Steve Carell Isn’t Jewish: Why He Was Cast as Alan Strauss in ‘The Patient’

Like Will Ferrell in The Shrink Next Door, Steve Carell plays a Jewish character in The Patient, but the actor is not Jewish. Discover what religion Carell practices, plus why showrunners decided to cast The Office actor as Dr. Alan Strauss in the Hulu series. 

[SPOILER ALERT: Mild spoilers ahead for The Patient Episodes 1 and 2, “Intake” and “Alan Learns to Meditate.”]

Dr. Alan Strauss (Steve Carell) in Hulu's 'The Patient'
Steve Carell as Alan Strauss | Suzanne Tenner/FX

Steve Carell was raised Roman Catholic 

While promoting the 2007 film Evan Almighty, Carell addressed his religion to Collider. “I’m Catholic, but I don’t really feel this is a platform to talk about my own personal beliefs,” he told the outlet at the time. 

“I’m Catholic, born and bred,” Carell elaborated to Cinema promoting the same film. “It’s interesting because that really didn’t come into play when doing [Evan Almighty].”

He continued: “I didn’t decide to do it because I’m Catholic, I just thought it had a nice message. And I don’t see it as a religious movie, it a film about kindness and being aware of the earth and the environment. It’s also about one man’s self-discovery and his journey to learn what’s important to him and how he can do his own small thing.” 

‘The Patient’s Alan Strauss wasn’t always a Jewish character 

The psychological thriller The Patient follows therapist Alan Strauss (Carell) who is held prisoner by a patient, Sam Fortner (Domhnall Gleeson). Sam, who initially introduces himself as Gene, quickly reveals he is a serial killer who wants Alan to help him curb his homicidal urges.

Sam (Domhnall Gleeson) talks with Alan (Steve Carell) in the first episode of 'The Patient'
Domhnall Gleeson as Sam Fortner and Steve Carell as Alan Strauss | Suzanne Tenner/FX

During the Television Critics Association summer press tour, producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg explained the origins of the character Alan. “When we came up with the original idea, the character wasn’t originally Jewish,” Weisberg said (via Variety). “And then you start, as you always do, looking for ways to add specificity and depth.”

Weisberg said they came up with the idea to make Alan Jewish “pretty quickly.” For them, Alan’s Judaism allowed them to tap into their own experiences and add dimension to The Patient. 

‘The Patient’ showrunners cast Steve Carell because he’s just ‘pretending’

As Weisberg put it, “casting Steve … our feeling has always been, as television writers, that we’re kind of in an area where people are pretending to be other people.” He and Fields understand some might feel differently about a Catholic actor being cast as a Jewish character. They both respect that opinion!

However, Fields and Weisberg are only trying to “amplify our common humanity” with The Patient. “That’s something Steve does brilliantly in this part and Domhnall does brilliantly in his part,” Fields said. “And we hope that’s ultimately what people take away from the specifics that are in the show.”

Ezra’s Orthodox Judaism is crucial to the story in ‘The Patient’

According to Hulu, Alan grapples with the “painful estrangement from his religious son, Ezra” (Andrew Leeds). In the first episode, “Intake,” Alan misses his deceased wife, Beth (Laura Neimi). He visits the pawn shop where Ezra works and tries giving him the guitar his wife once played.

“I don’t really play anymore,” Ezra tells him. In another scene from episode 2, Alan recalls meeting Ezra’s Orthodox partner, Chava (Amy Handelman). That relationship is a point of contention for Beth, who struggles to cut the dessert Chava brings and later throws against the wall. 

“I’m upset too but we need to let him be,” Alan tells his wife in the flashback. “Oh please, don’t tell me you don’t hate this as much as I do,” she replies. Alan adds: “He’s rebelling — everyone does it.” Clearly, this scene is a pivotal moment in Alan and Beth’s relationship that we’ll unpack further along in The Patient. 

Watch The Patient on Hulu

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