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February 2012

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Razor Magazine, 2002

Razor Magazine


 October 2002

 Find the photos of this article in the gallery

Best known for his portrayal of Ardeth Bay in the wildly successful film The
Mummy, Oded Fehr can now be seen weekly on the television show Presidio Med.

After serving three years in the Israeli Navy, Fehr moved to Berlin to study
business. He ended up taking a drama class that ultimately led him to star in a
play, and that's when he realized he was never happier than when he was acting.
Fehr explains that he was always "The noisy kid in the family". His father and
sister are both doctors of physics and his brother is "a genius". Fehr's father
encouraged him to pursue his desire to act, and the rest, as they say, is the
rest. He subsequently lived in England for a short time where he studied at the
famed Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and appeared in several television features.
But he decided that moving to the United States would best direct his career.

"There's something fun about being naughty. You get to do bad things, but it's
only acting. It's a great stress release."

The move to America was an easy transition for Fehr. "You know how some people
say that Israel is the 51st state? Well, living in the US is a lot like living
in Israel. It feels like home here. There was more for me to adjust to when I
lived in England". He adds, "There is a lot more to get used to in England in
terms of humor and drinking habits. Everyone goes drinking right after work, and
if you're not used to that, you're in for an interesting ride."

As an Israeli, the current situation of his homeland is an extremely difficult
one for Fehr to watch. "It's very hard for me. I have no right to express
political views because I'm not involved enough," he offers rather guiltily. "I
can't make any accusations on either side." The majority of Fehr's family still
lives in Israel. "I wish they didn't have to go through it. They live day to day
through those hardships and all I deal with is what I hear about on the news."
He says that Israel's predicament is "very complex. I'm not only an observer.
It's not fair of me as an Israeli who doesn't live there any more to pass any
judgment." He speaks about a recent trip he made to Israel for a visit with his
family. He speaks of a pain in not being able to show his wife the places where
he played as a child (there is too much violence in those areas now), "What can
I say," Fehr says in dejected tones, "I care, I worry, I'm saddened."

Due to his olive complexion and culturally unspecific facial features, Fehr has
been able to play a variety of ethnicities. He enjoys this because it gives him
more options as an actor. "I wouldn't have gotten the part [of an Arab] in The
Mummy if I was some pasty Englishman," he jokes. In fact, Fehr is proud to say
that when The Mummy was released in Israel, everyone thought that he was truly
an Arab. "That made me feel pretty good," he laughs. In Presidio Med, he plays a
doctor from Greece. He explains: "We chose Greek [as a nationality] because I
obviously have an accent and it would be interesting to make him not American.
If the character were made into an Israeli, there would have been an issue about
why an Israeli doctor would leave his struggling homeland to work in America,"
Fehr adds in jest. "Plus, people typically don't know as much about Greek
accents, so no one could say yea or nay to my version."

On the topic of ethnic ambiguity, he thinks that Vin Diesel's refusal to adhere
to one racial identy is right on track. "Every actor has something that works
for or against them. For some of us, it's how we look. Luckily in Hollywood
right now, people are finally embracing interracial people and relationships,
which is how it should be."

Staying true to his credo that "variety is an actor's best friend", Fehr has
also ventured into comedy (he starred as Antoine Laconte, a French gigolo in
Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo opposite Rob Schneider). "I got more reaction to my
slimy, villainous character in Deuce Bigalow than I did playing my character in
The Mummy," he says incredulously. Fehr claims that he never thought Deuce would
be as successful as it was. "Comedies are so hit or miss," Fehr says. "I was
worried, but things turned out fabulously." Many times during filming, he
recalls, it was extremely difficult to keep a straight face. He explains, "There
was one scene in which Rob [as Deuce] comes to my place and sees all of the
weapons that I have strewn around, and he says, 'Oh look - Canadian quarters.'
and I just kept bursting into laughter." He says that it's a constant struggle
to keep from laughing in a comedy, but if everyone laughs at the end of a take,
you know it's funny. "If no one laughs, you know you're in serious trouble."

In Presidio Med, Fehr plays Dr. Nicholas Kokoris, adulterous lover of Dr. Rae
Brennan played by Dana Delaney. (The show also stars Blythe Danner, Anna Deavere
Smith, Julianne Nicholson and Paul Blackthorne) It's a medical drama about a
team of dedicated physicians who run a tight-knit group where personality
clashes and doctor/patient relationships provide most of the action. Fehr says
of the switch from film to TV, "With television comes instant gratification. You
film an episode and then you see it a month later. And a larger amount of people
see it too - more people watch a failed television show than a blockbuster mvoie.
Another perk of doing a television show in LA is that he no longer has to fly
back and forth to see his wife Rhonda. But Fehr admits that things around a
television set are much hectic than on a film. "In TV, you get the script a
couple of days, maybe a week before shooting. In film, you get the script months
in advance. There's just more time for preparation. But with a television show,
you get to the point where you become so familiar with your character that it
becomes easier to do your job."

Presidio Med is not Fehr's first try at American television - he also starred in
UC: Undercover, which despite critical acclaim was cancelled this spring. He
played Frank Donovan, the authoritative head of a federal unit of untraditional
undercover agents. Fehr laments that the show was the victim of circumstance. He
explains that the show aired the night that Bush declared war on Afghanistan -
so all eyes were on the news and not on a new action series. Nevertheless, Fehr
enjoyed his role which called for shooting guns and being a macho guy. "There's
something fun at being naughty," he confesses. "You get to do bad things, but
it's only acting. It's a great stress release."

Fehr doesn't acutally watch much television himself, but one show that he really
likes right now is Everybody Loves Raymond. "I feel so sorry for Raymond's
brother," he confesses "but everyone does, so maybe we're not supposed to."
Well, everyone seems to love Oded Fehr, and I think we're supposed to.