Interview: Aylam Orian talks acting, Stargate: OriginsMarch 29, 2018
Recently, we had the chance to talk to Aylam Orian about his interesting career path that led him to acting and his role in the new Stargate series, Stargate:Origins.
You got into acting a bit later than most do. What was it that made you decide to try acting as a career?
I originally wanted to be a film director. After my military service (which kind of delayed things a bit to begin with) I went to film school to study that, but while acting in my own films I began to like being in front of the cameras just as much as being behind them, maybe even more. So when my final thesis film fell through, for lack of money and lack of a good producer, I decided that directing and producing films was too difficult, and I should try something “easier” (little did I know…) and more fun, which was acting. I enrolled in acting school, The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York , and even though I was already in my early 30’s by then, I fell in love with it.
At one point you had a job at the Strasberg Institute organizing and preserving the huge collection of materials on acting, which led to teaching. What was that like?
That was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Soon after starting to study at the Institute, I answered an ad that the school put out looking for interns to do some archival work. I took it, and little did I know that in one year, that would become my paid day job for the next nine years, which would petty much change my life. Looking back at it now, I see how uniquely lucky and blessed I was to have been given this opportunity, to be one of the few living people who were exposed to Lee Strasberg’s huge and rare collection of materials on acting and his “Method”, and to contribute to the preservation of all of it. It made me a real expert in all things Lee Strasberg and “The Method”, which not only helped my own acting career, but also led me to start teaching it.
You’ve done theatre, TV and movies. Do you have a preferred medium to work in or do they all have their own individual charms?
They definitely all have their own individual charms. You can’t replace the feeling of being on stage in front of a live audience, and interacting with your fellow actors for two hours in real time. But at the same time acting in front of a camera, in TV or movies, provides its own exciting experience that the theatre cannot provide: working with an entire crew of artists all around you, often times on location, being able to be intimate, like in a close up, where the camera is right there with you, and repeating the performance again and again, and thus having the chance to perfect it in a way… It’s a different kind of charm! So I love them all (and I do miss the theatre!), but I guess my preferred medium is film and TV, and that’s why I am in Los Angeles and not New York.
Was there a moment where you knew that you could make a career out of acting?
I guess it was the moment when all of a sudden something switched, and I was able to go from living off of acting here and there, plus other jobs, to living just off of this craft, in its various forms. That was when I realized that this could be a career, and I guess that was the moment when I fully committed to it being my career, as opposed to other careers I could have chosen (like teaching for example). But you still have to pinch yourself every now and then in disbelief and go: “is this what I’m doing for a living?”
You are part of the new Stargate series called Stargate: Origins. What was that experience like?
It was great. It was hard work, a grueling schedule of packed long days, like a boot camp almost, but it was also exhilarating. There was this excitement on the set, due to us filming Stargate, but we also didn’t really know what to expect. One thing I can say is that most of the cast and crew were really young. I mean really, really young, which made me almost feel like I am back in my film school days, but they were all super professional and knew what they were doing. I was seriously blown away by all of them, from the director Mercedes to the production assistants.,and getting to wear those costumes, and be an evil Nazi for a few weeks – it was good fun.
You’ve done a lot of work in television. Were you looking to work on a series like Stargate: Origins on a regular basis, or was this a happy accident?
Of course, after doing multiple co-star and guest-star roles on other TV shows, you reach a point where you allow yourself to dream of a more recurring, or even a ‘series regular’, role but this was a happy accident, I really didn’t see it coming. The way the project was presented during the casting process (for reasons of keeping the secrecy around it) was completely different than what it was.Honestly, it looked like a small, low budget project. So from that, to it turning into the next installment in the iconic Stargate franchise, and me getting to play the role of the lead villain of the show – that was a real surprise. But yes, working on a series like this, on a regular basis, is a dream come true.You get to do what you love, for a long period of time, with people who become your family, there is nothing better than that.
Acting is a tough and competitive field to make a career out of. Have you ever thought about doing something else, or is acting something you want to do for the long term?
Oh, I have thought many times about doing something else, but I guess never seriously enough. Of course there are those moments of frustration when you ask yourself: “why on Earth am I doing this?” But so far, I cannot find anything else I’d like to do instead. Don’t get me wrong, I have many other things that I like to do, such as directing, writing, playing music, teaching, and charity work for animals – all of which I still do ‘on the side’ and enjoy very much, but I wouldn’t want to do any of these as a career. It seems like I am in this for the long term.
The Stargate franchise has a huge and dedicated fan base. As an actor, was that intimidating or exciting for you as you stepped on set for the first time?
To be honest, I wasn’t really aware of the magnitude and dedication of this fan base. I also wasn’t aware of the huge weight that was hanging above all our heads, in terms of having to fit into the already existing canon of films and shows, and the unique Stargate universe and timeline that the fans know like the back of their hands. I guess I was lucky in my bubble of blissful ignorance, and when I started to realize how wrong I was, it was too late to change anything – the ball was already rolling, so I decided to just trust our team, and commit to what I was doing, for the better or worse. Yeah, now I know how dedicated the fans are, and how active and enthusiastic they are, and I love it.It’s like one big family, that I was accepted into, and I already know some of them personally now.
What other projects do you have coming up?
In a few months, a film I filmed last year comes out: “Three Seconds”. I have a small role in it, but it’s opposite a wonderful A-list actress: Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl” and many more. This is definitely her year!). It’s an action thriller, that also stars Clive Owen, Common, and Joel Kinnaman (this is definitely his year too!), so I am super excited to see it. I also got to fly to London to film it, which was pretty awesome.
I want to thank Aylam for taking the time to speak with us