You represent your identity exactly how you are. You do not need to be a caricature of how someone else envisions your identity.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Yuval David, an innovative actor, host, and filmmaker with a creative mantra to entertain, uplift, and inspire. He is a captivating performer and compelling storyteller who uses his platform for sharing narratives that affect social change, specifically on behalf of highly respected US and international organizations that raise awareness for the marginalized and under-represented, inspired by his LGBTQ + and Jewish identity, and his Israeli-American roots.
As an actor, Yuval plays major roles in short form and full-length feature film, television, theatre, web, digital media, and voice-overs. These include, “What Would You Do” (ABC), “Madam Secretary” (CBS), “The Michael J Fox Show” (NBC), “Beauty and the Beast” (Disney), in addition to productions with HBO, Comedy Central, Dreamworks, AFI, and theatres across the globe.
As a TV Host/Presenter, Yuval focuses on societal, humanitarian, and entertainment programming.
As a filmmaker, Yuval produces, directs, and writes short and feature films, documentaries, web-series, digital and TV content, including the award-winning episodic series, ‘One Actor Short,’ ‘Pranks of Kindness,’ ‘Better World with Yuval David,’ ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ and numerous other web series.
Yuval’s exceptional work has been screened at and taken home nearly 50 awards from international film festivals, including The Big Apple Film Festival, New York International Film Festival, NewFilmmakers Film Festival, NYC Independent Film Festival, Hollywood Just4Shorts Film Festival, Top Shorts Film Festival, Vegas CineFest International Film Festival, IndieFest, Accolade Global, American Picture, Atlanta Film Festival, and Global Webisode Festival.
Inspired by his Jewish and Israeli-American roots, Yuval advocates for all marginalized communities through his creative work and social action, including the Israeli Consulate, the Shoah Foundation, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Keren Kayemet, Stand With Us, A Wider Bridge, The Aguda, American Israel Cultural Foundation, Chabad, the Jewish Learning Institute, among other organizations. Yuval is frequently invited to host, MC, and speak on behalf of cultural, humanitarian, philanthropic, social and political initiatives and institutions. In 2018, he hosted Israel’s 70th Anniversary Celebration in Times Square in front of 30,000 live eventgoers and millions of viewers around the world.
Yuval is frequently invited to host, MC, and speak on behalf of countless cultural, humanitarian, philanthropic, social and political initiatives and institutions. He has become a go-to host and narrator for short- and long-form video content and documentary features for Jewish, Israeli, LGBTQ, Arts, Cultural and Humanitarian Organizations and Initiatives, including The National LGBTQ Task Force, the Jewish National Fund (JNF USA), and Stand With Us.ly,
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My childhood was filled with experiences that shaped my life and allowed me to have the wherewithal to pursue my goals. I was gifted with a great education and was exposed to arts, culture, travel, and sports. Throughout it all, the connection to family was strong, understanding who I am and where I come from. I am a first-generation American, a child of immigrants who are children of immigrants. I am a grandchild of Holocaust survivors. I come from a family that continually created and recreated themselves with self-reliance, despite the challenges and tragedies they faced. Because of this, I knew that I had to make the most of myself, to make the most of life, and to always help others do the same. Since I was gifted with life, and had opportunities either given to me or created by me, it was my responsibility to do as well as I could within those opportunities.
That set me up to be intensely passionate about life. Early on in my childhood, I developed a mantra, a life-philosophy: “to live the life of the loving adventurer, where love is not just an emotion, it is a state of being, and everything is an adventure.”
That mantra helped me through many of the challenges I faced in life. It also guided me to develop my work process and creative ethics. As I think of all I have experienced, I am proud of my resilience, ambition, and ability to pursue my goals. What has shaped that process is the understanding that my journey is not my own. It is also that of my family, my friends, my community, my colleagues and collaborators, my audiences, and all others who I can assist and share in that journey.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a child. I began professionally theatre acting when I was a teenager. My career developed and enhanced while I was in college, and once I graduated, my career progressed in theatre. I wanted to reach a broader audience so I started focusing on television and film. I began playing roles, acting in network television, film studio productions, and independent film.
Along with acting on camera and on stage, my voice over career ascended, voicing commercials, animation, and documentary narration.
While not acting in a tv/film/theatre production, I would pick up gigs hosting live and filmed events, and then that progressed, as well, as a host of entertainment, cultural, culinary, and comedic shows.
Throughout my career, I would and continue to write and direct theatre, short, and feature narrative and documentary films, as well as episodic series. I was not good at just waiting to act or host other people’s work. I wanted to work on my own original content.
In every element of my career, as an actor, host, and filmmaker, the connecting focus is that of a storyteller. I especially like to do so with fluid creativity, artistic exploration, and experimental openness.
In years past, there were people in the entertainment industry who said that I have “too many slashes,” referring to my being an actor/host/director/filmmaker. That comment did not prevent me from continuing on the path I was creating. Waiting for opportunities was not something I was comfortable with. If someone would not create an opportunity for me, I would create it myself. That outlook expanded my work as a filmmaker.
My experiences shaped and improved my craft. I started acting in theatre and theatre festivals in the US and abroad. Performing on stage for a live audience is thrilling. The work, craft, and preparedness is so important, and then allowing the work to live and breathe in the moment. There is a risk to live theatre, being in the moment, where “the show must go on.” This perspective is the fertile ground for being responsive to all the stimuli. There is a level of improvisation in all live performance, even the most rehearsed performance. Embracing that allows for genuine reactions. Listening is key.
I used that same perspective to my work acting in television and film. I like to be prepared, but I love to be in the moment, allowing myself to listen and receive stimuli, and dive deeply into the world of the production. Even though the audience is not there with us on set, they are integral, understanding the target audience affects how I create, explore, and share in each production. The safe space on set allows for an intimate vulnerability to be exposed, because of how close the cameras and audio equipment gets. This gives the audience a close, intimate perspective. And, as in theatre performance, maintaining the risk of what happens in the moment is the vulnerability I find most compelling.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
In the early part of my career, maybe even up until 10 years ago, I saw myself as the chameleon actor. I speak multiple languages, specialize in accents, and thus would play all different types of characters. I came from the school of thought that I must morph into my characters and be able to play any role. I came to understand that it is what I bring to the table, my genuine truth, that is most compelling. It is about bringing myself into the characters rather than erasing myself. That discovery was very much inspired by my advocacy efforts within social activism. I advocate on behalf of Jewish, LGBTQ, Arts, and marginalized communities. There is a focus on representation, inclusion, and acceptance. I aim to let people reveal who they are and be accepted for who they are. That inspired my work as an actor and host, revealing my actual truth, where genuine vulnerability makes creative expression so much more compelling. It completely translated to my work as a host, director, and filmmaker. Ensuring that the stage or set is a safe space is important, but allowing it to be a brave space is a game changer.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When playing the lead in a play, I had one short break when not on stage. I learned that I should always make sure my microphone is turned off, especially as that was my “pee break.”
So, the lesson is: “make sure your microphone is off if you do not want to be heard.”
Another lesson I learned from a different production is: “don’t sleep with the director’s wife.”
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
One Actor Short is a first of its kind, improvisational creation which I am developing into an ongoing series. This radically innovative and bold series, which already includes three different short films, including a crime procedural drama, a romantic comedy, and a sports film, has already received tremendous acclaim including over 40 awards (SN to insert link/names), and screenings at over 60 national and International film festivals.
I step into public areas and assemble a diverse cross-section of humanity — all strangers, and representing all communities — casting them as actors in my film, creating a safe space for them to be playful and spontaneous. I start every day with a blank slate, not knowing what kind of film will be created, the genre, storyline or actors. I direct the film crew and immediately find each cast member through improvised scenes, bringing new characters to life, and eventually creating a film on the spot as the storyline weaves together.
Improv has been a part of my process throughout my career, from theater groups to creating guerrilla theatre productions for an audience who does not yet know they will be an audience.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
My take on diversity is that it really is about inclusion. For too long in the entertainment industry, people of marginalized communities and identities were not included or fairly represented. If we are in the art and industry of representing life, then we must do so including all. As technology and media advances, we are able to have further reach and exposure to life on this planet. We have the duty to share and express ourselves and others, utilizing our creative platform to not only entertain, but also to educate and inform.
That is why I focus on the concept of art for social change.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t wait for your agents and managers to get work for you. You must do it yourself, and they are there to support your career with more work.
- Never let anyone disrespect you as an actor. The best directors, producers, and casting directors have the most respect for actors.
- You represent your identity exactly how you are. You do not need to be a caricature of how someone else envisions your identity.
- Treat your creative career as a business and invest wisely along the way.
- Define your process. That is your brand.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
This can definitely be a challenging industry. Those who thrive tend to be those who treat it like a business and not only as an art. That is where collaboration with other likeminded people can be useful. I wear many hats, as an actor, host, director, writer, and producer. I am comfortable doing so, and I have become accustomed to wearing two or three hats in most of my productions. The rest of my work comes from when I am hired as an actor, host, voice actor, or director. While I am ready for those gigs, I do not only work gig-by-gig. I am consistently creating and collaborating. That way I am always working and making the work sustainable.
If you do love this career, always be creating. Those of us who are always working are “content creators.” It is very useful to also be able to produce your own work and understand enough about the production side to be able to create your and other people’s work.
No matter what, make sure you have a positive approach. When encountering negativity, challenges, or rejection, make sure you have your community of creative collaborators who can provide the positivity you need.
A way to have quality collaborators is by not only reaching out to those who you need something from, but reaching out to those who you can help. Saying what you need can be vital, but saying how you can help is sustaining.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Making a Safe Space into a Brave Space. So many people focus on the concept of a safe space, where people are supposed to be accepted and allowed to thrive. I want to take it a step further, and ensure that it is a brave space, which allows people to be vulnerable, genuine, subtle, honest, and real. Those are elements I maintain in my acting, hosting, and directing. I want to ensure others have that brave space as well. While I create that brave space for myself and those who work with me, I welcome others to collaborate with me in that space. I hope to inspire others to do the same.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Every casting director who gave me a job, every director who let me flow and gave me the good direction to enhance my performance, every producer who believed and helped create my productions, every cast and crew member who worked together in a collaborative spirit…and shamelessly, I will say myself! I am proud of the work I have done to get to where I am today. I continue to put in the effort to advance my career, to keep improving, to enhance my artistry and craft, and to be resilient in following my passions with dedication.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be true to yourself. Define yourself the way you want to be defined. You are a work in progress. Be good. Be kind. Be loving.
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 just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Ellen DeGeneres and her development team
Oprah Winfrey and her development team
Tim Cook and his original content team
The Netflix team of Reed Hastings, Bela Bajaria, Ted Sarandos, Scott Stuber
How can our readers follow you online?
Subscribe to https://www.youtube.com/YuvalDavid!
There you can see my playlists for
One Actor Short:
My short-form documentaries:
Connect on social media:
And, for more, go to YuvalDavid.com