Last time I spoke to Luzer Twersky he had just starred in Felix and Meira which went on to become Canada’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2015. Now he’s making his stage debut in the New Yiddish Rep’s production of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, in which he plays Shloyme, an amoral pimp who seems to be delighted in witnessing the misfortune of his neighbor, a brothel owner who wishes to marry his daughter off well, and out of their world.
What have you discovered about yourself that you didn’t find when you tried out movies or television?
First of all I had no idea I could do stage, but the medium doesn’t matter as much as the character I’m playing. Some of the characters were a little bit more of a stretch than others, I love my character in this play, he’s a real piece of work, but I enjoy it.
How was it to go back into a world you had left? Did you have any second thoughts about doing a play about Orthodox Jews?
Not at all, I still don’t really have much of a plan, I wasn’t planning on this being my first play, or it being a Yiddish play, I never intended to be a theatre actor. Not that I don’t want it now, but it wasn’t the original plan, I wanted to do TV and film. I said yes to the play cause I say yes to things that fall into my lap.
Will a musical be next?
I have two left feet, I can’t dance.
Can you sing?
I have an OK voice, I don’t have a Broadway voice, but I like to sing. If Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can do a musical, so can I.
What is the importance of seeing a play in Yiddish during this moment when the American government is so opposed to the other?
Yiddish theatre will always be relevant, I don’t know what it is with Jews that we look inwards all the time, but sometimes we have a better idea of what’s going on in people’s minds than others do. Our literature tends to be very question-y, I don’t think that’s a word...When the play premiered in 1906 it was about free speech, now it’s an important time to remember that the pen is mightier than the sword, so this is a very important time to wield the pen.
Does knowing the play was extended make you want to try new things with the character?
I think we’re doing it a little different this time anyway because we have a new director and a couple of new cast members. We made changed during rehearsals, so it won’t be that different but I am gonna try to do a few different things. This also depends on your co-stars, if they make changes I need to respond to what they’re doing. As actors we never think we nailed it, so getting a second chance is always a good thing, maybe I’ll realize I did it right the first time around. Charles Isherwood called me “wonderfully slimy”, but then he got fired, so who knows?
If you decided you wanted to do more theatre would you relocate to New York and leave LA?
I’ve thought about this a lot, but I haven’t made a decision. It’s tempting to think in New York I’ll always have work, but I also like living in LA. It all depends on my career though.
You said you love Shloyme, why would you say you love someone who does the things he does?
Oh man, you’re making me tread a very fine line here, but I’ll try to answer this. I like playing him for the same reason you like watching him, bad guys are fascinating, we see a little bit of ourselves in them, in a way we can empathize with them, I think we find bad guys relatable sometimes. Watching them is less risky than playing them. I think Shloyme is interesting, he’s not someone I’d want in my inner circle, but I’d watch him on TV.
You were also great in Transparent and when we spoke last you said your looks made you perfect for a specific kind of part. Now that you’ve tried out different things though, are you curious about doing something completely unexpected like playing a James Bond villain?
I’d make a great James Bond villain! I wanna be the final villain who kills James Bond (laughs) and then the franchise ends. But I’ll take anything less too. I still think the stories I’ve worked on are very important to tell, and I’d love to help tell them, that hasn’t changed. I am looking to do other things, I have a movie coming out next year in which I play a meth head from West Virginia, which is as far as you can go from a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn, or maybe not. I’ve also been auditioning for things unrelated to my background, my options are open, I say yes to anything if it sounds interesting, fascinating or challenging. That’s how I ended up being in a rock band in Norway!
For more information on God of Vengeance click here.