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Interviews

Interview: Adam Tsekhman Talks “Legends of Tomorrow”, Writing Comedy, and Chasing Chickens

By: Jessica Nakamoto –

Adam Tsekhman

Adam Tsekhman

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in finance from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Adam Tsekhman could have been a Wall Street man. But rather, with a passion for acting coming to a head during those same college years, Tsekhman decided to hit the stage and screen rather than the financial district.

This proved to be a very good choice.

After completing a second round of impressive education and garnering his Masters in Fine Arts in Theatre Acting from Columbia University, Tsekhman went on to land a lead role in the popular Russian TV drama, Zona. This success served as a catalyst for his acting career, and with additional appearances in multiple critically acclaimed series ranging from NCIS and 24, to 2 Broke Girls, Tsekhman has been on an upward trajectory ever since.

Currently, Tsekhman can be most notably be found acting as beloved character, Time Bureau agent Gary Green, in the CW hit show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

We had the pleasure of catching up with and sharing some laughs with Adam about season four of Legends of Tomorrow, his favorite moments on set, developing his own comedy productions, and more!      

You’re currently starring as fan favorite character, Time Bureau Agent Gary Green. How did you first get involved in the series? 

A friend of mine is the writer and producer on the show. She’s brilliant. Her name’s Grainne Godfree. Early last summer she called me and said they were working on this role and she thought I might be good for it. She said if it was a fit, she’d contact the casting director for me to submit a tape. I did and luckily, it worked out!

At the time, they didn’t really know what kind of character it’d be. They said, “right now, it’s probably going to be three episodes, maybe more, but we don’t really know”. And then, fortunately, it blossomed from there.

That’s excellent! I enjoy how the show has taken a sort of different spin on the classic superhero genre. Did you know beforehand that it would be so comedy driven?

I knew the character would be comedy driven just based on the audition. But no, I didn’t realize how much they would lean into that. It’s been great, especially this season. The show has gotten even more comedic, which for me, is amazing. That’s the most fun and the stuff that I get the most joy doing.

Who would you say is the funniest person on set, besides yourself, of course!

(laughs) The funniest person on set is probably Nick Zano I would say. Or Nate Heywood. He’s the one who teases everyone in a great way. We get along famously.

It sounds like the set has a great atmosphere to it.

Totally! Everyone gets along great, the crew and the cast. I never feel any bad blood at all which is awesome.

Speaking of crazy fun moments, do you have a favorite memory from filming?

It’s been fun working with live animals! I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few experiences now. The wildest one was chasing a chicken around! I felt really bad because I think I scared the chicken! (laughs) But, we just said, “Look. We have no idea what’s going to happen. You’re just going to have to get the chicken!” And you can’t tell the chicken where to go. It’s going to try to get away!

Adam Tsekhman

(laughs) Impromptu chicken acting. I love it!

Exactly!

Another reason I think the series is especially fun for fans is because it incorporates a mix of both known superheroes and characters like Gary, who are created just for the series. Is it freeing in a sense, to put your own spin on a character versus having to reinvent an already well-known personality?

Yeah, absolutely! That would be a lot of pressure to have to adhere to the fans and the comic book creators preconceived notions of the character.

I noticed that a lot with one of my co-stars, Matt Ryan. With Constantine, he’s very aware of the entire canon of Constantine comics. He really wants to make sure that the fans are sort of satisfied with his performance and his portrayal. He’s very aware of what that character consists of, based on all of the writing that’s been done about him.

Whereas no-one writes anything about Gary! (jokes) No-one gives a shit about him! So, I get to do whatever I want! (laughs). 

I noticed you brought up Constantine there. You guys have a really cool relationship on the show. Where do you see that going in season four, or maybe even in season five?

I think Gary is very enamored with Constantine. He grew up with, I assume, not many friends. And suddenly, he’s got this guy who’s super cool, paying attention to him and spending time with him, maybe more. It’s a unique experience, so I hope there will be more between them. We’ll see!

Delving into your acting career just a little bit, acting seems to have taken you on a cross-continental route between shows. You’ve done the Russian television series, “Zona” and “Tsili” where you had to learn Yiddish for the part. How do you approach this kind of international role compared to say acting in an alternate universe, like in Legends?

Well, those roles are both in different languages. “Zona” was a Russian prison drama and was shot in all Russian. My family are immigrants from the Soviet Union. They came in the early 70’s from Ukraine and so I can speak Russian. So, from that perspective, it wasn’t foreign, but it was still challenging because my Russian is at the level of a six-year-old! (laughs) That’s kind of when I stopped speaking a lot of it.

But “Tsili”, which we shot in Israel, was entirely in Yiddish. And, I didn’t speak any Yiddish at all! I just sort of knew the various basics. And by basics, I mean like, ten to twenty words that everybody in New York knows too! (laughs) I’m shvitzing [sweating]! These types of things.

That role was amazing. I had a Yiddish teacher in L.A. and then, my Grandmother had the script in Toronto. I was on the phone with her for an hour-and-a-half a day going over the script because it was very dialogue heavy. And, fascinatingly enough, at the end of that process, which we worked at for a few months, my Grandmother told me that my Yiddish is better than my Russian! (laughs)

That’s shocking, because I barely even know what I’m saying! But she was like, no, no, it’s in your blood. It’s there!

(laughs) Thanks for the compliment Grandma!

Yeah! Exactly! (laughs).

Speaking of different places and different roles, were you familiar with “Arrowverse”, previous to taking on the role as Gary?

Only the basics. I wasn’t very familiar. It’s pretty amazing how fast and how incredibly successful and impressive the whole thing is. And, the flexibility that the creators have to sort of meld these worlds is really cool.

Adam Tsekhman

In addition to your work on Legends, you also have an impressive variety of television credits, including some of my personal favorites, NCIS, NCIS LA, Rizzoli & Isles, and 24. Is there a genre that pops out to you as your favorite to act in?

Definitely comedy. Even though all the ones you just mentioned are dramas! (laughs)

In the three of the four of those, I played a foreigner. Typically, when I’m in a drama, I’m playing some sort of foreigner. In NCIS LA, I was Romanian, in NCIS, Egyptian, and 24, Russian.

It’s fun to be able to get cast with that versatility, but I find comedy more rewarding. It’s interesting to approach it almost like a puzzle to be solved. It has various sort of angles in which you can look at it. Sort of, “how do I make this fun?”

There’re so many ways to try to do that. Obviously, the writing is number one. And the writers are amazing in Legends! So, on one hand, you don’t have to do much, just say the words and it’s hilarious. But you know, there are many ways of doing that as well.

Mentioning writing, you also have some comedy work under your belt correct?

Yes, I do! We have a few shows that myself and my writing partner are developing. One is called, Americanistan. It’s about an American news network in a fictional Middle Eastern dictatorship. So, we’re having a laugh at the hilarious things like terrorism, dictatorship, misogyny.

(jokes) All the fun stuff, right?

Exactly! (laughs).

Another one we’re working on is called, Not Quite Naughty. That’s about an unmarried 25-year-old Hasidic virgin, whose uncle passes away and bequeaths to him a sex shop that he secretly owned, which subsidizes the ultra-religious community.

Religion and sex, head on! (laughs)

Sounds promising! (laughs) I heard that one of your star actors from Americanistan, is actually going to be in the new Aladdin movie coming up!

Yeah! We’re very excited for him! His name’s Mena Massoud and he plays Aladdin in Aladdin! So, we’re looking forward to working with him again on Americanistan.

That must be great publicity for your comedy.

Totally! And sort of confirming our feelings about him all the time. Mena’s hilarious! He was amazing in Americanistan and it’s just great to see him have that success.

Changing gears a little bit, I’d love to delve into your personal career path a little bit. I heard you previously attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and have a degree in Finance!

Yeah baby! (laughs)

Why did you decide on acting versus a Wall Street career?

I actually just stayed with a friend of mine. I was in New York last week, and I stayed at his place. We’re friends from Wharton and he stayed in finance. He lives in a beautiful two-bedroom condo in the Meatpacking District. So, I did sort of question my decision this past week! (laughs).

But you know, I fell for acting while I was at Wharton and didn’t fully commit to it. I graduated and I went towards doing interviews for jobs. I had a job offer to do investment banking for Lehman Brothers, who now doesn’t exist. They failed during the financial crisis.

Adam Tsekhman

(jokes) It’s because they didn’t hire you!

Or, because they’re making a decision to hire me! (laughs). But I like your version better. (jokes) Those assholes didn’t hire me, and now they’re done! You see, that’s what happens! (laughs)

I actually caught the acting bug while in college, wanted to pursue it, and luckily, managed to have some semblance of success right now, which is nice. We’ll see what happens. I think it was the right decision.

What’s shocking to me is how finance is so foreign to me now. But I guess that’s what happens when you graduate and don’t focus on it and sort of ignore it for a while you know?

Definitely. So, do you have any additional projects in the acting world that you could tell us a little bit about?

There are a few things that are in development, but nothing concrete yet. There’s a movie that I’m in that’s coming out sometime this fall called, Dragged Across Concrete. I have a little part playing a bad guy. Although, not with an accent. A sketchy dude who sells bulletproof vans to the bad guys. And Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn star in that one! So, that was cool! (laughs)

I’d like to wrap up with just a few fill-in-the-blank questions. Would you like to give it a go?

Let’s do it!

If I could have any superpower, it would be…

Invisibility!

Since we’re coming up on the holiday season, between a pumpkin spice latte, a peppermint hot chocolate, or other seasonal drink, you’d most likely find me sipping on a…

Black coffee! (laughs)

(jokes) Not into the peppermint hot chocolate I see?

Yeah! (laughs) I’d like a sip, but a full drink is a little too sweet. Can I have that and something to cut the sweetness?

Definitely!

Ok! I’ll go pumpkin spice latte and a black coffee.

Good combination! My favorite winter activity is…

Ice hockey!

Last one, the coolest place that I’ve been to for work has been…

Temperature-wise, Moscow! Otherwise, Hawaii!

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