By ALISHA FOSTER
Television viewers know actor Joshua Malina as the fast-talking chief-of-staff in The West Wing and the assistant district attorney with an ideological streak in hit drama Scandal — but at a lecture next week, they will get to know the story behind the characters he plays.
On Nov. 19, Malina, a conservative Jew, self-proclaimed prankster and the son of two Cornell alumni, will deliver a lecture called “How to Make It in Hollywood and Remain a Mensch.” The event is organized and sponsored by the Cornell Hillel Major Speaker Series Committee.
Samantha Weisman ’15, vice president of the Hillel Executive Board, said the talk will address how Malina was able to incorporate his religious identity into his career.
“I think it’s important to all students that he’s gonna talk about that because … if you’re passionate about something, like how Josh is passionate about his Jewish identity, then you can bring that passion into whatever you do later in life,” she said. “So if somebody is really passionate about their religion, or a specific subject or music or anything, they can bring that into what they end up doing with their life.”
Weisman said that the talk is of interest beyond the Jewish community at Cornell, too.
“[Malina is] talking about not only how being Jewish has helped him in his life, but … [also] about his experience and journey to Hollywood, which can impact so many students and reach a lot of people,” she said. “And he’s really funny.”
In a promotional video for the event, Malina displayed the range of roles he’s played in the industry using logoed baseball caps from his previous shows, The West Wing, Scandal, The Nine, Sports Night and Celebrity Poker Challenge, which he produced.
He welcomed all Cornell students to attend the event, even breaking out into song in the video.
The event, which was announced Thursday, worked out because Malina happens to already be on the East Coast for other speaking events, according to Weisman.
Malina played his first starring role as associate producer Jeremy Goodwin in the short-lived but critically acclaimed TV series, Sports Night, which was produced by Aaron Sorkin. In 2002, he made his entry onto The West Wing, where he played Will Bailey, and in 2012, he became Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen on Scandal.
Behind the scenes, he was the prankster of the Scandal cast. In an interview this May with a blogger for New York Magazine, Malina mentioned one of his bigger pranks.
“[Producer] Tom [Verica], in a hideous example of poor judgment, left his office unlocked. And so I just went in there, turned everything upside down — pictures of his family, the couch. I stuck his coffee table in the closet, I unscrewed lightbulbs,” Malina said to New York Magazine. “He did get me back: I came to work one day and opened my trailer door, and my trailer was plastered with compromising photos of me, all taken from footage from the show. Having done a lot of topless scenes and shower scenes, there were a lot of very unflattering pictures of me posted all over my trailer with thought bubbles. Me praising my own biceps, and maybe regretting my belly.”
In the promotional video, Malina said that although his parents both attended Cornell, he himself attended Yale University. Both of Malina’s parents will be attending the event, according to Weisman.
Malina’s show Scandal won a TV Guide Fan Favorite award this year; he has been nominated five times by the Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
But Weisman and Rachel Minton ’15, who is on Hillel’s speaker series commmittee, said they hope this event will help people see that Hillel wants to engage with all students.
“One of the big purposes of this event is to raise awareness for Hillel and also to show that Hillel isn’t really just for one type of person, but that it can be for anyone. You don’t have to be Jewish,” Minton said.
Malina will be speaking at Statler Auditorium on Nov. 19th at 5:30pm.