Atlanta, as the new film capital, has ushered in many twists and turns. Consider native Atlantan (Ayal) Mayer Stern, who got his acting chops in Chicago and Los Angeles and ended up back in our hometown. Here Stern has access to studio roles and teaches his own class at The Working Actor Group. TWAG on Roswell Road offers private coaching, audition taping, space rental, reel creation, and image consulting, in addition to workshops and classes.
Founder and co-owner Lauren Halperin said, “Stern brings an amazing energy and perspective. Students from his class completely rave. He has a way of connecting to people; and this gives him the opportunity to promote real breakthroughs.”
Halperin herself has appeared in Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” and “Noelle,” a movie with Anna Kendrick and Shirley MacLaine. “What’s a nice Jewish girl doing in a Christmas movie?” could be explored in a subsequent story.
Affable and confident without the arrogance, Stern attacks his roles with zest and authenticity, accepting the requisite rejection along the way.
Listen in as Mayer “acts” out.
Jaffe: As a child at The Epstein School and Walton High, did you have the lead in all the school plays?
Stern: Hardly. I did not have the courage. I never performed on stage until I joined a college improv group.
Jaffe: Why the University of Kansas?
Stern: Actually, my degree from there is Bachelor of Arts in theater and film, and KU does have a fine acting school. Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis were students there. So, in Lawrence, Kan., I got stage experience and learned the art of auditioning and improvisation.
Jaffe: Elaborate on the class that you teach at TWAG.
Stern: My class is “Scene Study,” which is pretty standard and taught in L.A. I work in groups of 10 to 12 and focus on involving the students. I pick out scenes from plays like “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train,” “Proof,” and Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” for them to perform. When we’re ready with the finished project, I try to bring in a casting director for exposure. The class is three hours on Monday nights.
Jaffe: What movies did you watch as a youngster?
Stern: Paul Newman in “The Color of Money.” He had an effortless and understated charm which allowed him to get away with anything with a smile.
Also “You Can Count on Me” with Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney, which explores the relationship between a brother and sister, a topic that is not often explored in film.
Jaffe: Was Chicago pivotal for you?
Stern: Weighing a psychology career, I had to consider that future involving a commitment to graduate school. But I had taken classes at the Actors Studio in Chicago and decided, for better or for worse, I would not look back. I had the lead in “Suddenly Last Summer” and “Sexual Perversity” by David Mamet.
I secured an agent to pursue my career and in 2014 moved to LA for auditions.
Jaffe: What was your favorite TV role?
Stern: I was a guest star in “NCIS: Los Angeles.” I appeared in scenes as the new terrorist with LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell.
In Atlanta I was in the “Dynasty” remake playing a personal assistant and flight attendant on a private plane. I was also in “Raising Dion” on Netflix with Jason Ritter.
Jaffe: Do you deal with rejection?
Stern: Constantly, 90 percent of the time, it requires accepting rejection. I developed a thick skin right off the bat. The old expression, “Let the water roll off your back,” I took a step further in that I looked at it like a victory. Any tryout, getting to act for even five minutes, feeds that chance to perform.
Jaffe: What is your dream role?
Stern: Something like a Mossad agent in “Homeland.” Maybe a spy or a cop. I thought an inspirational role that I would do well with is an old film “Half Nelson” with Ryan Gosling about a teacher who is an addict. It’s a very complex character that would be a challenge to portray.
Jaffe: Your mother Aviva is a painter and mixed media artist. What would she say about your acting career?
Stern: Since I am the youngest of three, she would say that I am well suited for acting and comedic roles. You know the youngest kid is always trying to be funny and labeled as the clown.