Warning: Season 3 spoilers ahead.
“It was just a basic audition last year. I went in, and then a couple of days later I got the call,” explains Orange Is the New Black breakout Ronen Rubinstein of his role in Season 3. The 21-year-old plays Nathan, a sweet, caring guy who treats Taryn Manning’s “Pennsatucky” with the affection and respect she’s not used to experiencing from the males in her life.
In what amounts to just a few minutes of screen time in the season’s 10th episode, Rubinstein made such an impression with fans of the show that he’s racking up thousands of new social media followers and even inspiring marriage proposals. A few things you should know about the actor who we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future, on screens big and small:
1. He’s on Instagram, and Yes, You Want to Go to There
Don’t delay: check out Rubinstein’s Instagram, which is not only chock full of adorable pics, but which is netting him thousands of new followers… an average of 2,000 a week. Even though his OITNB character, Nathan, was featured in just one episode — Season 3, episode 10, “A Tittin’ and a Hairin’” — Nathan easily proved to be one of the sweetest male characters we’ve met in three seasons. And fans have taken notice. “I can’t even put my finger on just one [crazy fan interaction],” the actor tells Yahoo TV. “There are a lot of funny, strange comments. Some funny sexual comments,” he says, laughing. “There are confessions of love, proposing… people have been very nice.”
More quick facts that spark from his Instagram: photos show him with both the long hair he had on OITNB and a shorter ‘do… he says his hair is short right now, but he’s considering growing it OITNB-long again; he’s a major animal lover, but hasn’t owned a dog since his cute pup Gypsy passed away two years ago (“She was the closest thing to me. That was my baby”); and he’s very proud of his work on OITNB, which he honored by re-posting a collage of Nathan pics a fan made. “There are a lot of characters who come and visit [the inmates]… that could always be something really cool, but who knows,” he says of the possibility of seeing Nathan return to the show. “The writers are very clever, but I have no idea if he’ll return.”
2. He Wasn’t Shy About Shooting That Scene
One the most talked-about Nathan/Tiffany scenes from episode 10 is the characters’ bedroom moment, when the much-abused Tiffany is surprised by Nathan’s insistence on pleasuring her, instead of taking advantage of her like the other boys she knows.
“I was shooting for three days, and every morning, when I would come in for hair and makeup, [Taryn] and I would chat,” he says. “We would just talk. We went over the scenes, we kind of talked about what was going on. But there was never that kind of like nervousness or shyness. The fact that she is able to put herself through that and those kind of sensitive and intimate subjects… I praise her so much for her professionalism. She walked me through it like a pro. I didn’t expect anything less. It was very easy to work with her. We just we got down to business, and I think it was pretty good.”
3. He’s a Staten Island-er, and a Very Proud One
If he’s ever looking for a side gig, Rubinstein, a 2012 graduate of New Dorp High School in Staten Island, might want to sign on as the official spokesperson for the New York City borough, the hometown he says people sometimes have the wrong idea about. “We are compared to [the Jersey Shore cast]. They think we tan, we lift weights, and we spike our hair up, but [Staten Island] is not that at all,” says Rubinstein, who still lives in S.I. with his mom and sister, both big OITNB fans. “I want to praise Staten Island. It’s known as the ‘Borough of Parks.’ We actually have some of the nicest trails that you can find in New York City, and it would be nice for [S.I.] to be looked upon as the beautiful piece of land it is.”
4. He Doesn’t Want to Be Compared to the Jersey Shore Cast, But He Has Met Snooki
Rubinstein’s résumé includes an appearance in a short skit on a 2011 episode of The Late Show With David Letterman, where the night’s guests included a book-promoting Jersey Shore cast member: Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi. “I actually did meet her, in the dressing room,” he says. And what was that like? “Very short. I mean, she’s very short.”
5. His First Movie Performance Earned a Thumbs Up From James Caan
In the 2011 big-screen drama Detachment, Rubinstein plays a rebellious high school student named Gangsta, whose first scene is opposite — appropriately enough — The Godfather Oscar nominee James Caan. And the scene, in which Gangsta shouts a colorful physical threat at Caan’s teacher character, Mr. Seaboldt, is an intense one. “The very first time I go over to meet him, he comes up to me, and he’s like, ‘So, you’re playing the gangster?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He looks me up and down with that Sonny Corleone look, and he’s like, ‘Alright.’” The movie, with an all-star cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Oscar winners Adrien Brody and Marcia Gay Harden, Emmy nominees Christina Hendricks and William Petersen, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, and Isiah Whitlock Jr., is available on Netflix, as is another Rubenstein film, It Felt Like Love.
Watch the It Felt Like Love trailer:
Meanwhile, he has two films that should hit theaters this year: the supernatural slasher flick Some Kind of Hate, and the horror movie Condemned.
“Some Kind of Hate has been called the next great contemporary horror film, which is crazy,” Rubinstein says. “We’re going to a bunch of festivals now. We’ve hit a bunch in Europe, and I will be attending the one in Montreal in July and then the one in London in August. It’s something special. It’s a drama on bullying, it’s a slasher movie, it’s an old school horror movie… I’m very proud to be a part of it because it’s going to be something special that people haven’t seen.”
Orange Is the New Black Season 3 is streaming on Netflix.