Celebrating a Decade of Dedication: Actor’s Journey to Success in Hollywood

After ten years in L.A., Israeli actor Ido Samuel is ready for his close up.
March 19, 2024

When aspiring actor Ido Samuel arrived in Los Angeles from Israel in 2013, he was told by a friend in the industry, “You need to be here for 10 years to make it.” Ten years sounded like forever to the young man’s ears, but he was determined to make it.

“I wasn’t planning to give up on my dream, but I soon realized that everybody in this city is an actor, from the waitress to the doctor’s son. So you think to yourself, I’m not that special, yet I wasn’t willing to give up so easily.”

Nine years later, when luck still hadn’t struck, he began contemplating where to go from there, and then it happened. “I booked a feature film, ‘Teheran,’ and traveled to Glasgow for the shooting. On the last day there, I booked a TV show on CBS, ‘FBI International’ and right after that, I booked the part in ‘We Were The Lucky Ones.’”

The series, which will premiere on Hulu March 28, is based on the book by Georgia Hunter and tells the true story of a Jewish family separated at the start of World War II. The Kurc family is doing its best to live a normal life in Poland when the Nazis overtake their town. One sibling is forced into exile, another tries to escape and others are working in the factories of the ghetto or hiding in plain sight as gentiles. The limited series follows the family’s determination to survive and reunite.

Samuel is playing the role of Isaac, a Hasidic young man from a big family who was a childhood friend of one of the Kurc’s children, Addy (Logan Lerman). As the Nazis take over the town and turn it into a ghetto, he joins the Jewish Police in the hope of helping other Jews.

Ido Samuel with co-star in WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES.

Prior to moving to the U.S., Samuel appeared in the 2017 film, “Fill the Void,” which won seven Ophir Awards, the Israeli Oscars. The lead actress, Hadas Yaron, won a Best Actress Ophir for her portrayal of Shira Mendelman, an 18-year-old Hasidic girl living in Tel Aviv who is looking forward to an arranged marriage with a young man whom she likes. Yaron, the first Israeli actress to be named best actress at the Venice Film Festival, was also cast for “We Were the Lucky Ones.”

“I knew that they were looking for celebrities for this show, so I decided to do my best and give it my all to get it. The writing also was so good, and the characters were beautiful,” Samuel said. “I was thinking to tell them during the audition that I know Hadas, but the audition went so well that I decided to let it do the work. I was thrilled when they called me later and told me I got the part.”

Working on the series was an incredible experience, Samuel said. “Isaac’s character resonated deeply with me on both a personal and artistic level … During my preparation for another project, which also delved into themes of the Holocaust, I had the privilege of meeting a 96-year-old survivor. His wisdom and resilience left an indelible mark on me. I asked him a question that had been weighing heavily on my mind: ‘What kept you going in the face of such darkness and adversity?’ His response was simple yet profound: ‘I didn’t have the luxury of dwelling on it. Survival was instinctual, a primal urge that propelled me forward.’ Those words echoed within me throughout the entirety of filming, especially as I embodied Isaac, a character who endures immense suffering yet persists in clinging to hope amidst profound loss.”

It isn’t easy being an actor in Los Angeles and only a few make it. Samuel saw many of his friends give up on their dreams and leave town during the past ten years, but he persisted.

“I had many struggles in my career, but I never gave up because I wanted to prove that I can make it. This is a tough city for an actor to be in. There is a lot of talk and promises. I was supposed to be in four different films when I got here. I was told ‘we were going to start shooting in the summer’ and I was so excited, only to learn that it was just talk. It can be very frustrating. In the first two years, I didn’t leave town because I was afraid they were going to start shooting soon, and I’d be away.”

The eight-episode limited series started shooting in Romania late last year, and lasted for three months. Samuel took the opportunity to visit his family and friends in Israel before starting work on the show. He was there on Oct. 7.

“I was there for a week, and it didn’t feel real. A friend of my friend got murdered, a friend’s uncle got kidnapped; everyone in Israel knows somebody who something happened to him in this war. It’s shocking and doesn’t feel real. I hope that the series will show people what antisemitism can be like; it can bring people to dark places. I hope people will be more compassionate. It’s a trend now to be antisemitic; people consider it cool.”

Samuel was shocked to learn that some individuals he considered friends were antisemitic. “Those are people who always share everything that happens in the world on their social media, and when Israel was attacked, they kept complete silence. Then they started sharing videos against Israel, justifying why it happened. I got into lots of conversations with them, and it doesn’t make sense. People feel they can tell me things about what’s happening in Israel and Gaza while they’ve never been to that part of the world.”

Samuel is already getting ready for his next project. It’s another story about the Holocaust, based on true events. “We made a short film called ‘Dirty Bomb’ about Jewish prisoners in the Dora camp. The prisoners sabotaged the construction of the V-2 bombs.” The short received very good reviews in film festivals and is being developed into a feature film.

“After years of struggle, I started landing role after role, and I feel incredibly blessed. It’s truly a dream come true,” Samuel said gratefully. Alongside his strong work ethic and persistence, he credits his success to a special gift he received. When he arrived in L.A., he was invited to Shabbat dinners by a Chabad family he met during Sukkot. Recognizing that the young actor was alone in town, they made sure to include him every Shabbat and holiday.

“They kept urging me to put on Tefillin, something I had never done before. One day, one member of that family, a 22-year-old man bought me a pair of Tefillin so I wouldn’t have any excuse. I saw he paid for them $400. I felt so guilty that I started wearing them and recited the prayers. A week later, I started booking all these shows.”

He has continued to put on Tefillin ever since and also before each audition. “I always add, ‘With God’s help, we shall succeed.'”

It has proven to work well.

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