‘The Blacklist’: The Real Reason Amir Arison Wants to Talk About Mental Health

For seven seasons, Amir Arison has played FBI techie, Aram Mojtabai, in NBC’s The Blacklist. In real life, the actor is an animal advocate who is passionate about many different organizations and giving back where he can. One platform Arison has touched on is mental health awareness and it comes from a place very close to the star.

Amir Arison had a say in ‘The Blacklist’

The Blacklist
Amir Arison as Aram Mojtabai | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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When The Blacklist premiered in 2013, creators Jon Bokenkamp and John Fox had an idea loosely based on the capture of elusive criminal, Whitey Bulger — whom James Spader’s character, Raymond “Red” Reddington is based on.

The supporting cast wasn’t as clearly thought out, as Amir Arison discovered. At the time, of Arison’s Blacklist audition, the Los Angeles resident had flown out to New York where he appeared in an episode of HBO’s Girls opposite Lena Dunham.

There, Arison was sent into an audition for the third episode of The Blacklist before the pilot aired.

“It was a small sort of part, a computer guy in the FBI,” he told Herald Mail Media. “Honestly, I didn’t want to go in. It wasn’t something new or bigger than I had done.”

He admitted the role felt “kind of basic,” leading him to put his own spin on the audition, which he nailed in one take.

“So I just had fun with it, and added some humor and even improvised a little,” he said.

How Arison knew he landed ‘The Blacklist’

A couple weeks later, Arison got the job but assumed it would only last a couple of episodes — until directors changed the character’s name to reflect Arison’s Israeli roots. The name was originally Morgan Hackett.

When Arison shot his first day, the director instructed him to “do whatever you want, have fun with it, improvise a little with it,” he said, adding he improvised.

“When I saw the episode, I saw they used my improv,” he said. “That’s when the writers were like ‘oh, wait. Who’s that guy? He’s fun.’ So they just started adding me in doing computer stuff as a side character, but they were writing jokes in my natural rhythm. It was kind of a miracle.”

Aside from landing a role in a hit show, Arison’s passion exudes through other avenues of his life, such as his girlfriend and rescue dog, Reina.

How Arison unintentionally made his girlfriend jealous

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Aside from being a successful actor in Hollywood, Arison and his girlfriend adopted a rescue dog named Reina — a 3-year-old Doxie mix whom Arison adopted from SoldiersForStrays in California. He often refers to Reina as “baby girl” or “nugget” — much to his girlfriend’s chagrin.

“My girlfriend gets jealous when I call her ‘baby girl.’ Because my girlfriend wants to be called baby girl,” Arison told Bonobos.

“So now I call them my baby girls,” Arison says, laughing. “I posted a picture when we first got her. I said ‘Find someone you love and hold on tight.’ And it’s me and Reina as a puppy. And my girlfriend was legit upset.”

That aside, Arison is an outspoken advocate for rescue animals as well as another platform that’s near and dear to him (and we hope his girlfriend forgave him).

Why mental health awareness matters to Arison

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As the son of two doctors, Arison is hyper-aware of the importance of mental health awareness brings. The Blacklist‘s success allows him ample room to “raise awareness” about important issues but credits his parents for instilling philanthropy.

“My mom is probably the most generous and charitable person I know,” he said in the same Herald Mail Media interview.

“She’s like semi-retired now and is either traveling, going to opera or giving. She said, ‘Amir, the big secret is I’m the lucky one.’ She’s paid for scholarships and people to go to medical school and supports political organizations and donates to schools and different things.”

Arison’s father, Dr. Ron Arison, is a medical doctor who he sees as the hardest working, kindest person I know.” His mother, Dr. Dr. Zipora Arison, is a psychiatrist who inspires him to speak out about mental health.

“She always said, ‘I’m the one who benefits the most from giving. Whoever receives something, the fact that I get to give is the biggest reward ever. The big secret to charity is that you’re the biggest benefactor for being the benefactor,’” he said. “That’s really stuck with me and it’s really true.”

Arison honored his parents amid the coronavirus pandemic

Back in March, Arison paid tribute to his parents who’ve endured the frontlines of the pandemic.

“#HappyNationalDoctorDay takes on a whole new meaning currently. My parents are doctors, mom is a psychiatrist and dad is a surgeon and my dad is still going to work everyday,” he wrote.

“He explained to me the protocols he takes now, including when he treated a Covid-19 patient yesterday. I am nervous for him, and beyond proud of him. They have always been an example of hard work, dedication, and responsibility. They take great pride in being healers and eventho they are older, that pride and responsibility is still unwavering in the face of today’s epidemic.”

He continued by thanking them and all the “doctors and health care workers, now, and always.”

Clearly, the Arison’s are doing something right. Not only did they raise a hard-working man but a thoughtful, aware, and compassionate one as well. And that is every parent’s goal.