In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the 9-1-1: Lone Star actor opens up about his chosen family, which includes his partner Jessica Parker Kennedy, costar Rafael Silva and stylist Chaise Dennis

By Brianne Tracy
June 02, 2021 03:02 PM
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As Ronen Rubinstein gets settled on set of his PEOPLE Pride shoot with friends Rafael Silva, his costar on the Fox procedural 9-1-1: Lone Star, and Chaise Dennis, his stylist, in Los Angeles on May 11, he comes to a realization.

"It's Tarlos Tuesday!" he says excitedly, referencing the hashtag fans have flooded on social media on Tuesdays in support of the 9-1-1: Lone Star couple dubbed Tarlos, the portmanteau of his and Silva's characters T.K. Strand and Carlos Reyes, respectively, since the show began airing.

"The fans' support and love is a big reason why I came out," says Rubinstein, 27, who came out as bisexual for the first time publicly in April. "They've been so open and personal with me, so to return the favor, I felt like it was time for me to be open with them."

The revelation has been a long time coming for the actor, who moved to Staten Island, New York, from Israel when he was 5 and was scared to talk about his sexuality with his parents — immigrants from the Soviet Union — growing up.

"In the Soviet Union, the LGBTQ community was not welcomed at all, so I can't blame my parents for the way they were raised and what they were taught" he says. "Then in America, there was this pressure to be tough and masculine. In high school I saw people get their asses kicked just for being gay. It was a scary place to attempt to explore your sexuality."

When Rubinstein left Staten Island for L.A. in 2017 to pursue an acting career, he says his "world expanded" as he started meeting people who were more "open," Silva, 26, included.

While auditioning with Silva, who is gay, for 9-1-1: Lone Star in 2019, Rubinstein felt an instant connection.

"It was a scene where we were busting through a door and making out," he says. "We met maybe five minutes before, but there was this unspoken comfort."

ronen rubenstein rafel silba and chaise dennis
Rafael Silva, Ronen Rubinstein and Chaise Dennis
| Credit: Nolwen Cifuentes

For all the details on Ronen Rubinstein's chosen family, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here

After the two were cast, that connection made them a hit among fans.

"I think people were craving a relationship like this on screen," says Silva. "It's such an important couple to have on television. In LGBTQIA+ movies and TV, usually someone at the end of the story dies. What that tells allies is, 'Hey, don't bother supporting them. They're not going to make it.' We got to change the story. That's where Tarlos comes in."

Behind the scenes, the costars' friendship also grew, especially after Rubinstein confided in Silva that he is bisexual.

"We were shooting, and he kind of blurted it out, 'I'm bisexual,'" says Silva. "It definitely brought us closer because it's tricky to be kissing and doing all those things in front of a camera and as soon as the camera stops rolling, be like, 'Alright, good job, bro.' The friendship blossomed because he allowed me to see him."

Adds Rubinstein: "It was really freeing and beautiful."

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Another person Rubinstein told early on about his sexuality was Dennis, 25, who is also gay.

"I said to Ronen one day, 'You're going to be the next straight gay man's icon,'" says Dennis. "He was like, 'Hold a second. Not "so straight."' Over time it became apparent that he wanted to be freer with himself."

Together, Silva and Dennis make up a significant part of Rubinstein's inner circle.

"When your blood family is not the most supportive or they just don't understand, it's really crucial having those chosen family friends to be your support system," he says. "I've felt that exponentially. I'm so happy that I can finally be Ronen, period. These beautiful men helped a lot."

Rounding out Rubinstein's chosen family is his longtime girlfriend, actress Jessica Parker Kennedy.

"She's my everything," he says. "She's been my support system from day one. I can talk to her about stuff that I can't talk to anybody else."

While watching Tarlos get hot and heavy during one 9-1-1: Lone Star scene during the first season, Rubinstein says Kennedy, 36, asked him, "Is there something we should talk about?"

"I said, 'Yes,'" he recalls. "It was the most supportive kick in the ass [to come out]. Sometimes it can be a lot to lay that onto your partner. It's not the easiest transition, but she's handled it beautifully and respectfully. Her support was all I needed."

"She keeps me grounded, and she keeps me here in the moment," he continues. "With her, it's just been a beautiful next chapter in our relationship. She's my rock — I truly understand what that means now."

Through his 9-1-1: Lone Star role and by being so open about his own story, Rubinstein is hoping to inspire others to embrace themselves fully.

"I've spoken to so many firefighters and cops in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and they're like, 'You're the first person we've ever seen ourselves in,'" he says. "That's unbelievable. I always say if I maybe had a Tarlos growing up, things might have been different."

"There are still so many little Ronens out there who are terrified," he adds. "I'm going to keep fighting for them until they don't have to be afraid anymore. My job is to make people feel comfortable with themselves and know that they're not alone."