“9-1-1 Lone Star” clearly celebrates diversity. The TV drama focuses on the first responders in the police and fire departments of Austin, Texas. Featuring cast and characters that are African American, Latino, Muslim, gay and transgender, “Lone Star” defies – and redefines – stereotypes. For Ronen Rubinstein [Dead of Summer], who portrays Tyler Kennedy “T.K.” Strand, an openly gay firefighter and son of Rob Lowe’s Captain Owen, that representation couldn’t be more timely.
“It’s extremely important, especially with everything that is going on in the world and our country,” Rubinstein tells ET Canada. “Now, more than ever, we need to showcase those people on a wide spectrum like network television. We have access to so many people that are seeing themselves for the first time ever. The fact that creator Ryan Murphy was able to accomplish this on network television.
“At this point in my career, I want to tell stories that are important and crucial to human beings, and the human beings that are watching it and are connecting with it, especially with everything we are going through,” he adds.
T.K.’s main squeeze on the show, Carlos [Rafael L. Silva], is a police officer. The couple, dubbed “Tarlos” by fans, took some big steps in their romance lately. The two moved in together and Carlos introduced T.K. to his parents.
“From the story perspective, it’s a really beautiful and well-paced relationship,” Rubinstein says. “I am glad that they didn’t give the fans everything immediately and let them breathe and have some space to evolve. We’ve obviously seen the ups and downs of T.K. and Carlos. It feels really realistic, authentic and refreshing.”
“And from an acting perspective, Rafael has become a dear friend of mine,” he adds. “We’ve become extremely close over the past two seasons. That kind of relationship involves a lot of trust and honesty. We’ve brought that for each other, literally since the chemistry read. I’m glad we can continue doing that. Maybe we will see a wedding down the line or maybe an adoption. The sky is the limit for them.”
Part of “Lone Star”’s heat can be attributed to T.K. and Carlos. In the pilot, the two ripped off each other’s clothes before thrashing around the room. Two weeks ago, the duo once again steamed up the screen in some scorching bedroom action. Rubinstein notes those sequences “come with the territory.”
“For some reason in my career, they like to throw me in intimate scenes, and they enjoy undressing me,” Rubinstein explains with a laugh. “It’s not really new to me. As long as you treat it with respect and are not immature about it, at the end of the day, you are working. I don’t mind them. I’ve been doing them pretty much since my first gig.”
The other element that causes temperatures to rise are those crazy circumstances the characters find themselves in. Sure, there are plenty of blazes to put out, but Rubinstein ranks a season-one rescue, involving a man suffocating in corn, among his favourite stunts.
“The grain silo was really neat because I’ve definitely never been in that situation,” he reports. “I always like fight scenes. I had a cool fight scene in season one. Even the argument I had with Carlos where we were pushing and shoving, that was pretty intense. You can’t really fake that. It feels real. Your body doesn’t know you are acting.”
In the season finale, “Dust to Dust”, it’s all hands on deck. A massive dust storm wreaks havoc when it hits Texas. So where does T.K. fit into all the chaos?
“The interesting thing is now I am a paramedic,” Rubinstein says. “We will see how much of the action I’m in and we will see how much I am dealing with emotional action, specifically with my new captain, Tommy Vega [Gina Torres]. You will see T.K. in a different sort of intense action. It’s something I am really proud of. You will see a different side of T.K.”
“Lone Star” marks the Israeli-American actor’s highest-profile project to date, but the show also proved to be an awakening of sorts. This past April, the 27-year-old came out as bisexual. Rubinstein says the liberating declaration was inspired “in almost every way” by his current role.
“It was a beautiful mixture of playing T.K. and the safe, welcome, inclusive environment I was in,” Rubinstein offers. “And then the fans. The last kick in the ass for me to be brave was the fans. A lot of them are kids, are young, and I have been connecting with them for over two years. I hear their extremely personal and intimate stories. They felt like they are able to open up to me. I felt like the least I could do is be honest with them and open up to them. It’s a beautiful relationship I have developed with the fans. Ever since I came out, the stories I am hearing…
“I can’t tell you how many people have had the courage to come out since I have come out,” he continues. “That was a big part of why I did it. If everything was utopian and the LGBTQ community wasn’t still under attack, maybe I wouldn’t be as vocal. Maybe I would be a little more private, but that’s not the case. We need to make sure people feel safe and heard and know that it’s OK to who you are.”
In addition to “Lone Star”, Rubinstein keeps busy as an ambassador for The Ocean Cleanup organization and Project Zero movement. He also advocates for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the No Kid Hungry campaign, Feeding America and Mercy for Animals, to name a few causes. Rubinstein says it’s been rewarding to use his voice for these relevant issues.
“I’ve been waiting most of my career to be able to have the opportunity to do this,” Rubinstein explains. “Everything fell into place in 2016. When ‘Dead of Summer’ came out, I had a small platform, but I sill had a platform where people wanted to know my thoughts and my beliefs. I started back then. I needed to be able to reach more people. I needed to work with these incredible companies.
“This is what I wanted to use my sort of celebrity and reach for, was to save the planet that we live on,” he adds. “Again, if we were in a perfect world, maybe this isn’t what I would be talking about. But that’s not the case at all. We are kind of running out of time.”
Rubinstein only wrapped filming the season finale just over a week ago. And with it being a tough year of quarantining, social-distancing and safety precautions on set, now that restrictions are beginning to ease, what is he looking forward to doing most this summer?
“I… bought Kings of Leon tickets for September,” Rubinstein says. “They are having a concert at the Forum, which is one of the most iconic stadiums in Los Angeles. The thing that I miss the most is concerts. Music is my first love. Concerts is probably my favourite place to be. Kings of Leon is my favourite band of all time. They just released what I think is their best album.”
He concludes, “The fact that we are able to have concerts and movie theatres and restaurants, and all the things we took for granted a year and a half ago, something that was so normal… We never thought twice about, ‘What if this was all taken away from us?’ I probably speak for a lot of people, but there will be a newfound gratitude for these things. I know I am going to enjoy that concert like it’s my last.”