Jews in the News: Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and David H. Steinberg

Game of Thrones Mania

This month’s top TV event will be the return, on April 14, of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” (“GOT”) for its six-episode, 8th and final season. GOT creators DAVID BENIOFF and D. B. WEISS, both 48, wrote many past season GOT episodes and they are the credited writers for all but the first episode of the final season. They also co-directed the sixth and final episode.

MIGUEL SAPOCHNIK, 44, directed 8th season episodes 3 and 5. Sapochnik is an English Jew of Argentine Jewish ancestry. In the show’s first seven seasons, he directed four GOT episodes, including the great “Hardhome” episode in season 5 and the stupendous “Battle of the Bastards” episode in season 6 (for which he won the Emmy for best director). His wife of 13 years is actress ALEXIS RABEN, 38, a Russian Jew who grew-up in America. She now has a recurring role as “Rhom” on the SyFy cable series “Krypton.” 

The two Jewish actors in the GOT cast I know of are PAUL KAYE, 54, and ANTON LESSER, 67. Kaye’s character, Thoros of Myr, a priest with the “Brotherhood without Banners”, died fighting the dead “north of the Wall” last season. Lesser plays Qyburn, a learned man who is evil Queen Cersei’s “Hand” (chief advisor and henchman).

GOT is full of plot lines in which characters discover previously unknown parentage and/or family ties. Here are two real ones:  (1) David Benioff was born David Friedman. He decided to use his mother’s maiden name (Benioff) as his pen name because there was already a published author named David Friedman. David Benioff shares a maternal great-grandfather with MARC BENIOFF, 54, a mega-philanthropist and multi-billionaire who is the CEO of Salesforce, a software company. This past year Marc bought “Time” magazine. These two overachievers, who are both practicing Jews, became aware of each other and their family ties after they both became quite famous. They met for the first time three years ago. If David had not chosen to use his mother's maiden name, the two Benioffs never would have connected; and (2) George R. R. Martin, the author of the GOT novels, was on the PBS ancestry series “Finding Your Roots” this season. He didn’t know of any Jewish ancestry until DNA tests done by the program revealed that his paternal grandfather was an unknown Ashkenazi Jew with whom his grandmother apparently had an extra-marital affair. For Martin, it must have been a case of his life imitating his art.

Old Folks Cute

On March 29, CARL REINER, 97, tweeted this to Doris Day: “Congratulations on joining us 97-year-old show folk”. He signed his tweet: “Carl Reiner, screenwriter of our 1963 venture, ‘The Thrill of it All.’”  Day, whose 97th birthday was April 3, tweeted back, “Thank you for inviting me.”

Reiner is about to release a new book entitled, “Scrunched Celebrity Photos Hand Scrunched by Carl Reiner”.  Recent entries on his Twitter feed include notes about his daily schedule, which includes watching “Jeopardy” almost every night with MEL BROOKS, 92, and his three daily walks—“walking through every room on the 2nd floor of my house.”

Sounds like Good Family Fun

“No Good Nick,” a sit-com, starts on Netflix on April 15. Nicole, aka Nick, is a 13-year-old girl who infiltrates a family with the intention of getting revenge for them unintentionally ruining her life. As she gets to know, and like them, she struggles with whether she’ll go through with her plan. The series was co-created by, and is produced by DAVID H. STEINBERG, 49. He has written and/or produced many comedies.

The co-stars include two persons with odd Jewish backgrounds: Sean Astin, 48, and KALAMA EPSTEIN, 19. Epstein, who was born and raised in Hawaii, has a Jewish father. His mother, who isn’t Jewish, has some native Hawaiian royal ancestors. At least once, Epstein has referred to himself as “Jewish.”

Astin, the son of the late Patty Duke, is best known for playing Samwise Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings” films. Sean long thought Desi Arnaz, Jr. or “Addams Family” star John Astin, 89, his adoptive father, was his biological father. Then, by chance, he learned in 1994 that his mother was married to MICHAEL TELL, now 70ish, for 13 days in 1970. DNA tests revealed that Tell was his biological father. Tell and Sean Astin hit it off and are on good terms. Tell inherited the Las Vegas Jewish paper from his parents and was its publisher until 2009.


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