beautifully. Our scenes together were mostly a confrontation, but it was a fun confrontation! We didn’t talk too much off set, to keep our “rivalry” going, but when we did, we had a good laugh!
9. What would your advice be to others wanting to get into the entertainment industry?
Don’t!! Haha… but seriously, I would say: if this is your dream then go for it and give it a try. Don’t even hesitate, just do it. But eventually, know that it will require more than a ‘try’ to actually stay, and thrive in it. You will need to really like it, in order to commit to the kind of work it requires, and the lifestyle that comes with it. And I’m not talking about red carpets and awards and the alluring glitz of show biz. I’m talking about the real work of an actor: exposing your vulnerable self, working with your emotions, your memories, your pain and your fantasies, to serve a story. It’s hard work, and you gotta love it. But you have time for that, so just find a way to start, and like Shia LaBeouf said: “do it!!”
10. And final question: What do you want to be remembered for?
I would love to be remembered for some great, meaningful roles, in some great, meaningful projects. That brought value to people, and contributed positively to their lives in some way. I would even dare to use the word ‘art’ in this context: it would be nice to add some pieces of that to the world. But I also want to be remembered for my other work: my work for animals. I am trying to make the world a better place for them, because as of now, it’s not. So it would be nice to have succeeded in that, and be remembered for it too!