The Ziv Zaifman Experience


Ian Kim, Staff Writer

Control what you can control. This is what actor and singer Ziv Zaifman (’22) espouses.

Zaifman, a junior at Tenafly High School, has had quite the experience in mainstream entertainment. He has had roles in shows like The Blacklist and Search Party, as well as his most significant role: singing a song in The Greatest Showman, a movie that made $435 million at the box office worldwide. The song, “A Million Dreams,” has over 338 million plays on Spotify, and is certified Platinum by the RIAA. When asked how this song changed his life, Zaifman said he appreciates the unique experience he got to have. He also added, “It’s usually now the first thing people think of when they think of me, since it was such a big thing. It’s attached to me and going to come with me for the rest of my life.”

Zaifman’s success didn’t come overnight, though. The actor recalls his first audition as horrible. “I don’t even remember that much, but my mom told me I was shaking the whole time in the waiting room,” he said. “Then I had to sing a song, and I forgot the lyrics midway through the song. So I started coughing on purpose so they would stop it, and I asked for some water.” Naturally, he didn’t land this specific role, but Zaifman used this failure as a lesson and motivation. “From that, I eventually realized you can’t land every audition. There’s no chance. You just have to control what you can control. That first audition I cared way too much. I was asking myself, ‘Did I do good?’ ‘Did they like it?’ You can’t care about that stuff because it’s going to mess with your head.” Zaifman’s words of advice to younger actors who struggle with auditions was, “When you’re auditioning, your confidence should be as high as possible because they either are going to love or hate you and most of the time it doesn’t have anything to do with what you did. It’s just ‘do you fit the role or not?’” This determined mindset helped Zaifman to land his roles and be as successful as he is. 

When dialing it back to the high school scene, Zaifman talked about the importance of early experience. He got to have two roles in school productions during his freshman year, both of which he cited as “more of a background character with fewer lines.” Nonetheless, he still saw the value in these roles.“Even being a background character with fewer lines will give you a great experience. I have had two high school shows already with not a lot of lines, but I still had so much fun and gave me a lot of experience and confidence for later on when I did have a bigger role.” The bigger role he referred to was his role as Mr. Green in the Clue stage production at Tenafly High School. The role of Mr. Green was a socially awkward man, who was jittery and antsy. Zaifman warmly opened up about this role, explaining how the comedia stance of his character was especially amusing. “[The role] was fun because a lot of people in the audience were laughing in a good way and that made me feel good that I was able to make people laugh with not even specific lines, but all the different mannerisms I was doing.” Zaifman attributed his ability to thrive in main roles like this to his willingness to take somewhat of a backseat in earlier shows in order to learn and develop his skills. 

One of the mainstream roles Zaifman played was being a bully on the show Search Party. Similar to his role of Mr. Green in Clue, the bully was a persona that Zaifman had no real connection to in terms of similarity. “One of the things I liked about playing this part was that it had nothing to do with any personal experiences. I was never a bully to anyone,” he said. This stark contrast between the roles he plays and his own true character serves to show what is so special about acting and what it means to Zaifman. “This ties to why I like acting because you can be whatever and whoever you want, in terms of different roles. It doesn’t have to be something you ever experienced.”

Zaifman has a bright career ahead of him, but he doesn’t want to force it. “I definitely want to continue acting and singing in college,” he said, but his intention won’t be to make a career out of it, but rather to continue acting for the enjoyment of it. Although he still has the dream to be a successful actor, he made it clear that he won’t be forcing anything and intends to mainly see how everything plays out. “For the future, yeah, I do want to keep auditioning for stuff. I can say that I want to be an actor, but it’s hard at times, so I will see how everything goes.” 

Control what you can control. The motto from Zaifman is both sensible as well as illustrative of his willingness to work hard to achieve his goals. It is clear that, whether it be in entertainment or any other industry, Zaifman is sure to have success in life with his work ethic and a positive mindset.