Before he could land a speaking part in Drake’s latest viral music video, Ari Sitnik had to star in a promotion for the local Jewish food bank.
If you haven’t seen it yet, Drake’s latest music video — which accompanied the release of his seventh studio album, “Honestly, Nevermind” — begins with the tuxedo-clad Jewish rapper standing at the altar, preparing to be wed by a man with a long beard and a black hat.
That’s Sitnik, an IT specialist and, like Drake, a lifelong Torontonian.
His part in the nearly 10-minute video for “Falling Back,” lasts just a few seconds: He asks Drake, “Do you commit yourself to being a good husband according to our values and traditions?” After Drake says “I do,” Sitnik asks the same question to the bride.
Before she answers, the camera turns to reveal a long line of women in wedding dresses queueing behind her — 22 more brides, each holding a bouquet — and the song begins.
That part was filmed without Sitnik there — with most of the shoot held on Saturday, his role was saved for Sunday because he does not work on Shabbat.
The gig, Sitnik said, “was a little bit for the fun and a little bit for the paycheck.”
Sitnik, 52, said he doesn’t like Drake’s music or hip-hop in general. He had never met the “Hotline Bling” rapper before, though he was familiar with Drake’s religious background, and said their on-set interaction was limited.
It couldn’t have been too hard to find a rabbi in Drake’s native Toronto, which is home to more than 180,000 Jews. How Sitnik, who received Chabad ordination but has never served as a congregational rabbi, got the part is both a long story and a short one.
The long story is that Sitnik volunteered to play a rabbi in a much smaller production — a video promoting Tomchei Shabbos of Toronto, which delivers Shabbat meals to families in need.
The event director for Tomchei was connected to someone who knew Director X, a frequent Drake collaborator who directed “Falling Back.”
The short story is that, as Sitnik put it, “they wanted someone who looked like a rabbi.”
Sitnik didn’t need convincing. He was glad to represent the Jewish community in pop culture, and he trusted Drake to cast Jewish tradition in a positive light.
He was careful, though, to not inadvertently perform a real marriage — which in Jewish tradition, can be effected with little more than a ring exchange.
And for a few hours’ work on a Sunday, Sitnik earned what he said was a typical amount for a background role with a couple of lines.
The video had already been seen 2.5 million times as of Friday afternoon, but Sitnik said his phone wasn’t blowing up over it — at least not yet.
A few of those views were his kids, who didn’t know his cameo was coming.
“They thought it was a blast, it was crazy that I did it,” Sitnik said. “They found it funny. It was completely out of the blue.”
And while marrying 23 women doesn’t quite comport with the Torah, seeing Drake do it in a music video didn’t exactly catch him off guard.
“My part was what I expected,” Sitnik said, “and the rest is what you could expect from Drake, let’s put it this way.”