Tuesday, May 31, 2016

For NYC Actor - Late is Never Bad and Ignorance is a Strength

Photo Courtesy
Yaron Urbas 

Yaron Urbas’ more recent work includes a co-starring role with Jim Gaffigan as well numerous lead and supporting roles in indie feature films with well known talent, including, Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), Navid Neghaban (Homeland), Michael Angarano (The Knick).  A down to earth guy with a strong background in almost everything, one of his first big breaks, "I just don't believe there's only one..." Yaron laughs, occurred when he landed a part in the History Channel Mini-Series, The Men who Built America. But the "big break" stood in jeopardy after an on set mix-up had occurred and Urbas wasn't sent a two page speech the night before and was required to take ten minutes to memorize it before shooting. With an entire production on hold, including over 50+ background in the wings, not only did the Israeli born actor refuse to fold when the unexpected moment came, but left him in feeling relatively secure with everything on the line.  

“I find that I actually perform better when I’m under stress,” said Urbas.

Given his varied personal and professional background, the steadiness that allowed him to “rock the speech” probably isn’t a surprise to people who know him. A computer geek before home PCs became commonplace, a professional rapper, dog walking company owner, a lowly paid Merrill Lynch employee, who for a time lived a more sobering Wolf of Wall Street experience, cold called $5 Million worth of business and than moved on to surf the wave of the Dot.com bubble, his restlessness flows from an unquenchable thirst to grow.  “Around 2007, my wife thought I was crazy when I was finally making a great living at a Dot.com company as an executive and I wanted to quit. But I told her my flesh was being fed but not my soul,” he remembers.

Acting was the elixir he sought.  Even so, before all the career moves that made pressure old hat, fitting in on the Lower East Side built his foundation. Only speaking Hebrew when I came over in 1976 at age four, he says, “It took me a while to latch onto American culture.”

His classroom – so to speak – bordered on special. “Frankly, I grew up poor and it was just my mother, grandmother and I, we where immigrants, we lived right in the middle of the better area and the worse area – across from Stuyvesant Town, but on the other side was the lower east side. It was pretty tough.”

He doesn’t dismiss the unsavory, but his adaptability let him find the light among the morass.  “There were a lot of beautiful people who embraced me in what was a very tough environment in the lower east side of NYC in the 70's and 80's... it was far from the gentrified mecca it is now it was a violent place to grow up in – in large part the minority community embraced me, but let's be real, honestly where I grew up, I felt like the minority, being this white Jewish kid fresh off the boat... he laughs... and it wasn't easy, but I was lucky...  a Puerto Rican family that practically adopted me took me under their wing. I grew up with them.”

He credits his comedic timing to the culture, but the experience had a deeper impact. “That played into who I became. I learned to be more social and how to get along, and to toughen up a bit and gain confidence. I eventually embraced training in various martial arts as well for a very long time and to this day” he says.

That’s not to dismiss the importance of his family – even if at times it was also an obstacle.  “I was such a mamma’s boy.  She made me wear a tie the first day of public school. I stood out like a sore thumb – pleading for punishment,” says Urbas.

Dress code aside, his mother’s influence created an unyielding push to persevere. “She demonstrated a great work ethic not by telling me to work hard but by showing me. That left an impression on everything I pursued,” he says.

But she was nothing compared to Yaron’s grandmother. Remembering when her street vendor business almost fell prey to a drug dealer who worked the same street corner, his grandmother didn’t hesitate to call the tough’s bluff. “’Alright do it, shoot me now.’ He recalls her words, “That’s the fighting entrepreneurial spirit I’ve never lost.”

First showing itself in bridging the gap across both sides of his brain as teenager, he began writing poetry and rapping and then became immersed in the prospects of owning a PC. “As I was saving every penny, I used to cut out pictures of pieces of computers and put them on the wall. That was my PC,” he jokes.

Eventually his Mom bought him one, and he began programming. But his early 20s brought marriage, and he opened a dog walking business because his retail job wasn’t providing opportunity for advancement. “The first few years where rough, I'd often make like $20 a week before it turned into a legitimate business,” says Urbas.

Of course, restlessness got the best of him and a pay cut came with college and working the ground floor at Merrill Lynch in 1998. But a lack of appreciation put Yaron on the move again – feeling Merrill used his lack of a degree to lowball him. “I got my BS at Baruch and left around 1998,” he says.

Reengaging as a techie, his dot.com career began.  “That’s where my career took off,” he says.

It also helped him identify “this wonderful level of ignorance” that has always propelled him. “I never knew what I WASN'T supposed to be able to do so it never kept me from doing it,” Urbas reflected. "I love ignorance... it's a gift"

Rising to the level of VP at a well known publicly held online marketing company, he certainly knew how good pay cushions the difficulty of providing for a family of five, but he chose uncertainty again. “I’ve always liked the human condition, why we do what we do, he says. “I realized acting was an amazing way to explore it.” 

In 2009, he got his start at the Park Performance Arts Center in Union, NJ, and while parts got bigger each year, the pace was too slow. “Starting as an actor later in life is a big gamble. This is not a hobby for me, it's a career and I pursue it as seriously as I have any other... I knew I had to fast track my career a bit, I was a newbie in the industry, but I didn't feel that way. I felt that my rich life of experiences and college work in psychology empowered me as an actor, I didn't feel like I was starting from scratch... I also felt I could leverage my highly successful business experience to grow as an artist as well as provide for my family. I took what could be perceived as disadvantages or a late start in the business and made them advantages and I think it has and continues to work” he says.

A big believer in fostering community, growing together and giving back, he began the Dedicated Actors Group as well as The Ultimate Filmmaker (as a co-founder of a film race contest).  Setting up networking opportunities, meet and greets with casting directors and reading events,” he says, “I new I could accomplish more by helping and working with others, than I could by myself.”

The latter providing the chance to give back, the idea is to convert the actor sitting alone by the phone into a network of peers.

Continuing to find success on various TV and feature projects and slowly growing in popularity as a serious and capable actor. However, fame is secondary to satisfying the restless soul that has gotten him this far.  “My ambition is to continue to be a capable actor and I just want people to respect me as an artist, I really don't care about fame, I just want to be famous to my family, the folks that love me everyday, no matter what I do, but it seems you need to pursue some level of fame to succeed as an actor, and so I'm working on it and growing everyday and as far as growth, well I've started working as a producer on projects as well, the journey never ends and ignorance to me is truly bliss  and a strength  (he laughs)  ” he concludes.

A versatile and talented actor, Yaron Urbas has and continues to play everything from working class hero, relentless bad guy, soldier, mobster, to cultured entrepreneur in various principal roles for feature films on Netflix, Amazon, hit shows on TV Land, Discovery ID, History Channel, Travel Channel, Bio, National Geographic and PBS. He has appeared in prominent roles for many indie films and theater projects. He is known for bringing intensity, realness and truth to a character, he also has a great sense of comedic instinct which he often brings to even the most serious roles.

Give him a visit at: http://yaronu.wix.com/yaronurbas

IMDB:  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4849535/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

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