Shenkman’s turn as crazy Hasid Lenny Meyer in Darren Aronofsky’s Pi snagged him #71 on our list of Greatest Jewish Movie Moments, and it was all due to that completely buyable Jew York accent. "[I was] born on the Upper East side," Shenkman said. "But I grew up in Yeshiva-free Bethesda, Maryland from age three on. Just call me the Meryl Streep of Tri-State area Jewish dialects."
The 42-year-old actor, best known as Louis in Angels in America and a ton of L&O episodes, didn’t know much about all the Kabbalah stuff in Aronofsky’s debut. "A Hasidic guy named Izzie Lifshutz, who appears as the driver, was my Hebraic consultant," he said. "He taught me how to do the tefillin and write the Hebrew letters."
And Shenkman definitely didn’t know the low budget black & white thriller would become an enormous cult hit, beloved by film and math geeks alike.
"At the time it felt to me like a combination of a nerdy student film crossed with The Twilight Zone. I wondered if he’d get away with it. I often think it must be what the actors in Star Wars felt like."