In Hebrew, the word ‘Yuval’ represents a flowing course of water, such as a stream or brook, that helps feed more substantial bodies of water. Both end up integrated into the larger scheme of the cycle of water while benefiting fully from the power and depth that the tributary, or ‘Yuval,’ generously brings along on the journey.”
If ever a person’s being were synonymous with their name, such would be the case with actor Yuval David who approaches the human experience with a brotherly, unwavering vision of unity.
Known for his various television roles and appearances, including (ABC’s “What Would You Do,” CBS’s “Madam Secretary,” and many independent films), Yuval also uses his creative talent to inspire positive change in the world. Last year Yuval produced a behind-the-scenes look at The National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in Detroit. The acclaimed queer actor, host, and filmmaker partnered with the organization once again in 2020 to document the event that honors justice warriors of the moving the LGBTQ+ movement
Before the current pandemic, Yuval could often be seen on the streets on NYC with a film crew conducting interviews and playing pranks on interview subjects – a diverse cross-section of humanity. The jokes, however, were ultimately revealed to be goodwill gestures, random acts of kindness, hugs, and compliments. This premise is further explored in Yuval’s popular digital webisode series, ‘Pranks of Kindness.’
I first met Yuval on the red carpet of the 2019 GLAAD Awards. It was my first time on a red carpet as a celebrity interviewer, and it was a big deal with the likes of Madonna, Anderson Cooper, the cast of Pose, Rosie O’ Donnell, and more in attendance. I was a little nervous, as the environment can be intimidating when trying to get celebrities to stop for interviews. However, Yuval was one of my first interviews of the night. He was warm, approachable, and thoughtful as he listened as much as he shared, not even realizing that he put me at ease.
Yuval has a genuine interest in people, bridging gaps, and connecting dots between them. These sensibilities are gifts that allow him to talk to strangers on the streets fearlessly or make a new reporter feel confident on the job. That gift has brought him recent accolades and awards as his daring and visionary film concept, ‘One Actor Short’ is creating a buzz at this year’s most prominent festivals.
The series features Yuval randomly selecting a “cast” of strangers from the streets, and brilliantly directing them through improvised scenes. It all comes together in a short film that has garnered acclaim and a sold-out house at The Big Apple Film Festival.
CA: First, before we begin. I first met you on the red carpet at GLAAD as you hopefully recall, lol. It was my first major red carpet event as a reporter, and I was a bit nervous at the start of the night. You were my second interview of the night, and you were so pleasant and approachable. You have no idea how that helped put me at ease for the rest of the night as I interviewed other celebs so, belated thank you for that!
YD: Gurl, please! That was your first time reporting at a major red carpet? I recall our having a very fun chat and how truly fabulous you were. Nonetheless, I am glad to have been part of your first…people tend to remember their “firsts,” so I am honored to hold this place (even if I was the second first). Honestly, though, thank you for sharing that I put you at ease.
CA: Congratulations on all the buzz around “One Actor Short.” It’s one of the most unique projects of its kind. How did you come up with the idea to walk up to strangers on the streets of NYC and convince them to act out improv scenes, that you direct and then turn into a short film? I mean, that’s pretty wild even by NYC standards.
YD: Putting the spotlight on others and making others feel special is something I feel like I have always done. I like highlighting what is best in people. And, throughout my career as an actor, and a performer, I have enjoyed the art of Guerilla Theatre, which is creating theatre for an audience that does not expect to be an audience. As a content creator, I like to blend genres and modalities – I thought it would be an exciting creative challenge to do Guerilla Filmmaking, but spin the concept to create a film with random strangers who never expected to be an actor in a film.
CA: Aside from your acting work, you are becoming known for your human interest projects and your work such as with The National LGBTQ Task Force… What drives you to take on such projects?
YD: My work and abilities as an actor, host, and filmmaker translate into my efforts as an advocate. n each element of my work, I impart a narrative by representing characters as people whose stories must be shared. This work is also a type of advocacy, as I have a platform and responsibility to present the human condition and improve it.
The creativity of storytelling is useful within the advocacy I do, as I represent people and the narratives associated with them. And, when I speak or create content, there is a focus on character and narrative. I use the perspective of taking people on the narrative journey in order to inspire, motivate, and create change. When I advocate on behalf of marginalized communities, I represent them and present the uniqueness and universality of their situation.
CA: At the GLAAD Awards, you shared with me that you had been cast in an upcoming film as a villain, and you had an idea to re-imagine your character as gay. What happened when you presented this idea to the film’s producer(s), and why did you want to modify your role in that aspect?
YD: As an actor, when given a script, it is my job to fill in the character, to create and give life to the character. In the specific film to which you are referring, envisioning my character as gay was an acting choice that raised the stakes for the character and brought in higher risks for him within the context of the scenes.
This was part of the backstory that I created in my mind, it was not in the script and was never really discussed.
But, one day on set, the producers, director, and writer approached me and expressed how much they enjoyed what I was doing, and how I took the character further than they had imagined. So they had decided to add more scenes for my character. They presented a scene that indicated that my character was straight. I told them I had envisioned my character as gay, but that, of course, I could play the character any way they wanted. They considered it but were unsure. So, in our continued conversation, I expressed how while they first found the idea novel, it could actually be an example of normalization within our industry and society. As filmmakers, they have an opportunity to present a lead character who is gay without needing to make the narrative about his being gay. They were excited about my perspective on the character and the unexpected opportunity to “diversify” the characters in the film.
Ultimately, this proves how even leading characters can be LGBTQ. That we are able to be any type of character. Our creative industry can and has the responsibility to represent people who are or could be involved in any situation or story.
CA: On a more personal note, I know as a gay, black man, raised in a Baptist household, being gay is not easy as it relates religion and ethnicity. You are proudly an out, Jewish actor in “Hollywood.” How do you navigate professionally in an industry that can still be homophobic, and have you experienced obstacles regarding your sexuality and Judaism in your personal life?
YD: I am proud of who I am. Being Jewish is a major element of my identity, as is being queer. The more I work and the more my career advances, the more I recognize I do not only represent myself, but I represent my communities. And, I have a public platform. So, I must be the best version of myself possible. This is especially the case, as I have the added element of being part of marginalized communities who are “othered.”
I have encountered instances when production teams are seeking caricatures of how they see Jewish and LGBTQ people, instead of treating them as genuine and authentic people. But, I think we are in a time where the forced over-the-top presentations of these characters are becoming less prevalent and can be represented in a more naturalistic manner. It is up to us, within the industry, to ensure that fair representation continues.
Sometimes my being Jewish and Gay are highlighted when people describe my work as an actor, host, and filmmaker, even when my work does not explicitly deal with elements of my personal identities. That begs the question, “what is Jewish art” or “what is LGBTQ art?” Is my art Jewish art or LGBTQ art because of who I am, or must my art present implicit elements that convey Jewish or LGBTQ themes in order to be Jewish or LGBTQ art? In truth, we always represent our communities, so maybe the answer is ‘yes’ to both. I continue to ponder this question…
CA: Lastly, what’s next for Yuval David? What kind of magic are you conjuring up next?
YD: Your word choice is fantastic! Life and creativity are magical and artistic expression is a creative conjuring!
A few of my films have been doing well in film festivals, yet during this global pandemic, many of these festivals have been postponed, canceled, or have gone online. So, I have been posting more content on Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook.
Following my mantra to “entertain, uplift, and inspire,” I am creating and sharing web-series, short and feature narrative and documentary films, and short-form content.
I have leading roles in a few soon-to-be-released films and in a couple of films that are supposed to start filming soon. But, like so many in my industry, production schedules delayed and subject to the effects of the global pandemic. So, I am using this extra time to create and collaborate on new content created while social-distancing. In addition to that, I am in post-production on a feature film I am directing, and doing voice-overs for narration and animation.
Making the most of it!
You can now view the latest documentary series about the LGBTQ community and movement, which is hosted, directed, and produced by Yuval David, here:
His other documentaries can be seen here:
And, Yuval’s series “One Actor Short” can be seen here: