Homeland, Jackie, star in class



I met Dominic a few weeks ago during a crowded Yom Kipur service at IKAR the most vibrant synagogue on Earth, when he approached me in my aisle seat to ask if the space next to me was vacant. I immediately recognized him as the spurned husband on Nurse Jackie and the FBI agent in Homeland. But this is LA and it would be really uncool to act star struck, especially when Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, as well as LA’s mayor were praying in the front row across from the rabbi.


“I recognize you.”

So the spurned husband/FBI guy and I made some small talk. But then after more small talk, I thought to myself, “This is kind of dishonest acting like I don’t recognize him.” I finally said, “I recognize you from show business.” He responded, “Are you in the business?”  (I get that all the time.) That began a whole conversation of who we were.


Our bonding moment

Sitting next to me, it became clear that Dominic Fumusa reads Hebrew and knows the tunes. I imagine I was obvious in my curiosity. He leans over and says, “My wife’s name is Ilana Levine. I’m a convert. Ilana and the kids are home in Brooklyn. I’m here filming a movie.” That opened up a whole other conversation where I found out he studies Torah and has been to Israel several times. He then tells me the craziest story about the day of his conversion and its connection to  a play he was performing concurrently on Broadway, where he had a nude scene. No one could have ever imagined or written this story and  I cannot repeat it here. On serious Yom Kipur, I let out a loud laugh. It was a bonding moment between us.

So next, very appropriate for Yom Kipur, my new bud, Dominique and I get into an intense conversation about creativity and the soul. What he told me about being an actor was so significant, I immediately explained to him about my class in the Masters program at the USC-Annenberg School of Communication on Advertising and Creativity, and asked him to come speak. He said, “I’d love that. “


The semester’s most powerful class

One week later: Dominic led the most powerful class of the semester. It was awe inspiring on every level. He opened himself up to speak about his successes and failures, his confidence and vulnerability. He talked about pouring his soul into his work. He drew parallels between my beginning lecture and then his approach to the creative process and remarked that he never realized how similar all creative processes are. The students then began to make this link as well, realizing how their professional peers are all creative people, no matter what field they are in.

Dominic explained that to be a great creative person, you have to expose yourself to the best work in your field. He spoke about the great actors, films, plays and TV shows that inspired him. Few of the students knew any of who or what he mentioned, which was shocking to him, but not to me. As a professor, I have learned that many of this generation consume much of their art on their computer screens, often recommended by their just-like-them social media followers.


King Lear

Towards the end of the class, I asked Dominic to perform something. He dropped his jaw and said, “You’re not going to ask me to do that, are you?” I said, “Of course, I am.” And then I turned to the students and told them that when they are looking for jobs and to make their way in the world, they cannot be afraid to ask for the unexpected, or intimidated by reluctant responses. Hearing that, Dominic performed the most incredible bit of King Lear.

“Do you know who King Lear is?” he asked the students. A few did.

Dominic is not only a great actor. From what the students told me they learned,  he’s a great teacher.

Gary Wexler