Not everyone who filled the auditorium at New York’s 92nd Street Y one recent evening had yet watched the second season of “Fauda,” the hit Israeli series available on Netflix. So the men the crowd had come to see—”Fauda”‘s creators Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz—avoided spoilers in conversation with The Hollywood Reporter’s Tatiana Siegel.
But in the discussion, which followed a screening of the second-season premiere, Issacharoff and Raz (who also stars in the series) shared a number of fascinating tidbits for “Fauda” fans.
On selling the show
It may be a hit today, but “Fauda” wasn’t easy to sell, Issacharoff said. Raz added that “nobody wanted” this show, which depicts an undercover Israeli unit (to which Raz’s character Doron Kavillio belongs); Palestinian terrorists the unit seeks to stymie; and families on both sides.
Even some at YES, the Israeli satellite company that eventually signed on, had reservations that the high-action thriller would appeal only to male viewers. But after the first season, polling revealed a majority of women among the viewership. (“Because of me,” quipped Raz, before adding, “I’m joking!” Issacharoff suggested that if the show boasts a primary sex symbol in Israel at the moment, that honor likely belongs to Firas Nassar, the 20-something Arab-Israeli actor who plays terrorist Nidal “Al Makdasi” Awadalla).
On where acting matters more
Bad acting on screen may be punished with a bad review; bad acting in the real life situations that Raz faced in the undercover work that informs “Fauda” can be literally lethal. Raz turned serious as he explained.
“If you’re not a good actor, you can die. And your friends can die. And a terrorist that you’ve run after for a long time can run away, just because of your bad acting, if you don’t have the right accent, if you are a little bit scared, if you don’t know how to move….You have to be an amazing actor.”
On “Fauda”‘s chief message
“Fauda” is a fictional television series—not, Issacharoff emphasized, a political manifest. Ultimately, he said, it’s about the awful price of war—on every side—rippling beyond individual combatants through families and beyond.
“We wanted people to understand that war is bad,” Raz added. “That’s it.”
But Issacharoff noted another aim: showing some of the complexity that characterizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Sometimes the bad guy is a good guy, and sometimes the good guy is a bad guy. And this is war, and war is not simple.”
“‘Fauda’ is a fictional television series — not a political manifest. Ultimately, it’s about the awful price of war. – Avi Issacharoff
On filming under fire
Filming of “Fauda”‘s first season coincided with the 2014 Gaza war known as Operation Protective Edge. Raz recalled canceling the first day on location in an Arab-Israeli village “because we were afraid.” But after a village leader reminded them about the emphasis they’d placed on coexistence when they’d sought permission to film there in the first place, the “Fauda” team of more than 150 proceeded, remaining on site for weeks. The work unfolded, according to Raz, “in a bubble of creativity and love and care and honor.” Despite missiles and sirens.
When sirens wailed, everyone gathered: Arabs, Jews, the young, the old. “We went together, to the shelter, to hide, and it was [an] amazing experience,” one that Raz suspects no one who was present will forget.
At multiple points, “Fauda”‘s creators stressed their commitment to “authenticity” in the show: casting, costumes and everything else. They suggested that for the most part, negative criticisms of the show have stemmed from political disagreements, not from artistic issues.
“We are Israelis. We are writing an Israeli show. The narrative is Israeli. Me and Avi—Zionists….If Palestinians want to write a show, they should write a show.”
Regarding efforts by Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists to have Netflix drop the series, Issacharoff said, “This is wrong, this is a mistake.”
“It’s ridiculous,” added Raz.
On what’s next for them
Issacharoff and Roz are writing two new shows for Netflix. Raz will play lead roles in those shows as well. They’re also at work on a third season of “Fauda” and writing a movie (“not about ‘Fauda'”).
Additionally, fans will find Raz on screen later this year in “Operation Finale,” a film about the capture of Adolf Eichmann. Starring Ben Kingsley as Eichmann, the movie is slated for September release. Raz plays the role of Isser Harel, the Mossad director who oversaw Eichmann’s capture in South America and transfer to Israel for trial.
And Issacharoff, whose reportorial experiences have also infused “Fauda” alongside Raz’s undercover operations, continues work as a journalist.
Erika Dreifus is a New York-based writer and book publicist.
Watch “Fauda” on Netflix and the full 92nd Street Y discussion at 92yondemand.org.