Very few people grow up in households that mix Creole cooking with cholent and challah, but Moe Jeudy-Lamour did. Jeudy-Lamour, a charismatic, upbeat actor who is one of the breakout stars of the Apple TV+ hit, Ted Lasso, playing goalie Thierry Zoreaux, has an unusual background: He’s not only a French-Canadian from a Haitian family, but was also raised as an Orthodox Jew for much of his childhood.
Taking a break from packing for a movie shoot that he isn’t allowed to talk about – he’s already at that level of success – he spoke up about growing up in Montreal with a mother who “fell in love with the [Jewish] religion” and was converted by an Orthodox rabbi, raising her sons to be “Shomer Shabbat.”
People often do not believe he is Jewish. “People are like, prove it, prove it and that’s not cool,” he said with a smile. But the truth about his religious identity is complicated, he admits.
“My upbringing was slightly different. I’m in a weird place.” When he and his brother were “very, very young,” his mother, an interior designer who had split up with his father, decided she wanted to become a Jew. “We took the [religious studies] classes for years; we were Shomer Shabbat for 10 or 15 years. To this day, if I call my mom on Saturday she’s not going to answer.”
After taking classes and meeting all other requirements, “We had to see the final rabbi and for my mom he said yes but for my brother and me he said no. And so I’ve always lived in this identity where I was like, I feel like I’m Jewish with everything that I’ve done, but technically, technically, my mother is Jewish, she went into the mikveh (ritual bath), and she is recognized in Israel [as Jewish], it was with a famous rabbi in Montreal and it was the real deal, but my brother and I were not, to them we’re not. So that’s why I was a little bit reluctant to do the interview, because I’m in a weird place... I’m in a place where I am, but I’m not. To this day, I go to the synagogue when I can. My neighbors are Israeli so I do Shabbat dinners with them, I do all the holidays with them.”
Asked whether he was angry at the rabbi who refused to accept him as a convert he said, “I can understand his point of view, you know, for Judaism, not everybody can become a Jew,” and he knows that refusing a would-be convert at least three times is part of the process. He said he was aware that it was considered improper to convert for marriage and he noted that in his mother’s case, there was no man involved. “She felt like she had always been Jewish,” he said. “The rabbi’s point of view was, ‘You’re little kids, you don’t know what you want.’ Little did he know it was part of our identity at that point.” He was so young when his mother began the conversion process, he said, “I didn’t know anything but walking to synagogue on Saturday for the early service, not going to play with my friends because I’m not allowed to carry a ball.” They always went to an Orthodox synagogue, where “our mom was up with the women and we were down, that was my upbringing.”
HE SAID that he still considers going back and doing a full, official conversion, because although he feels “Jewish in my soul,” it concerns him that he is not accepted as Jewish by most religious authorities. But he is a bit conflicted. “It’s such a duality, I’m in my mid-30s, I have been through stuff and I know who I am, but now I have to get recognized by certain people and I’m like, ah, I don’t want to do that... Sometimes I think I should just do that, go into the mikveh and then it would be official... I definitely will have to do it.”
Told that being conflicted about Jewish identity is one of the hallmarks of being Jewish, he laughs long and hard.
And being Jewish is just one of his many identities. Asked whether he feels Canadians tend to be hyperaware of who is Canadian, just as Jews like to know who is Jewish, he agrees: “Even more so with French-Canadians.” He remembers being in Vancouver years ago, the furthest he had ever been from home at that time, and hearing French-Canadians speaking. “I just got goosebumps... These are French-Canadians. This is home! I loved it.”
He grew up loving movies, especially action movies like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Predator, which he and his brother watched on TV – they were allowed to watch television on Shabbat using a timer, he said – and Die Hard with Bruce Willis. But he also enjoyed French comedies with Louis de Funes and was especially fond of The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob. “Every time I watch it, I think of my mom’s cooking on Shabbos... It was such a good time. We had the challah for sure, every Saturday, but she would still make Haitian food. At the synagogue we had Ashkenazi food, we’re Ashkenazi.”
But he never dreamed he could make it as an actor and was in school and working at Best Buy when he ran into the actor Orlando Jones, who was in Montreal making a movie, and encouraged him to give the profession a try. He studied acting and eventually, he got a part in one of the X-Men movies and asked everyone on the set for advice, including Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. He attributes his current success to the fact that, “I always listened to the advice I got.” The two most important pieces of advice were to always say yes to every project offered and “not to be the bad guy.”
Jeudy-Lamour is definitely one of the good guys, and it is fitting that he has broken through on the series, Ted Lasso, in which Jason Sudeikis stars as a sweet-natured American football coach who goes to England to manage a soccer team. Released during the beginning of the pandemic, it ended up winning seven Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series, and receiving widespread praise as a feel-good series in a tough time.
He is especially effusive when he talks about Sudeikis, whom he first met when both of them appeared in the Jesse Owens biopic, Race. “Jason is one of the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life and everyone says great things about him. That’s why he keeps working, because he’s a very, very good person. And he’s a genius.” The Ted Lasso cast has become like family to him. “Everybody is a great person, we’re all super close.” They play FIFA together on Xbox, he said, which helped him learn about soccer, since he had never played it growing up.
Although he always enjoyed working on the series, its success took him by surprise. “It’s completely insane. Never, ever would we have thought it would become this big.”
Asked whether he would consider going to Israel to make a movie, he said, “That would be amazing! I would love to.”