Gaël Zaks was born in June 29th, 1985 and is a French-American actor and director. He studies at the prestigious “Lee Strasberg Theater Institute” in New York. He starts his movie career in “Celebrity” by Woody Allen, “Sins of Fate” by Sal Anthony then “Stepmom” by Chris Colombus, etc.
He also shoots for television and plays at the theater. He moves to France and shoots television series such as “Largo Winch”, “Profiling Paris”, “Playground” etc. He’s been playing the character of “Ben” in the french hit comedy serie “Scènes de ménages” since 2016. In films, he shoots “Paris la Métisse” by Karim Bensalah, “Journal IV” by Matthieu Gérauld etc.
In 2018 he is the character of “Stephen Boyd” in “Mrs. Mills” by and with Sophie Marceau. As a director, his first film “Une douce jeunesse” (Sweet one youth) is awarded abroad and chosen as one the French film of the year. His second film, shot in English and produced in the UK “In the Daze of things” is many time awarded in numerous festivals around the globe.
We had the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with Gael Zaks.
1. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Gael Zaks: I grew up without TV at home. It was my parents’s choice. So I would walk to my grandma’s apartment to watch it. One day an old film was playing…’In the heat of the night’. I couldn’t get my eyes off the lead character, the emotions he was gathering and his charisma…Mr Sidney Poitier. Something got enlightened in me and I decided I wanted to do like him! Be an actor!
2. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Gael Zaks: I was still in Theatre school in New York at Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute.
One day I walk into a Staples store with my résumé. I was waiting on line. The guy right behind me was holding a script. I got my the copies of my résumé done, I was about to walk out but something in me me was pushing me into going to talk to that guy! I was shaking inside.
He explained to me that he was a director, that was his script, that they were starting to shoot in 10 days but the casting was done. I asked him if he didn’t mind taking me résumé for we never know, and other time. A week later I got a phone call from a production with sides to learn.
When the production doors opened he was standing there: Mr Sal Anthony! I auditioned. And right after He told me I got the part! That’s how I shot the film ‘Sins of fate’.
3. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Gael Zaks: Ah ah this one is a biiiiiig oneJ!!!
My agent had gotten me a 45 min interview face to face to the amazing British director ‘Roland Joffé’. I get there and right away the casting director briefs me. He tells me it’s a period piece so I had to pick up a British accent!
Inside I was panicking, I knew I was incapable of picking up a proper British accent plus I though Roland Joffé was American not British. So 5 min before entering the room, I went in a corner to rehearse to myself trying to put on a very very bad British accent.
I walked in the room, I sat. I started talking with that miserable accent I had picked. Roland Joffé started looking at me in a very strange way. He started talking and there I heard he was not American but British!! I thought I was gonna die.
He asked me very nicely where I was from and in between my teeth I whispered…New York. He just told me ‘You have a very strange accent for a New Yorker!! Ah Ah. The interview lasted 5 min instead of 45!! I hated myself for months but I learned one great lesson: Always be YOURSELF!!
4. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Gael Zaks: In June 2021 I’m starting to shoot the lead role of Elon, who’s got a bi-polar syndrome in an International thriller called ‘Roads of fear’ directed by Emmanuel Saez. In the middle of the shooting they’ll shave my head and half my face will be tattooed (Fake ones of courseJ). The script is not only about action it is psychologically brilliant! I can’t wait!
5. Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Gael Zaks: When I was a student in Lee Strasberg I had a small job on the side. Being half French by my mother and speaking the language helped to get a receptionist job on the upper east side in New York at the French Alliance. One day Kevin Kline walked in and went up the stairs. I couldn’t believe it!!
I was not supposed to leave my desk for any reason! I waited for him to walk down, it took 2 hours. When I saw him, I left my desk and want up to him right away! I told him I was a young actor still in school and I would love to get advice from me. He just smiled at me and said’ Are you here Thursday at 2pm? I said yes. He told me ‘I’ll see you there then.
Of course, that Thursday at 2 pm I was there behind my desk my heart beating super-fast. I thought he’d never showed…But he did and on time.
He just told me ‘Like go for a walk to talk’. I left my desk right away not caring a bit if I was gonna get fired or not. (I actually didn’t) We walked and talked on the street for 45 min!! He was kind, gave me great advices such as: Be yourself no matter what and never give up! I never saw him again but I still thank him!!
6. Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Gael Zaks: The pleasure!!! It’s a hard job and an even harder industry. You’ll need a lot of times to go beyond your limits to get things or not get them. But during each step of the way remind yourself what brought you here: The pleasure! The passion and the desire to give to the world. These are endless fuel in your journey.
7. You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Gael Zaks: Failure is part of the game and I would even say is necessary! Because to walk this journey you need to be strong capable to welcome success like failure, learn from it and go ahead!!
8. Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
Gael Zaks: The instrument of a violinist is his violin. An actor? …His body, mind and soul. So my routine is that I don’t always have the date of my net job so like a violinist I prepare myself everyday as if it could be the next day. I work out to have a fit body 5 times a week, I feed my body and my brain with healthy food and very important I stay away from toxic people who might drag me down because my positive energy is for me and my job. Any routine that brings you joy and self-discipline, use it!!!
9. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
Gael Zaks: No one told me I would need these important tools so I’ll tell you:
Self-discipline, constancy in your efforts, never ever listen to people who want to discourage you (And you’ll find a lot of them along the way), always trust your instinct, Never ever lose one inch of your dreams!!!!
They are sacred!! And go get them!! A short story about that. Years ago, Quentin Tarantino was in town shooting 5 blocks from my home. I told my friends I was gonna go and get an interview with him by myself! Everyone (my own friends) made fun of me or simply called me crazy!! 3 hours later, I had passed all the security on set, the bodyguards, the 1st and the army of assistants and I had an official face to face meeting with Mr Tarantino!! Always believe in yourself!
10. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Gael Zaks: My ‘’Life lesson quote’’ comes from Nelson Mandela. For 30 years, that great man in his tiny cell repeated to himself the words of a British poet…’I’m the captain of my Soul, I’m the Master of my Destiny’’. That quote participated to changing my life in a positive way majorly.
11. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Gael Zaks: The story is definitely the one I mentioned earlier with Kevin Kline. It was like the strength of a positive earthquake that helped me for years! Otherwise I would definitely name my mother and my step-dad. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and they gave the greatest gift: They told me I was capable to achieve all my dreams and they’re still by my side today!! I’ll never thank them enough!!
12. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Gael Zaks: Definitely the defense of women! In our civilized societies, it is unthinkable that women are still not treated equal as men! Unthinkable that they earn less money for the same job and over the top, tired after a day of work have to deal with constant harassment on the streets or even worse!!
13. We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Gael Zaks: Wow!! There are so many super talented people I would love to have lunch with…But the first one who comes in my mind and my guts is Mr. Steven Spielberg!! For the man he is, for that tremendous respect he seems to have for dreams!!
14. How can our readers follow you online?
Gael Zaks: They can follow me on: