“I couldn’t grasp this idea to its full extent until I started producing and casting for my own project, but it’s very simple: Nobody wants you to fail. When you get in the audition room, no one is your enemy, or against you. You’re there because someone saw something in you and think you might be what they’re looking for. They want you to succeed.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mor Cohen, an award-winning Israeli actress, producer, and director, based in Brooklyn, NY
What is your “backstory”?
I guess you can say I’ve always been an actress. My first public performance was around the age of 9, in a musical that was playing at my hometown (Petach Tiqva) in Israel, but it started way before that. I was always performing to friends and family, and my mom swears that when I was a baby she heard me cry and rushed to my room, only to find me practicing different “crying faces” in front of a mirror.
Growing up I did some work for Israeli television and went to a performing arts high school. Even though acting was always present in my life, at that point I wasn’t sure it’s actually what I want to do when I grow up. It felt a little risky, not as a profession but on the personal level — I got too engaged with the characters I played and it scared me. I was also really interested in anthropology, law, and psychology, and was seriously considering all of these as potential careers. I don’t like having to choose between things, and I think that, in a way, acting allows me to enjoy all worlds. The plan was to keep acting as a hobby, but it really is all I ever wanted to do. I went to the Academy of Performing Arts in Tel Aviv and later on to an intensive program at the New York Film Academy to study acting for film. I never went to filmmaking school, but I was able to use what I learned on sets and the connections I’ve made as an actor to start producing my own content.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
An off-Broadway show that I produced and I’m also acting in is running till March 25th. The show, Scoop, is a pilot production of The Israeli Artists Projects, a theater company I founded with my friend and producing partner, Yoni Vendreger.
We focus on bringing in contemporary theater works from Israel and perform them in NY, with an Israeli cast, both in English and Hebrew on alternating nights. This project is one of the biggest challenges I’ve taken on in a long time, both as an actress and as a producer, but the reviews we’ve gotten so far are amazing, and we were blessed with the most incredible cast and crew. There’s something very special about acting in Hebrew outside of Israel. My stage family feels like a home away from home.
Screenwise, a short film I produced, directed, and acted in, The New Galileos, is starting its festival tour soon, and I’m super excited to finally share it with the world! It was written and co-produced by the brilliant Amy Berryman, and it’s about three female scientists who are being held in captivity for their stance on climate change, and the price they’ll have to pay for their freedom. In the last couple of years, producing female-driven content with as many female film professionals as possible became a top priority for me, and I’m determined to put more and more strong leading female characters on screen. This project is the first of many that are currently in the works.
Last but not least — a short film I’m acting in, Mean Murderer, was just officially released and is now available on Prime Video. Go watch it!
Who are some of the most famous people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I was lucky enough to be on set for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut that was shot in Israel, A Tale of Love and Darkness (2015). This was a phenomenal experience. Miss Portman is a brilliant and sensitive director, with strong instincts and great attention to details. It was a beautiful set and it’s a heartbreaking film and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to see her in action.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in Hollywood?
Come with a plan. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna follow it through. Some things will go your way and some things won’t, and while I strongly advise to keep an open mind and say yes to new and unexpected opportunities, in this business you can’t rely solely on luck.
A plan keeps you grounded and fixed on your goals, and it’s always good to have a strong guideline for times where you lose your focus (because you will). The path to where you wanna get might change, but as long as you have a clear vision of what it is, there’s no reason for you not to get there.
Also, don’t be afraid to aim high.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think art has the power to bridge cultural gaps and right social wrongs, by telling the right stories to the right audiences, by the right people. I’m addressing gender injustice and social issues in almost everything I make. One of the projects I’m most proud of in that aspect is Clean Cuts, a mini-doc series I created last year, in collaboration with musician Marika Galea and Salome ArtHaus. The series presents the personal stories of five anonymous New Yorkers, who hit rock bottom and had a groundbreaking epiphany that forced them to change their ways. This series deals with depression, gender conflicts, loneliness and addictions, and while it has a very dark side to it, every story has a strong spark of hope and they’re all very inspiring. It’s important to open up the discussion on these topics, because the hardest part in going through these breaking points in life is thinking that you’re going through them alone. You’re never alone.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
There’s nothing you can’t do (and don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise).
If something is humanly possible — you can do it. Know your worth.
Fear and excitement are different levels of the same thing.
They even generate very similar physical reactions, and yet we interpret them very differently. We fear fear, but welcome excitement. This is something I learned in the audition room. When I was just starting out, I was so nervous in the room that I would shake. I always came prepared and I would usually book the part anyway, and I don’t think anyone ever noticed because it was really minor, almost internal, but it was a huge deal to me because it made me feel weak in spirit, and for a long time I hated auditioning because of that. I can’t remember who was the wise person who taught me that fear and excitement are pretty much the same, but the next time I went into the room and started shaking, instead of judging myself for “failing” again, I thought “Wow, I think I really want this part”. And then this warm feeling took over my body and the shaking was gone. When fear is taking over, instead of fighting it or trying to ignore it, acknowledge what’s happening and remind yourself that you’re just a little over excited. Celebrate it instead of letting it drag you down. It works for me.
Don’t judge yourself.
Or anyone else. Everyone is doing the best they can at all times.
Being a good person is at least as important as being good at your craft.
And yet, not everybody is nice in this business. Making art is hard because it’s personal and intimate. Remember that and be kind to the other beings around you. Stay humble and curious and humane.
Everyone is rooting for you.
I couldn’t grasp this idea to its full extent until I started producing and casting for my own project, but it’s very simple:
Nobody wants you to fail. When you get in the audition room, no one is your enemy, or against you. You’re there because someone saw something in you and think you might be what they’re looking for. They want you to succeed.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Bass player Carol Kaye. I started playing electric bass about a year ago, and her career is fascinating to me! I want to play her in a movie about her life, and I’m dying to have a cup of coffee with her and just jam.
Please share with us where people can find you on social media.
- @morcohenet on both Facebook and Instagram. Website www.morcohen.net
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.