Adding to his fame as a talented reggae singer, Matisyahu recently made his big-screen debut in The Possession, a horror movie wherein he plays a Chassidic Jew named Tzadok who is assigned to perform an exorcism on a little girl who has been possessed by a dybbuk (evil spirit). Speaking to Robert DeSalvo of nextmovie.com, the religiously observant performer revealed that he had done some acting as a young man before becoming a professional musician, so the process of taking on a leading role in a studio motion picture was not totally foreign to him. In particular, he noted that his immersion for over a decade in Chassidic life both in Israel and Brooklyn gave him a lot of familiarity with the Orthodox community that was useful for his role in The Possession.
Matisyahu further related that it was relatively easy for him to act as a rabbi’s son who is on the fringe of the religious community, given the singer’s own recent tendency to modify his outward appearance and tailor his adherence to Orthodox strictures according to his distinctive personality and evolving view of life. “My character is a little different in that he’s grown up within that world and he is also the son of a rabbi who is the leader of that community,” said the singer, who first took on Orthodoxy as a young man. “Tzadok has to make the decision whether or not to follow the tradition and the word. Tzadok’s human and empathetic nature is to help the family (of the possessed girl) whether or not they are religious, Jewish or from his community. I was brought up in a different way, so that was not a new decision for me, but I did find myself immersed within their world and living within a Chassidic neighborhood.”
Amplifying on his personal inner struggles over the years, Matisyahu added, “There was a time when I was fighting with the decision as to whether or not a Chassidic man could go out and have a music career in the world and be involved in pop culture. For me, I was able to bring those two things together for quite some time.”
The popular performer noted that – in his studies of Kabbalah – he had learned about “angels, spirits and demons,” but he was not familiar with the concept of a dybbuk, his otherworldly nemesis in the movie. Speaking separately with Rick Florino of artistdirect.com, he expounded on the overall phenomenon of a person’s soul becoming possessed by an evil spirt. “I see it very much as a real thing. We all have demons,” Matisyahu said. “We have our dybbuk box where we take the darkness or the negative aspects of our lives and try to lock them away. Sometimes, curiosity or even something pure within drives us to open up that box. Once it’s opened, those demons will come out. It’s easy to slip into that darkness and let demons eat at you and take your life force away from you. In real life, the way to battle that was and continues to be prayer and tapping into my roots through the Hebrew language. It’s one of the methods in which I do battle with my own personal demons.”