Reconnecting with his Jewish heritage was part of the creative process for Seth Rogen on his new comedy, An American Pickle.
For one, the actor learned to speak Yiddish for the first time for the film.
“I had heard [Yiddish] my whole life, but I did not know it,” Rogen said Tuesday during the film’s virtual premiere, in a 30-minute Q&A following the screening.
“I did have to learn it, basically phonetically, for the movie. It’s a really hard language to learn.”
Rogen plays two characters in the film: Herschel Greenbaum, an early 1900s Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who wakes up to a modern day New York City after being preserved for 100 years after falling into a barrel of pickles, and his great-grandson Ben, an app developer in Brooklyn.
“Yiddish was spoken in my household. My grandparents spoke Yiddish,” Rogen said.
“They mostly swore in Yiddish and said terrible things to one another that they didn’t want me to understand. Yiddish was, largely, a language based on profanity and insulting other family members.”
He joked, “A lot of Jews can probably relate to that.”
An American Pickle, which is now on HBO Max as the streamer’s first original feature film, speaks to some of the identity issues and personal challenges Jewish immigrants faced upon arriving in the country a century ago and how life has changed for their descendants generations later.