It’s something of a miracle Amir Arison had time to chat at all. The actor, who’s had parts on shows including Homeland and Gossip Girl, is currently one of the most recognizable faces on TV thanks to his roles on the high-stakes crime drama The Blacklist (he plays FBI operative Aram Mojtabai) and HBO’s inescapable Girls (he’s Kevin, the coworker who famously told Hannah, “I don’t like your face.”)
Lucky for DuJour, Arison made time to dish on his busy schedule, the different people who recognize him and how he can be so good in a TV workplace and so, well, not in a real one.
You’re quite a busy guy. I can’t turn on my TV without seeing you.
I know! It used to be that I would think, Oh, I’ve got to work. Now it’s like I have to find something new to focus on, like how I’ve got to enjoy my life and not let work consume me. These are what my agent calls high-class problems.
How did this all come to be?
I’m obsessive by nature and am driven to always do my best work. So if I have one audition in front of me on a given week, I will work on it all week long. If you put three in front of me, I just turn it up the same way. I always feel busy if it’s one audition a month or 10 in a week; I’m always consumed by that next performance. Now it feels like it’s flipped: Before I was doing everything to prepare, and now I have to step back and be a bit choosier so I can do the jobs I do have in addition to taking on other ones.
Is it a struggle to find that balance?
My dad’s a surgeon, so he’s a role model and also a cautionary tale. His patients love him so much, but also I was privy to seeing him come home at night overworked. Was he enjoying his life?
You’ve had two very different versions of the TV workplace going on: a secret CIA site for The Blacklist and a version of the GQ offices for Girls. Does it throw you having these dissimilar places to go to fake work on any given day?
It’s not hard. I shot all of my Girls episodes before I got hired for The Blacklist. I got the call about The Blacklist as I was walking to set and I was literally getting into the elevator to film my last scene. It was like a baton hand off. They’re only airing concurrently.
What’s the worst office experience you’ve ever had?
I’ve been pretty fortunate. When I graduated college, I was a host at an upscale pizza restaurant for one day before I got an acting gig—I got to play Templeton the Rat in a touring production of Charlotte’s Web—and I’ve never had another job like that since.
So you’ve had pretty good professional luck.
I did work at a Starbucks over a summer in college and I never learned how to make the fancy coffee drinks, so they just kept me at the register. There was one bad day when we got robbed. Somebody came in and stole a bunch of stuff off the shelves. A customer came up and was like, “I think you got robbed.” We told the manager, who was even younger than me, and we went to look at the security tape and saw a dude in sunglasses and a trench coat walk in, take some mugs off the wall and walk out. Then the camera cut from us getting robbed to me getting a back rub from the girl working the pasty case. It was pretty ridiculous. I think I only had that job for three weeks.
With two hit shows running concurrently, can you tell which fans know you from which show?
I have to say that The Blacklist demographic cuts a wide swath. I get recognized by older couples from Long Island at diners and teenagers on the subway. What I am noticing is that now when people stare at me on the subway they’re trying to figure out how they know me. My phone blows up a lot more when I’m on Girls, but on the street the people know me from The Blacklist.
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