The irony of releasing the third series of Fauda during Covid-19 lockdown was not lost on its captive audience.
Within days, the Israeli series which centres around a team of mista’arvim, Israeli commando soldiers operating undercover in Palestinian territory, had the number one spot on Netflix and there’s no sign of change.
Key to the show’s appeal is the show’s bullish protagonist Doron Kavillio, who defies his superiors, so how would he handle lockdown?
From the look on his face, Lior Raz was in no doubt. “You cannot lock down Doran,” says the actor, who embodies the angry bullet head hero. “He would be like a lion in a cage. He would probably escape and go and hunt the coronavirus by himself.”
As the co-creator of Fauda alongside Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff knowing the very bones of the characters is requisite, but neither expected to be talking about it from the confines of a Zoom box at an invitation only chat organised by New York’s Jewish Insider.
Traditionally, the Fauda cast and writers would be caught in a cross-fire of questions at a press junket, so it was refreshing to see Avi and Lior looking so relaxed at a virtual distance.
“I am feeling very well, because I am with my family again,” says Lior in front of a backdrop of his menacing face.
“For the past two or three years I’ve been shooting and hardly at home. So I’ve been baking and training. Of course, I miss my parents and my friends.”
Avi has been cooking too and enjoying all the spare time with family, but admits secretly to going “hush, hush running in the early morning” before being reminded the broadcast was live.
“Then I have not been going running or to the park,” he added wryly. For those who have yet to watch Fauda, spoilers came thick and fast during the conversation, revealing Doron’s tragic losses as the flawed operative.
“When Avi and I decided to write the show, we wanted it to show the mental price the warriors pay for their actions and not just them, their family and friends too.
“Doron is not a typical hero, he is complicated and that is what makes him so interesting. He goes with his truth, but loses every time.”
“That’s what differentiates Fauda from other shows,” interjects Avi. “We try to be as realistic as possible, to show the price, so ending up with the hero walking towards the sunset is ok for other shows, but our hero is in real pain.”
Lior Raz’s ability to convey controlled anguish while leading the fight against terrorism was the reason he got the role of Doron at the age of 42 rather than another “very talented Israeli actor.”
“Avi and I always thought I’d get the part because we wrote the show, but when it came to casting, the broadcaster said they had to audition other actors, because I wasn’t an A-lister.
“I was furious and Avi had to hold my arm to stop me throwing something at the guy who said it. But I auditioned and then the director asked the team who they would follow as a commander and they all pointed at my bald face.”
That bald face is now being sought by production companies worldwide with job offers and Lior has received numerous letters of thanks from bald men.
“They write to tell me that their wives are finding them attractive again because of me,” he chuckles.
Avi, delighted by the bald supporters for obvious reasons, is also overwhelmed by Fauda’s ascendancy, particularly in Lebanon, Jordan (the royal family watch it) and the Emirates where it is trending at number one and the flood of appreciative fan mail backs this up.
But the show is not without its critics, notably Hezbollah, which on its official news website told readers not to watch Fauda because it is “messing with their minds”.
“They are worried,” says Avi. “They see things on Twitter mocking the leader, Hassan Nasrallah and the BDS had called to ban Fauda.
“But from our point of view we wonder why they would tell people not to watch it, because it will only encourage them to do so.”
In a geographical break from the first two seasons of Fauda which saw the unit in the West Bank, season 3 takes them into Gaza, which posed problems for the production team because they could not film there.
Both writers know Gaza well, as Lior’s own army experiences in a similar unit inspired the show and Avi’s challenges as a journalist add to the drama.
“It is a kingdom of chaos,” says Avi, who hasn’t been allowed in since 2007. “For me as a journalist it was amazing and scary because you knew at any moment something could happen.
“In seconds you can be exposed and the rescue isn’t going to come. You don’t have any support in Gaza, it’s a completely different reality.”
“For an undercover soldier to be there for a long time it’s one of the scariest places,” echoes Lior.
“And it is that feeling of danger that we try to bring to the show,” adds Avi who once got a call in Gaza from Israeli intelligence telling him to get out as he was about to be abducted.
That Lior and Avi have been able to adapt their experiences for entertainment purposes has brought its own rewards and as a Netflix prize team they are already writing season 4, which in itself is a spoiler because what would Fauda be without Doron?
Should anything happen to him, there is always Hit and Run, the team’s new Netflix series about a happily married man (Lior) whose life is turned upside down when his wife is killed in a mysterious hit and run in Tel Aviv.
According to Lior, his character is complicated and in pain, which is just how we like him.
- Brigit was a guest at Jewish Insider’s Fauda chat on zoom. Fauda is available on Netflix NOW.
Fast Facts About Fauda
- Season 3 locations included the Arab town of Jisr az- Zarqa, and an IDF training facility north of Caesarea that resembles the Gaza strip.
- It took 69 days to shoot season 3.
- At a location close to a mosque they had to stop filming each time the call to prayer went out and the Fauda team did press ups until it was over.
- Lior Raz speaks basic Arabic, but had to learn new sentences and work on the accent.
- Itzik Cohen, who plays Captain Gabi Ayub, had to learn Arabic by heart phonetically.