[Interview] We Seriously Love The Bromance Of Jesse Ruben + Zack Weinstein

Photo: (Getty)

Jesse Ruben, 26, and Zack Weinstein, 27, bring a whole new meaning to being BFFs!

A few years back, a then 19-year-old Zack broke his neck while playing in a river with friends and became a quadriplegic. Now he’s a professional actor (did you catch him on “Glee”?!), motivational speaker and Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation ambassador, while Jesse is also an ambassador and volunteers for the foundation. The org is focused on improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis. Why are these guys just so awesome? Because together then turned what could’ve been viewed as a tragedy into hope.

We wanted hear more about Jesse’s music (he’s sung about Zack, of course) and his marathon work as a member of Team Reeve. We also chatted with Zack’s about his acting career and how he pays it forward. They also talk about eliminating the stereotypes that can surround people who use wheelchairs. These guys just might trump Vinny and Pauly D in true bromance.

Jesse Ruben and Zack Weinstein are pretty photogenic dudes. Photo: (Jesse Ruben)

Q&A With Jesse

ACT: What kind of training do you go through to get ready for running a marathon? Can anyone run a marathon? It seems so intimidating!

JESSE: Before I decided to start running marathons for Team Reeve, I had never run more than a mile in gym class. I did not think of myself as a runner or even an athlete (I’m a musician, after all). But they have an amazing support system of trainers and facilities, and I typically train for about 6 months every year. The program calls for 5 short runs a week, plus a long run over the weekend, with mileage gradually increasing until you run 20 miles in week 18. That’s the most you do before the actual race itself, which is 26.2. I actually have to completely change my life around to make it work. I’m a night person, but in the summers, you have to run very early in the morning; otherwise it gets too hot. I also have to change my diet, and don’t go out as much. Sometimes it’s tough because you want to maintain a balance, but my friends understand at this point how important it is, and they’re very supportive.

Yes, I believe anyone can run a marathon. Since I started 3 years ago, I’ve had 10 of my friends complete the race with me (and my twin sister). I’ve had literally hundreds of people tell me that because of my story, they have started running. It is an amazing thing, to know that you are making a difference for people in this way.

ACT: We love your music! What sort of inspiration do you want listeners to take away from it?

JESSE: Hey, thanks! I remember when I was growing up, and I used to listen to music as a reminder that I wasn’t the only one going through a tough time. I try to write about a lot of different topics, so that whatever anyone is going through, good or bad, there will be a song that makes it better.

I also spend a lot of time on the lyrical side of writing, because words and language are so important to me, and I think we’ve sorta gone away from that in popular music recently.

ACT: What stereotypes would you like to take away about people who use wheelchairs?

JESSE: They’re just people, like everyone else. A lot of the time people get uncomfortable when dealing with someone in a chair because they don’t know how to handle it. It’s fine. They’re not helpless; they just need a little bit of help. There’s a difference.

ACT: Do you have any advice for people who want to support a friend who is going through an unexpected change in their life?

JESSE: I think I could literally talk about this forever. What happened to Zack was one of the most life-changing events I will ever deal with. It is impossible to prepare for. It is often scary and frustrating. You feel helpless and guilty. But all you can do is be there, and listen. Love them. You don’t even have to say anything. Just be there and love them. It will eventually get better. Sometimes it takes a long time, but it will.

Jesse Ruben and Zack Weinstein at a Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation gala. Photo credit: (Getty)

Q&A With Zack

ACT: You and Jesse seem so tight. Any advice on finding a great friend that will be on your side?

ZACK: Here’s how you know if you have a true friendship with someone: when you need them or they need you and you call each other up, the answer is “Yes.” And then the question is, “What do you need?”

ACT: You talk about the importance of kindness and paying it forward. How are you paying it forward in your life?

ZACK: One of the great things that has come as a byproduct of the success I’ve had as an actor is that I have fallen into the world of motivational speaking. In the two years I’ve been doing it I have spoken in front of a wide range of audiences from colleges and corporate events to marketing seminars to a group of elder-law attorneys. I love connecting with people from the stage. My speech is about how you don’t have to have a life altering experience to alter your life and I give my audiences tools for navigating the types of challenges that will arise in anyone’s life. Every time I speak in front of a group is a fun, exciting, and powerful experience.

ACT: Congrats on your acting career, and on being in shows like “Glee.” Can you tell us more about that?

ZACK: The role that I get the most attention for and am proudest of was the episode of “Glee.” The other two big TV shows that I have had guest starring roles on are “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds.” The cool thing about “Criminal Minds” was that it was the first role I had that wasn’t originally written for someone who uses a wheelchair. That’s something that I am passionate about developing in this industry. Any character I play will obviously have to use a wheelchair, but I’m always focused on working on and creating roles where the wheelchair isn’t the defining trait or storyline about that character.

ACT: What stereotypes would you like to take away about people who use wheelchairs?

ZACK: Jesse said it perfectly. We are just people. We aren’t helpless; we just might need some help. Sometimes. There’s a difference.

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