April 7 2021 is a day 9-1-1: Lone Star actor Ronen Rubinstein will never forget; it's the day he came out as bisexual, a day when the time was right and he felt "comfortable and safe" - and one he now sees as his "calling". A year on, the 28-year-old admits he still feels disbelief when he considers the impact his decision had on fans across the globe, and how his continued activism and desire to communicate directly can help people.
"There is a boy in Canada who I call my real life TK, his journey is very similar and I inspired him to move away from his small town in Canada to Vancouver where I knew he would feel more included and welcomed," Ronen tells HELLO! "His mom used to always tell him to be 'be extraordinary' and now he has those words, in my handwriting, tattooed on him."
"I fully embrace it and I think I understand what it means, and that it is something that is a calling. I feel comfortable doing it and it sounds cheesy but I am helping people - and it is because all I did was play a firefighter on a TV show. I embrace it and take great joy in it."
HELLO! meets Ronen in the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles At Beverly Hills on a Friday morning in early May. The night before he had been at an event with stylist and close friend Chaise Dennis, but he bounces in with an iced coffee in hand, wearing a vintage tee and loose pants.
Season three had wrapped filming earlier that week and Ronen shares he has been feeling "a big sense of relief".
"I feel like season three was the most difficult by far," he says. "It's the first time we've had 18 episodes, and I had the most emotional and physical crazy stuff this season and it kicked my butt. So I am relieved in that sense and I am ready for time off."
Ronen wears FrankieShop Jacket, Bottega Veneta Tee, Cos Trousers and VRAI Jewelry
The season ended with his Lone Star character TK Strand proposing to boyfriend Carlos Reyes in the middle of the night after an emotional episode that saw his father almost die in a collapsed building and his team berate him for not having a will.
Clearly passionate about the show, and his character, Ronen gleefully details how the episode will play out for those of us on the shoot yet to see the episode, bouncing in his seat as the glam team work magic.
Born in Israel, Ronen moved to New York at the age of five with his parents, and he grew up in Staten Island where he was taught English as a second language and felt difficulty adapting to American culture.
As a teenager, Staten Island was in the midst of an opioid epidemic and Ronen was heading down a path that was "not good". It was a high school teacher who encouraged him to try acting in his junior year to escape the fate of his peers, and Ronen is fully aware of the "freaky" similarities between himself and TK, who also grew up in New York and is introduced in the first episode of the hit Fox show as a former addict.
Ronen wears COS blue set and green shirt with Luis Morais necklaces
"I always assumed that TK's abuse started in high school - he was from NY and I am from NY - and that is when it started for me," he shares.
"Acting did save my life. My future was not looking great. Acting gave me grounds to stand on, it gave me discipline and I fell in love with it."
Small roles in various TV shows and films followed until 2019 when he won the role of TK, the son of New York firefighter Owen Strand (Rob Lowe) who moves to Austin, Texas to help rebuild firehouse 126 after a devastating incident.
He has had input with the character over the years but looking back says that episode eight of season three is his "proudest work".
Ronen wears Thursday Boots Sneaker
"I have been begging showrunner Tim Minear since season one to know, 'How bad was the drug addiction for TK? How far down the rabbit hole did TK go?' And Tim blessed me with episode eight," says Ronen, as his friend and make-up artist Sabine Roller-Taylor reveals that watching Ronen before filming "was a new level of intensity".
"Sabine knows better than anyone how I killed myself for that episode but I knew it would be [heavy], because it's not light subject matter. We're dealing with heroin addiction and the loss of a parent - you can't get crazier than that in one episode," Ronen adds.
TK is introduced as gay in the opening episode, hooking up with police officer Carlos (Rafael Silva) but Ronen was at the time not yet out. Despite ongoing conversations around the role of straight actors portraying LGBTQ+ characters, Ronen says that it "never really crossed my mind" to reconsider taking the role, nor to push himself to come out earlier.
WATCH: 9-1-1: Lone Star's Ronen Rubinstein talks season four - and the music that made him
"There was a thought of, 'Maybe I should come out season one,' but I didn't want to take attention away from the show and especially because I knew we had something so important - we had actors like Brian Michael Smith, the first black trans man on network TV and Natacha Karam playing the first Muslim series regular in a hjab," he says.
"It could have been a good thing but I wanted people to appreciate the show and what we were doing, to focus on the stories. And then for season two it didn't cross my mind because the world was in shambles. I always knew the time would come but it had to be right. I had to be comfortable and feel safe.
"And I always tell this to all people, 'Please don't put any pressure on yourself. If you see your favorite celebrities or public figures come out, it doesn't mean you should if it's not safe or right. Everyone is different - I came out at 27 and some don't come out until their 70s."
Ronen wears SammyBNYC Overshirt, Bottega Veneta Tee, VRAI Necklace, COS Trousers and Bode Shoe
Ronen came out in an interview with Variety, and says that in the 14 months since he has had "messages from all over the world", and that he was "never hesitant" about the fan reaction.
"I was getting messages before I came out, of what TK means to fans and my portrayal, and Carlos and Tarlos [the portmanteau of TK and Carlos] and how people felt seen and it gave them confidence. I always knew the fans would be extremely important and loving and I was never hesitant about that.
"It was the family or friends from home [that made me hesitant] and that did turn out to be a pleasant surprise as well . But just hearing people's stories and truly understanding what people are going through, from 65-year-old firefighters in Nebraska or a 14-year-old in Germany."
Ronen wears FrankieShop Sweater and Vintage Pant witha Saint Laurent Boot
As for those family or friends he did lose after sharing his truth, Ronen has only one piece of advice and that's to "take time to appreciate the good people in our life".
For Ronen those good people are his chosen family, including long-term girlfriend Jessica Parker Kennedy, Chaise, and his co-stars including Rafael and Brian.
Chaise and Ronen met in late 2019 after he first booked Lone Star and Ronen wanted to treat himself to a gift - a Saint Lauren "man pouch".
Ronen wears Dries Van Noten Top, Vintage Watch and VRAI Jewelry
"Chaise was the first person I saw and the first words out of his mouth were, 'You look like you're on a mission,' which is so Chaise knowing him now!" laughs Ronen.
"The pouch wasn't in his store, it was in another. But I wanted to purchase it from Chaise; he was my kind of people. We clicked. He had weirdly guessed what show I had booked! He gave me his number and said if I ever need styling to call him and I called him, and since November 2019 we have not stopped working together. There hasn't been a month since we haven't torn it up."
"It has been an amazing pleasure to see Ronen fall into his truest self," Chaise shares with HELLO!
"One thing that excites me more than anything is that he's had the privilege of encouraging and motivating others to recognize and step into the magnitude of power that resides within them. Even with myself he has helped me let go of the conditioned beliefs and false judgements that I had accumulated over the years that obscure my most powerful self."
Ronen is an ambassador for sustainable jewelry brand Vrai
Pride month will be no different, as the two will be traveling across Europe including Paris for the Dream It Not At Home fan convention. Ronen is also taking part in the 2022 Outfronts festival which connects fans with all things LGBTQIA+ in television - and of course his usual daily interaction with fans across social media.
"I am one of the rare people who loves Twitter," he laughs, before sharing that it's easy to get overwhelmed if you don't know when to take a step back.
"There is always bad but there is a lot of good that comes out of it - I am quite the optimist," he says, before sharing the reminder that, despite the similarities, "TK is not Ronen and Ronen is not TK".
Ronen wears Dries Van Noten Top, Kenneth Nicholson Trouser, Vintage Watch and VRAI Jewelry
An optimist is the right word for Ronen. He is full of joy and hope.
"If you are going to have people who don't bring any positivity into your relationships I do not think it is worth it just because you have history with them, or they are blood family," he insists.
"We have seen how unexpected life can be, it's important to cherish and hold on to the important people in our life - and if that means you filter out the not-so-good people? It's a part of life, and I've had to go through that over the last few years but in the end, you do find peace."
Photographer: Margot Judge, Videographer: ZS Grant, Stylist: Chaise Dennis, Grooming: Sabine Roller-Taylor
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