Two weeks ago, we introduced American Jewish Heritage Month – which focuses this year on the world of entertainment – with a look at talented actors who grew up in Connecticut. This week, we take a look at two more of our homegrown “stars.”
Hometown: Stamford / West Hartford
Harrison Greene grew up in Stamford. He and started performing at age seven in Curtain Call Performing Arts improv classes, and then in school plays, summer theatre, chorus, and band. He moved with his family to West Hartford in 2004, the summer before his freshman year at Hall High School. Raised in a Conservative Jewish home, Greene was a member of USY and volunteered in the community through the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. After graduating, Greene attended UConn, where he participated in the campus Hillel and earned a BFA in acting.
“Being Jewish has had a major impact on me and has certainly influenced my work,” he says. “It plays a part in my creating a character and in the way I think and react to certain material. Understanding who I am as a person and seeing where I stand socially is necessary for being an actor. And of course, there is the influence of many Jewish people in show business. Growing up, I was inspired by the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, and Dustin Hoffman, to name a few.”
Now 23, Greene recently performed in No One Is”at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre. He is a member of a new independent sketch-comedy team, Nerds On Fire, based at the Peoples Improv Theater in Manhattan. This spring, he is acting in a short film being produced in Connecticut.
Born in Princeton, N.J. in 1965, Jessica Hecht was three when she moved with her parents and sister to Bloomfield. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and both remarried. Her mother and step-father still live in Bloomfield; her father and step-mother live in Stamford.
Raised in a “pretty secular home,” Hecht sought out religious education at Congregation Tikvoh Chadoshoh in Bloomfield. “I always gravitated toward the synagogue,” she says. “I was part of an incredibly warm and wonderful Jewish community.” Hecht describes herself as “organically spiritual.”
While a student at Bloomfield High School, Hecht taught drama at Camp Shalom at the Greater Hartford Jewish Community Center (now the Mandell JCC) and acted in school plays, though she didn’t aspire to be a professional actor until university. She attended Connecticut College for two years before transferring to the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she earned a BFA in drama in 1987.
Hecht was a featured cast-member in the Jonathan Silverman sitcom, The Single Guy, and has made appearances in other TV shows, including ER, Seinfeld, Once and Again, Law & Order, Bored to Death, The Good Wife, Desperate Housewives, and The Big Bang Theory. She played a recurring role on Friends as Susan Bunch, the lesbian life partner of Ross Geller’s ex-wife Carol Willick, and currently has a semi-recurring role as Gretchen Schwartz in Breaking Bad.
Her films include Sideways, Anarchy TV, Kicking and Screaming, and The Town. Hecht starred in a supporting role as Amy Burns in the 2007 comedy-drama Dan in Real Life, co-starring with Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche, and in 2009’s Whatever Works, directed by Woody Allen.
A Tony Award nominee, Hecht has appeared on Broadway in Harvey, and A View from the Bridge, and is currently starring in The Assembled Parties. She will co-host the 58th Annual Obie Awards on May 20.