Noah Silver’s (C '21) Penn career promised to be unique the moment it started. Accepted when he was 16 years old to Penn’s Class of 2015, he decided to take a break from school before starting his first year of college. Many students choose to take gap years—some decide to explore the world, others spend time learning more about themselves before committing to a specific major. Noah, however, used his gap year to focus on his growing acting career.
The Penn senior moved to the French countryside from Miami when he was four years old. Sporty and interested in math and science, Noah wasn't considered the artistic theater kid. That changed when a family friend introduced him to a modeling gig when he was just 14 years old. Attracted by the prospect of having a job and gaining some extra spending money, he decided to go for it.
“I desperately wanted a nice pair of Converse and some Diesel jeans, and so I had to figure out a way to get those. Modeling became a way to get that ... because I guess I was a cute kid at some point,” Noah jokes. “Rather innocently, my mom took some pictures in the backyard, sent them off, and I started going to Paris for auditions. Things went rather well. I started booking commercials while in high school.”
As his career began to gain traction, Noah caught the attention of a Los Angeles casting director, who soon invited him to California during his senior year of high school.
This came around the time when he first got into Penn. However, excited by the prospect of advancing his career, he deferred his entrance for three years to work on his acting.
“I thought [I] was only going to take a year off. But sure enough, I was just really confident, and things were going really well. And I just worked—I just kept working. At some point three years [later], Penn was like, ‘We're glad your acting career is going well, but if you want to keep your spot at Penn, you have to start,’” he laughs.
In 2014, after working on six acting projects, including the Sundance film Jamie Marks is Dead, Noah began his first semester at Penn. At the time, however, Noah had just signed on to play Sammy Al–Fayeed in the FX drama Tyrant, which prompted him to alternate between doing a semester of school and a semester of filming the show.
Once he finished filming Tyrant, Noah realized the toll his acting career had taken on him.
“I was kind of burnt out because I had been literally going [since] the age of 16. At this point, it would have been like six years," he says. "I don't think I'd spent more than four or five months in one place. And so I was kind of a little disoriented and just honestly kind of lost. I just needed a break from everything."
Noah decided to take time off from acting and from his studies at Penn. In 2017, he took a leave of absence to establish himself and find somewhere to “call a home.”
He states that the break “didn’t go very well.” He realized that even though he hadn’t fallen into the cliché problems Hollywood is known for, he felt like the world of acting might have enamored him for the wrong reasons when he was young. In 2019, he decided to come back to Penn to finish his philosophy, politics, and economics major. Noah felt like it was a good time to return to a routine, as opposed to constantly chasing after acting gigs.
“I was like, ‘Okay, this is a good time to go back to school and take the pressure off.' And so I just took a break from all that,” he says. "I stopped auditioning for the first time in ten years. And [I] decided that I'm going to focus on school for two years and just kind of do something different.”
He recognizes the irony of his statement. While most Penn students spend their years at school worrying about securing a successful job, Noah came back to get away from his career. When discussing his time at Penn, Noah makes it clear that he knows he didn’t live the typical college experience.
“I have made some very special friends that I do think I will keep for my life. But it's not like I had the same experience,” he says. “The class idea is just really important [in college]. You go through this process with these people for four years, and you change drastically over this period of four years. You are nowhere near who you are as a senior as when you were a [first year]—you can't argue with that. And so I didn't have that. I do wish I had, looking back on it. I do wish I had that experience.”
Now that Noah will finish his degree in May, he's thinking about the future. Although he's had a break from acting, he's ready to dive back into his career after graduation. He's looking forward to not only participating in projects as an actor, but also possibly getting involved in the production side of the industry.
After all the hard work that has gone into building his career, Noah reflects on his passion and love of acting. “To me, a movie set is a really magical thing. The ability to create a scene and a whole story in front of a camera and that energy is just really, really fascinating to me,” he says. “I come from a very small place—the world was very, very small. I didn't grow up in a city, you know. I grew up in the countryside, in small villages. So the world was very small, and acting kind of opened [up] the world very quickly to me.”