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Hollywood Now: Interfaith Celebs Maya Rudolph, Lea Michele & Big Brain Theory Winner

Maya Rudolph’s Packed Summer

It’s quite the busy summer for actress Maya Rudolph, on screen and off. She has two movies coming out this month, and is expecting baby number four with her partner Paul Thomas Anderson.  Rudolph, the daughter of African-American singer Minnie Riperton, who died when she was 7, was raised by her Jewish father and identifies as Jewish. She reprises her part as Chris Rock’s wife Deanne in the comedy Grown Ups 2 (July 12) and voices the oxymoronic role of a racing snail named Burn in the animated movie Turbo (July 17). Meanwhile, the mother of daughters aged 7 and 3 and a 2-year-old son, is preparing for her fourth delivery, taking the title of her now-canceled sitcom Up All Night to heart once again.

Miami Beach Circa 1959 

There’s a cardinal rule for writers seeking realism: Write what you know. Jewish scribe and producer Mitch Glazer is following it closely in capturing the Miami Beach hotel scene circa 1959 for his series Magic City, now in its second season on Starz. “I write about the assimilated Jewish experience in Miami because it was mine,” says Glazer, whose father, an electrical engineer, did the lighting for all the top hotels. “This is a Jewish hotel family,” he says, “and that’s part of the show.”

There’s an interfaith element as well. Hotel owner Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is Jewish (though not particularly observant), and his late first wife was not. He’s now married to second wife Vera (Olga Kurylenko), a Gypsy who converted to Judaism and is far more concerned with traditions like seders and Bat Mitzvahs, and like Kurylenko says, “Being the perfect Jewish wife.”

Evans’ nemesis, mobster Ben Diamond (Danny Huston) is also Jewish, as is Chicago crime boss Sy Berman, played by new (Jewish) cast member James Caan. Kelly Lynch,  who has the key role of Ike’s rich sister-in-law Meg, who is not Jewish, is fond of joking that she had to sleep with Glazer to get it: She’s been married to him for 20 years. But there’s no favoritism on set. “At home, I like to think I’m in charge,” she says, “But on the set he’s the boss.”

Corey Fleischer
Corey Fleischer. Credit: Discovery Channel

The Big Brain Theory’s Corey Fleischer

The winner of Discovery Channel’s The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius, Corey Fleischer, a 32-year-old senior mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin from Baltimore, is a divorced father of two with a 120 IQ and kid’s playful sensibility. He spends his spare time building things like a Wii remote-operated Go-Kart and a self-balancing skateboard. His Jewish father, who split from his Lutheran mother when he was three or four, passed away when Fleischer was 13. “I grew up with my mom and stepdad. But I knew I had that Jewish side of my family. I remember talking to my grandmother about it,” he says. She’s now deceased, but he remains close to his cousins on that side of his family, although they live in New York and California. “We keep in touch regularly on Facebook and by text messaging.”

Fleischer and his ex-wife,  who is Christian, share custody of their children Aidan, 7, and Camden, 3, who are being raised in the Lutheran faith. Fleischer hopes his offspring inherit his love of science and are exposing them to it early. “I encourage any questions that they have. I perform lots of kitchen experiments,” he notes. “Before I left to do the show, I made seven videos of me doing different experiments and left my son a box with supplies to do them. He wasn’t happy that I was leaving, but he could do a new experiment with me every week.”

Lea Michele
Lea Michele. Credit: Vince Bucci/Fox

Author Lea Michele

Actress, singer, and now, author, Glee star Lea Michele is writing a book. Titled Brunette Ambition, it will be a combination memoir, how-to and style guide and be published by Harmony Books next spring. Michele, née Sarfati, the daughter of an Italian Catholic mother and a Sephardic Jewish father, plans to share stories about her audition experiences and advice about “harnessing tenacity, passion, enthusiasm and hard work to make your dreams come true.”

Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller wrote and reported from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for The Jewish Journal, The Nosher, Hadassah and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv’at Brenner in Israel and attended High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.


Author: Gerri Miller