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Jesse Eisenberg: “I’m not being tricked”

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Jesse Eisenberg
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Short Profile

Name: Jesse Adam Eisenberg
DOB: 5 October 1983
Place of Birth: Queens, New York, USA
Occupation: Actor

Mr. Eisenberg, what is the best method to change the world, the pen or the sword?

Well, how you feel comfortable with it. We have had great, very extreme movements in the past. We have had some great movements of social change – I am speaking as an American – that have been occasionally violent or extreme, but in that aspect they seemed totally justified. Conversely we have had movements of great social change that have been very destructive.

Have you ever protested something?

I used to protest war in general as a concept, specific wars, future wars, past wars, and I never felt comfortable with it so all my political activity is relegated to writing humor about political stuff. My first play was a kind of satire on young liberals. That is the way I express myself politically because I always felt uncomfortable carrying a sign because you have to hold your hand up all day and the wood can splinter… So I really don’t like protests.

Is there a cause today that would get you to go out on the streets to support it?

It seems petty, but I work in the theater, I write plays and I feel very impassioned about it and if they wanted to close a theater I might protest then, or buy it if I could afford it, because that is the thing I care about. It sounds a bit selfish, but I guess every cause is selfish in a way.

I didn’t realize you write so much. Does being an actor affect how you write?

I write plays that I act in and so I am kind of acting out the parts. Also my last play mainly featured a 75-year old woman so I was kind of also acting her part out in my mind although it was not for me to perform. And then I write for the New Yorker, but I mainly write either in dialogue or monologue form, so this is also kind of acting. I have written fiction and stuff and I am just not as good at it. I think in the way that people speak and that is how I write.

What makes you think you are not as good at fiction?

I got a B in short story class. That was the only B I got in college so I just swore it off immediately.

Were you that serious about your grades?

It put my grade point average down, but no. I was just narcissistic and thought I should get a good grade. It was just ego. I was not that good in school, I just didn’t want to get a B in short story class – that’s absurd. It’s a short story class!

Would you prefer to spend more time writing than acting?

No, if I just wrote plays I could not make a living. They all take years to get produced and when they finally get produced you make very little money anyway. So it is important to act. I like acting for it’s own sake, but I do have to think about my career too. I’m doing many different things to prepare for the inevitable failure of one of them.

Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckenberg in The Social Network (2003)

Well, I’m sure you won’t be out of work for a while. The Social Network seems to have really solidified your career.

Maybe, but I felt like the biggest moment I have ever had was when I was 19. I got into this really good movie and that changed everything for me because people saw me and they started to send me scripts. It was a good nuanced role and that was a great luxury to get as a young person, someone just starting out. Before that I had been auditioning since I was 14 for the worst things that you can imagine.

Like what kind of stuff?

The dumbest commercials, musicals that were awful that didn’t even make it to the stage, the worst possible things that every actor and wannabe must be so desperate in order to be in these things. You would never go watch them. I think that is the biggest difference for an actor: if you are in one part that separates you from the other million actors. I think in the Screen Actor’s Guild – the people lucky enough to get into the union – there is about 97% out of work actors and 3% working.

What kind of scripts do you get sent now?

In The Social Network I played a more intense character, so I got sent more intense roles after that. I was doing that in plays prior to that, but if no one sees you do that, it is irrelevant. So it is good for me because I like that. I like characters that are really emotional; it is easier to play. It is difficult to play characters that are really casual because you don’t have anything to latch on to. So I like playing characters that are really intense people.

Do you watch your own movies?

I don’t watch any movies.

Any?

Any genre, any kind of movie. I don’t know what is out there.

Why?

I don’t know, I just stopped a few years ago. I got self-conscious. I think that happens to a lot of actors. After a period you feel self-conscious watching movies.

Do you go to the theater?

Yeah, I go to plays and stuff. That feels more comfortable. Because I am writing plays I feel like it is important to see that stuff. Maybe because the people are right there, I’m not being tricked.

So what do you do in your spare time?

I just bowl all day long.