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Our Friend From Israel
44 minutes | Aug 19, 2020
Episode 26: Mark Ivanir – Hollywood actor, Parisian circus performer, Israeli spy
Mark Ivanir wanted to be an actor since he was five-years-old, but he made several pitstops along the way. First, he served as an Israeli spy who went undercover on a secret mission to rescue Jews out of Ethiopia. Then he took some time off and joined a circus – juggling and performing pantomime on the streets of Paris. Eventually, he returned to his first love and his start in Hollywood couldn't have gone better: One of his first roles was in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List." Since then, he has worked non-stop, appearing in more than 50 movies and television shows – and has starred alongside Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro. His latest role pairs him with yet another A-list star: two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank. They make up two of the five astronauts on the first human mission to Mars in a compelling new Netflix series called "Away." The journey is set to keep the astronauts 20 million miles away from their families for three years. Jason Katims, the show's executive producer, said that when the team first met Ivanir, he made everyone fall in love with him on the spot. “He has this humor, he has heart, and he also has this bravado," Katims explained. "It was so great because the show is dealing with big, high stakes issues. Mark has all of that, but he also brings humor to almost everything that he does and everything that he says. He has done everything from great comedic work to really wonderful dramatic work and we were just so excited to have him be part of this.” Ivanir found an unlikely muse for his role as a cocky, know-it-all astronaut with a sense of humor. “Someone I took inspiration from was my contractor,” Ivanir said, laughing. “He has nothing to do with space, but he cracks jokes all the time. That's his default. That's where he goes. He is emotionally armored. The character was written like that from the beginning and then I realized that that's the guy. It's funny, but it's true. No pilots or astronauts, just my contractor.” His previous career as a spy also helped, since he was able to completely embody a new character. And his time doing summersaults in Paris aided his work in the scenes where he's floating in zero-gravity. “We had to try to figure out how to move in space in terms of the speed and your ability to go forty-five degrees or to do a full circle on the wire. Luckily, I have a background as a circus performer so by the second day I was doing all kinds of backflips!” "Away" is a workplace drama set in outer space, but it's also a poignant tale for the historic moment in which we find ourselves. It's a story of flight, of possibility and of hope. The first season of the show debuts on Netflix on September 4th. In this new episode of our podcast, we caught up with Ivanir to talk about the new Netflix series, as well as his previous career as both a circus performer and an Israeli spy. Of all three of those careers, he told us he enjoys acting the most. "In many ways, it gives you an opportunity to do all of these things in a somewhat safe capacity. So, you can be a spy, and then the director says 'Cut!,' and you go and have a snack. It gives you the opportunity to get into so many characters and then leave them and be yourself. It's lovely."
47 minutes | Jul 21, 2020
Episode 25: Mishy Harman, host of the popular 'Israel Story' podcast
Ira Glass single-handedly invented a radio genre with his audio documentary series "This American Life." Now in its 25th year, the show has more than 5 million weekly listeners. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When Mishy Harman, a Jerusalem native, first heard "This American Life," he knew the format was ripe for adaptation. And so he launched "Israel Story." The podcast has grown from a hobby between a few friends to a production that now includes 16 people – including musicians and editors. It boasts listeners from 194 countries and has upwards of two million downloads a year. The show recently kicked off its fifth season with stories from Israel including a mysterious clock heist that went unsolved for a quarter-of-a-century and nationwide protests over cottage cheese. Any culture is best explained by the stories people tell about it. Mishy Harman and his team are doing just that. We had a great conversation with Harman about the cross-country road trip that inspired his popular show, what his goals are for the future, and the story behind a circumcision that involved a luxury yacht, a private jet, and international intrigue befitting a James Bond movie.
33 minutes | Jun 18, 2020
Episode 24: Hagar Ben-Ari, bass player for the band on the 'Late Late Show with James Corden'
Hagar Ben-Ari is an Israeli bass player who stumbled into one of the most sought-after gigs in television. As if that wasn't enough, she's also opened for Prince and the Rolling Stones. So how did a girl who grew up in a small town in Israel end up hanging out on a nightly basis with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks? You're about to find out. In this episode, we chatted about: - Her musical upbringing and how she used to harmonize with a telephone ringtone - How she got the gig at James Corden's show just two days before it launched - Her favorite part about working on the show - Her longtime girl of opening a music academy for girls - And much more... Just a quick note: We recorded this interview shortly before the corona outbreak, when Hagar was still going into the studio to tape the late night show. Earlier this spring, James Corden and the band started working remotely from home, with Hagar and her bandmates video conferencing in to play music each night. For behind the scenes access to our show, including sneak peeks of future episodes, please join the "Our Friend from Israel" Facebook group. For additional notes, photos and a transcript of this episode, please visit www.ourfriendfromisrael.com.
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