Acting is an artform and a creative mode of communication. It is a creative form of expression, sharing inner emotions and a new reality, intimately sharing a genuine truth through the artifice of performance.
Acting is powerful action, allowing for the performer and audience to experience and communicate the character and the story. This philosophical understanding of acting inspires me in my every role, but it also inspires my work and efforts within social and political activism.
Working in entertainment and media provides a platform beyond my creative work as an actor, host and filmmaker. It provides a platform for advocacy, whether that be standing up for the marginalized LGBTQ people internationally, fighting against Jew-hatred, or affecting legislation toward the protection of all people.
Being an actor affected my work as a host and interviewer, and as a director and filmmaker. I treat my characters with sensitivity and respect, and also give them a freedom of expression. Every part of me is used in my performances, my tools as an actor are all of me, my thoughts and physicality together convey the message of my character.
As a director, I want my actors to feel that same freedom and to dive deeply into their characters. In the documentaries I direct, when I interview the subjects in the film, I create that same safe space for them to open up and share authentically. But you see, that is not only for those who are on camera – every crew member throughout the production process is a storyteller and is integral to how we share a narrative and respect the people and themes being shared within it.
How can I address these stories with consideration of who they are about and who the intended audience is? How can I affect change, increase awareness, and actively advocate utilizing my approach as a storyteller?
These are questions I ask myself, but I also challenge other creatives to do the same through their work. Beyond that, in workshops, meetings and collaborations with activists, advocates and socio-political leaders, I utilize the same questions to focus and refine their initiatives and approach.
My work and craft in entertainment and media provides a platform for me to represent myself, the communities I am part of, and the causes I believe in. Not only do I portray other characters and other people’s narratives, I am the storyteller – that position is unique.
I cannot completely disappear in the characters, because I will always still be me. For most of my career, people would refer to me as a chameleon-actor, in that I have acted in wildly diverse roles, have a wide-range, speak multiple languages and specialize in accents and character work. Even though I enjoyed that and was complimented for my ability, what was always important for me to recognize was the fact that what set me apart from all the other actors was me.
When I direct actors and in workshops, I try to empower them with that information. No matter how much you lose yourself in your character, you are always obviously still you – no matter how genuine you are being in your character, this is still a craft of artifice, and you are the storyteller portraying a character.
That is a concept that further enhanced how I use my platform as an actor, and thus as a director and host, as a way of not only sharing characters and narratives of those characters, but I am also sharing myself and why I deem the character and story important and compelling.
I am a proud Jew. Being Jewish is a major part of my identity. I celebrate it, and my Jewish identity influences everything I do, just as the main parts of anyone’s identity affect all they do. It is great to have my work presented and celebrated across film, television, radio and theater.
Feeling appreciated and seen is marvelously empowering. While doing so, I receive comments not just about my work, but also about who I am as a person. Oftentimes, people celebrate my identity, yet sometimes, I feel the wrath of Jew-hatred.
Receiving hateful messages across social media or at live events when I am speaking is challenging. It shows me there is a bigger issue at hand. I often share my personal experiences when meeting with elected officials, diplomats and leaders in both the LGBTQ and Jewish communities.
There are too many marginalized individuals who do not have a proper support system or the experience with how to respond to hate.
It is my duty, just as the duty of every social justice warrior, to support and empower those who are coming under attack. Living beyond victimhood and towards resilience is vital, and if I can lead others to doing so, then that is a social justice success.
Social justice and civil rights movements are necessary for marginalized and victimized communities to empower themselves and gather the unity of their supporters.
Yuval David is an Emmy-nominated actor, director and filmmaker who has won over 100 international film festival awards. He is an active leader in the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities, including as the director of mobilization for the End Jew Hatred movement. He is active across social media, including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.