Jaime Ray Newman and her husband, Israeli director Guy Nattiv, won the Academy Award for best live action short in Los Angeles on Sunday evening. It was the first major award for either of the pair, although Newman has been a Hollywood staple for many years.
In the press room after their win, Newman was asked about their film Skin – about an American neo-Nazi – and its political implications today.
“I don’t think that we were trying to make a political statement necessarily,” she said. “Guy is the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors; he grew up with stories about the Holocaust. I’m Jewish as well, and I think that we just deeply wanted to explore in the short... [how] what you teach your children is going to perpetuate [into] the next generation. We have a five-month-old, so we see [that] she’s a sponge, and everything we do, she inherits.”
Born into a Jewish family in Michigan, Newman attended the Hillel Day School of Greater Detroit as a child. Her first major role came in 2001, when she was cast in the daytime soap opera General Hospital. She later had small roles in the films Catch Me if You Can and Made of Honor, and in 2006, landed a recurring role in the TV series Veronica Mars. Newman has also appeared in the series Eastwick, Eureka, Drop Dead Diva, and more recently the Netflix show The Punisher.
In late 2017, Newman also made headlines when she was one of several women who accused director and producer Brett Ratner of inappropriate sexual conduct. Newman spoke out to the Los Angeles Times at the time, and recounted that Ratner sat next to her on a flight, and began “loudly describing sex acts he wanted to perform on her in explicit detail,” an encounter which, she said, left her shaken.
Actress Olivia Munn, who was also one of Ratner’s accusers, paid tribute to Newman after her Oscar win.
“Bravery runs through her veins,” Munn wrote on Twitter. “So happy for @JaimeRayNewman + Guy Nattiv,” she added, using the hashtag “#SilenceBreaker.”
The film Skin, which Newman produced alongside her husband, was a very different project for the actress from her usual fare.
“The cinema we love explores the darkest corners of the mind,” she told the Detroit Jewish News earlier this month. “We want to make art that evokes thought and debate. We want it to stir something.”
Newman and Nattiv met in 2009 in Israel, and maintained a long distance relationship for several years before getting married in Tel Aviv in 2012 and then settling in Los Angeles.
The couple’s baby, Alma Ness, was born five months ago in Los Angeles. Alma is a popular Israeli name, while “ness” means miracle. Last month, Newman wrote on Instagram that the family had been planning to visit Israel – for Alma’s first-ever trip – but had to cancel when the baby got sick.
Last year, Newman shared a moving Instagram post about Alma’s birth.
“In August of 2013, after three years in a long distance relationship with my love Guy, he finally moved from Israel to LA,” she wrote. “I was nine months pregnant, and within a few days, the contractions came. We arrived beyond excited to the maternity ward at Cedars Sinai – where the worst happened to us. There was no heartbeat, and we lost our baby girl in a stillbirth.
“After a year of shock, subsequent years of IVF treatments and four more miscarriages, we lost hope.” But, Newman added, Alma Ness was born via a surrogate on Yom Kippur eve, “as the Kol Nidre prayer was heard in synagogues around the world.”
“An inexplicable happiness overwhelms us, so we have decided to share our incredible miracle that could have only happened through science and love,” she added. “Shana Tova, have a beautiful year, and never lose hope.”An earlier version of this article claimed that Newman had accused Ratner of sexual assault. That was a mistake and has been corrected.