9-1-1: Lone Star is burning up! (and I’m not just talking about the fires that Ronen Rubinstein and the diverse team in Austin, Texas are putting out on the show). The series follows a New York firefighter, played by producer and Hollywood legend Rob Lowe, who moves from the big city to the Lone Star state in order to rebuild the Firehouse, while hiding a giant secret. His son, played by the talented Rubinstein, is T.K. Strand, who has to trade in a broken life in Manhattan for a budding relationship in Texas, and the series is on fire when it comes to the #Tarlos scenes, in particular.
Brief Take spoke one-on-one exclusively to Ronen Rubinstein, fresh from a week of TCA appearances, and he was an amazing guide into the world of the hot new series.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our scorching phone interview with Ronen Rubinstein of 9-1-1: Lone Star.
Brief Take: You’ve had quite a busy week! How has it been going?
Ronen Rubinstein: Oh man, it’s been so cool. We just surprised a bunch of fans at the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown (Los Angeles) last night. We did a surprise Q&A with myself, Brian (Michael Smith), Natacha (Karam), and our showrunner (Tim Minear). And then we got to take photos and talk to fans in the lobby, and it was so cool and surreal seeing them…first of all, seeing the show on a big screen, that never happens, and then meeting these fans in person and actually getting to talk to them and meeting a lot of the fan accounts on Instagram, it was really surreal last night. It sort of puts you in perspective of how these fans are so dedicated and how much they love the work.
BT: This show is like nothing that I have ever seen, in terms of content but also in terms of scope. Could you preview it a little?
RR: Well that’s one hell of a compliment, to not have seen anything like it. I think that’s sort of what we were going for. It’s a massive show, it’s obviously Ryan Murphy, so it’s “go big or go home” with him and we have two huge legends (Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler), and we have a very big cast of 10 or 11 people. And then the characters that we’re actually portraying, it’s a little bit of everyone, we have every walk of life, we have a lot of representation that you don’t normally see on television, really ever. Ryan Murphy is the only one really pushing that boundary on television, especially network television, where they tend to sometimes play it a little more safe. And then it’s a fun show because, yeah, we touch on some sensitive topics and there’s drama and there’s some sad themes, but it’s a really big, fun show with really fun characters. I think that if people can take anything away from this series, I think that we want people to feel good after they watch it and be excited for the next episode.
BT: What was it about your audition with Rob Lowe that produced such incredible father-son chemistry?
RR: Ah, man, I think we were both very open and honest. I went into it being myself, and I was like: “You know what? I’m in this position, I might as well be myself and have fun and still focus on the scenes that we had to do in the chemistry read”, and within five minutes we were giggling and chatting about our lives, and within 10 minutes, we’re doing 50 push-ups and talking about our workout regimens and our diets and just really “kickin’ it” as they say. It was my first time meeting this man and he’s this legendary massive star, and in the room, he’s just a really cool, regular dude. It was instantaneous. Then our first day of working was literally Rob and me in Times Square in Manhattan, and after that, everything else is easy. That was such a crazy way to start the show, and the magnitude of the show and the people in it, it’s legendary.
I literally grew up watching Liv Tyler, so that was so cool to be able to work with her and seeing her attached to this show.
BT: How do you feel that your character has a hashtag?
RR: [Laughs] That there is another beautiful example of the fans’ commitment and love to myself and the show. Yeah #Tarlos [chuckles] has been trending since our first trailer, so it’s been really, really, really surreal seeing the reaction to a show that hasn’t even aired yet. It’s a really beautiful moment that we are in right now and I think that it’s only going to grow. I think that people are going to be really proud of what we portray and they’re really going to be proud of #Tarlos. [chuckles] It’s a really beautiful relationship into which we start diving.
BT: Your career path has been filled with interesting projects. You must take something from your previous roles, right?
RR: Yeah man…I think that’s really it. And look, I haven’t had the freedom of being able to openly pick and choose, I’ve been very fortunate where the chips have fallen. I’ve been extremely fortunate to pretty much start my career off with It Felt Like Love. It was a big Sundance hit, but it was a tiny low-budget film that no one thought would go anywhere and my first time playing the leading man, and to be able to start there, everything after that has been really cool and interesting and sometimes weird. I think that my biggest takeaway is that all of my characters are different and they all have different stories, they’re all different people, they’re all different walks of life and I pride myself on being able to portray different lives and being able to represent different sorts of people and I really hope that continues.
BT: What was your takeaway from, in particular, your episode of Orange is the New Black?
RR: I really take away a lot from Orange because it was my first encounter with this thing called “fans”, it was the first time that fans reached out to me, acknowledging my work and being excited to talk to me or to hear my thoughts and to do interviews. Orange is the New Black was my first entry into what we’re doing right now, and I think that really prepared me at a younger age for something like this. Obviously it’s not the magnitude or the scale of audience, but it really put into perspective how special and how many fans are out there and they are our everything. They are our support system, they are our anchor, and it’s going to be incredible for people to see my work for the first time, and then it’s going to be super special for all the fans to see me that have been following my work and have been watching my stuff. Because a lot of my stuff isn’t very mainstream and the people that have somehow searched and have found my work, it’s amazing that they even care or they are even interested. So I’m really proud of TK and I’m really proud of the show, so I’m excited for people to see this. It’s not very often that you can be a part of something of which you are really proud and I am proud of this show across the board.
BT: What’s it like to be a part of a calendar?
RR: That, [laughs loudly] that was pretty neat, I gotta admit. I was sort of freaking out about that, my parents back home and all my friends were freaking out and it’s the cliché, like a Fireman’s Calendar, but I love that it was all the cast, especially 9-1-1, especially Angela Bassett and Peter Krause, because at the end of the day, we wouldn’t be here without that show and we wouldn’t have the opportunity without a legend like Angela Bassett agreeing to do a network television show, because she’s a movie star. It’s been so cool to be able to be involved and acknowledge the other 9-1-1 show, because it is one huge family right now and I think that we’re going to make them proud.
BT: What is on your 9-1-1: Lone Star playlist?
RR: A big part of the process of when I was even auditioning for this part and starting off shooting: Frank Ocean. Frank Ocean has really been…well, he’s been in my life for a while now, but I see a lot of the similarities in him and my character, weirdly enough, someone that wants to be seen and respected and be accepted for who he is, and I think in a lot of ways that’s sort of what TK wants. I think that his music really talks to me and I listen to him almost every day.
BT: What are you excited for people to see this on this series?
RR: Well, [chuckles] I’m just excited for people to see the show. We’ve been shooting for quite a while now and we’re towards the end of the show and we’ve seen the pilot a bunch and we’re excited for people to see it and for it to be out in the world. I really think that people are going to love it, I really do. I think that people are going to connect to it and I think that people are going to have fun. And as I said, I think that people are going to feel good and then they’re going to want to watch the next one, and that is all that we can ask for.
BT: What are some of your hopes for the show and for the industry?
RR: I really hope that a show like this, it’s not something out of the ordinary, and I think if we can continue to portray these characters and these people and these all different walks of life, that this can be a more regular thing and not for it to be such a big deal or a spectacle. I think that could be really good for everyone, especially because it’s the reality of people out there, especially America. America was built on all different types of cultures and living together and it was called the land of opportunity for a reason. I think that we are on that path- it’s definitely happening in film. It’s definitely happening in cable and streaming and I think that we could be the trailblazers for network television, because network television has access for more people.
BT: How does it feel to be in such a boundary pushing series on network television?
RR: That’s the complete genius of Ryan Murphy – he’s a trailblazer in this industry and he’s creating his own boundaries and us being a network show, we immediately have so many more viewers and we have much more accessibility to an audience and I’m really proud that we’re changing the narrative of these sort of stories- they don’t only have to be represented in cable or streaming in these quote unquote “prestige” networks, because most of the people, the majority of the audience that watches network television, it is a little bit of everyone in all different flavours and all different walks of life. For us to finally be able to portray that on a network show and reflect the people out there and the reality of people out there, it’s sort of everything! We are going to have access to so many people, and for them to finally see themselves on the television screen…I think people are going to feel really good about it and feel seen and feel respected and be acknowledged.
9-1-1: Lone Star airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox and CTV