How did you prepare to play a Hasidic Jew?
The day after I read the script I went to Borough Park in Brooklyn, where a lot of Hasidim are concentrated, to see if I could realistically play this character. When I first read the script I thought it would be better if they just cast a Hasidic Jew. But I talked to some people and I realized they weren’t a monolithic group—they are individuals and some of them talk like me and stand like me. So I thought, yes, I think I can do this.
Are you indeed more religious after spending so much time with Chabad?
Technically, yes, because they gave me a Bar Mitzvah and I had never had one. But personally I was always just thinking about the movie and the character; I wasn’t really having a purely spiritual experience.
So wait—you learned a Torah portion in the process?
No. They were so eager to give me a Bar Mitzvah that they didn’t mind that I only knew the most basic prayers. They didn’t make me learn anything, and I didn’t get any checks from my grandmother.
Have you ever had a stressful airport security encounter in real life?
I never get stopped. I probably couldn’t look more harmless if I wore a ballet outfit. Which I normally travel in anyway, of course.
In other words, the real life Jesse Eisenberg would make a great drug smuggler?
But I’d never accept that job, you know, what with all the movie work. Plus I don’t like flying so much. My ears pop.