Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Interview by IRK & Cannon
Additional questions by Luz Gallardo, who photographed Ronen for this shoot and
one of Ronen's favorite charities, The Ocean Cleanup.
LUZ : How do you prepare for photoshoots?
Ronen: Well, I try to make sure I have a really solid week of treating my body well. No drinking, eating well, etc. The night before, I hopefully get some really good sleep. Then wake up, drink some coffee, shower, and showtime!
Luz: What is it like to be photographed for stills as yourself versus filming in character?
Ronen: It’s almost like acting in the sense you are trying to convey an emotion or tell a story with one simple snap of the camera. With character still shoots, they usually have a clear idea of what kind of “vibe” they want you to convey. Personal photos, I just sort of do my thing.
LUZ: Do you have any style icons that have influenced your look in a way you want to be reflected in the still photographs of yourself?
Ronen: For my modern inspiration, Harry Styles is the ultimate one. Brad Pitt in the ’90s is another major one. But then, of course, I always pull from the classics. Alain Delon, Steve McQueen, James Dean.
Irk: At age 16 you wrote, directed, and starred in your first short film. It seems like you are not the one who was waiting to get discovered. Did this film help you get discovered for your feature at 17?
Ronen: I think the biggest thing the short film helped is learning the world on both sides of the camera. To this day, I still nerd out about what lens the camera is using or how the director wants to set up a certain shot. I’m definitely counting down the days until I can get back into the director chair.
Irk: Is "taking the reins in your own hands" career advice you would give other actors and artists in general?
Ronen: For sure! With me personally, I grew up playing sports and idolizing Kobe Bryant’s work ethic. There’s not much time to sit around and wait for someone else. That drive to succeed and fulfill my dreams fuels me every day. The Mamba Mentality is real baby!
Irk: You were most known for your role as Nathan in the Netflix original Orange is the New Black. How has your life changed since then?
Ronen: Man, what a trip! That was my first time working on a globally loved project. It’s literally an iconic show now. So, it was my first time getting any sort of recognition from my peers and the media. Gave me a little taste of what it’s like to work on a highly successful show. IRK: What was your favorite role to date?
Ronen: It’s always a tossup. For TV, it’s hands down T.K. for a million reasons. But when it comes to film, it has to be Jake from “Smiley Face Killers.” That was still the most challenging role of my career, both physically and mentally. Worth every second though.
Ronen: I have had this dream since I was younger to play Anthony Kiedis in a Red Hot Chili Peppers biopic. Perhaps it will happen one day. FINGERS CROSSED! Irk: Do you still write and direct your own projects? Do you have a project in mind?
Ronen: I have a couple of things right now in development. But the big thing I hope to write and direct is about a certain time in my life when I was in high school. That is going to be INSANE.
Irk: You star as an openly gay firefighter and recovering opioid addict in Ryan Murphy's Fox series 9-1-1: Lone Star. As Fox's most-watched new show of 2020, the series has had a huge impact on the LGBT community and on you too as you came out officially just this year. What was it like to play such an important role?
Ronen: It’s everything. Truly. It’s rare to play such a fun and challenging character that actually says something, and then on top of that have tens of millions of people watch it and actually enjoy it. It’s the ultimate dream come true. Irk: How did you become a climate activist and sustainability advocate?
Ronen: Man, a couple of things. The biggest one was getting obliterated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. My family and I lost everything. Literally. House, car, belongings, photos. It was the most horrifying moment of my life. Our house was under 8 feet of water for nearly a week. That was my first time facing a natural disaster. After that, I started learning about what exactly fuels these kinds of catastrophic events and quickly learned about Global Warming and Climate Change and how it speeds up and multiplies these kinds of disasters. Then in 2016, I watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary; “Before The Flood.” From that moment on, I knew I would dedicate my life and career to do everything I could to help the Planet from reaching irreversible damage.
Irk: IRK has recently added two new environmental impact editors as we really think we all need to do our best to make positive changes. Can you give our readers one tip on how we can make a positive impact on our planet's well-being?
Ronen: Bravo! That is truly amazing. I think the biggest thing is education and inspiration. Truly learn about how and why the planet is being so badly hurt. After that, find a solution-based cause that you find inspiring and pursue that with everything you got. For me, it’s the oceans and our sustainable energy sector.
Irk: Aside from the environment, you are involved in many charitable causes. How do you find the time to give so much of yourself and what or who made you such a compassionate person?
Ronen: I appreciate these kind words. I guess I was always like this as a kid. Always loved animals. Grew up around all different cultures and races. Being outside in nature was my favorite thing to do. Swimming in the ocean always felt like home. I realized that with my platform and so-called “fame,” I can actually help all of these causes that I find extremely important. All I’m asking is for people to treat each other with respect and kindness and to stop killing our planet.
Ronen: The Ocean Cleanup is a science-driven organization focusing on cleaning the planet’s oceans and rivers. They currently have multiple garbage “Interceptors” in some of the world's most polluted rivers. As well as two massive boats with a garbage catching mechanism currently cleaning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area of plastics floating in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of Texas. DriveH2 is a Los Angeles-based Environmental non-profit focusing on Hydrogen technology. Specifically focusing on transportation; cars, boats, semi-trucks, and hopefully one day trains and planes. I’ve been working with them since 2019. They have been kind enough in lending me the nicest Hydrogen Fuel-Cell vehicles on the market for the past 2 years. The CEO Brian Goldstein quickly became a friend and a teacher of sorts about how exactly Hydrogen could change the world for the better and stop our deadly reliance on fossil fuels. Irk: AHS. !!!!!! Tell us more!
Ronen: Yes yes yes yes! Still can’t believe this happened. Truly a dream come true. Starring alongside Billie Lourd was an incredible experience. A perfect dance partner. I’ll be framing my name in the iconic AHS font!
Irk: What was it like working with Ryan Murphy?
Ronen: It’s always surreal to be working for Ryan ever since Lone Star came my way in 2019. And now, it was even more surreal because American Horror Story is his baby. His pride and joy. I’m just so honored and grateful to him for trusting me and believing in me these past couple of years. Irk: How did Ryan help you come out?
Ronen: When we first spoke about it, he voiced his ultimate support and shared some of his unbelievable wisdom. He continues to be an incredible support system and friend. Irk: What advice do you have for young Bi + LGBTQ+ people?
Ronen: Take your time. Listen to yourself. Don’t put pressure on yourself to come out. It could literally be telling just one person to start. You’ll know when the time is right. But always remember you are not alone in this, even though it might feel like it at times.
Irk: Advice for emerging artists?
Ronen: Give it you're all. Love what you do. Do it for the actual art and process. Don’t be motivated by the glitz and glamour. IRK: How did you come to know of The Ocean Cleanup? Or how did you become an Ambassador of The Ocean Cleanup?
Ronen: I remember reading about them years ago. At the time, the creator Boyan Slat was in his early twenties. And I remember thinking, this kid is trying to clean up the oceans’ plastic with science & innovation. I was immediately hooked. Last year, once I started gaining momentum with my climate initiatives, I thought it would be a good time to reach out to them and express my passion and support for what they do. They were completely on board for me to join their cause as an ambassador and we’ve been working together ever since! THE OCEAN CLEANUP: Why is it essential to clean up the plastic in our oceans and stop more plastic from entering them?
Ronen: That’s exactly the right question. We have to do both simultaneously. If we keep cleaning up plastic from the ocean while continuing to pollute the ocean, we’ll never make the progress we need to make. It’s almost like chasing our own tails. Both must be done together. Stop the source of the pollution and clean up the damage that has already been made. That way our oceans can do what they were naturally intended to do. Heal and regulate our planet. THE OCEAN CLEANUP: In what ways is the mission of The Ocean Cleanup visible in your daily life?
Ronen: It always starts off with recycling properly. Minimizing my plastic purchases. But then I took it a step further by going to beaches and personally cleaning them. I urge everyone to bring a trash bag and some gloves every time you head to the beach. Clean up after yourself, and any garbage you might find around you. Anything and everything helps. THE OCEAN CLEANUP: What reactions have you received when wearing The Ocean Cleanup’s sunglasses?
Ronen: “Woah, those are badass, who makes them” I always say, the garbage from the ocean makes them. I’m very happy with the design and story behind these. The Ocean Cleanup team crushed it. Literally.
Irk: What a great scary AHS episode, did you know the ending while you were filming?
Ronen: Yup, I read the script nearly a month before we started shooting. It was the hardest secret to keep in my career! Irk: AHS & Ryan Murphy have such a great fan base, how has your life changed since the episode aired?
Ronen: Totally! An iconic fan base. I’ve been seeing a lot of love on social from AHS fans. A lot of them are now tuning in to 911 Lone Star because of the episode. It has been nice to cross-pollinate fan bases.
Photographer: Luz Gallardo @shadowtime
Wardrobe Stylist: Ken Law @kennlaw
Wardrobe Stylist Assistant: Olive Thomas @olive.thomas
Make-Up: Kay Wamser @kaywamser
Hair: Sol Rodriguez @solxhair
For more information on The Ocean Cleanup and the great work that they do please go to: https://theoceancleanup.com/ @theoceancleanup
For more information on DriveH2 and the great work they do please go to: