Exclusive: Israeli Actresses are Conquering Hollywood

Over the past decade, a number of Israeli actresses landed in Tinseltown in quest of fame and fortune either on the big screen or in various prime-time TV series.

By Steve K. Walz, Exclusive to World Israel News

Before bursting on the big screen in this summer’s box-office blockbuster “Wonder Woman,” Gal Gadot had taken the traditional path to Hollywood stardom by starring in a variety of Israeli TV series and then secondary roles in successful cinematic successes such as “Fast & Furious.”

Over the past decade, a number of other Israeli actresses landed in Tinseltown in quest of fame and fortune either on the big screen or in various prime-time TV series. While Natalie Portman (born as Neta-Lee Herschlag) enjoys reminding everyone of her Jerusalem roots, she is not an Israeli actress in the traditional sense, since she had left Israel at a very young age and was educated in the USA.

Three other Israeli actresses generated positive buzz for their stellar work in Hollywood prior to Gadot’s meteoric rise – Ayelet Zurer, Mili Avital and Moran Attias. Ironically, it was Zurer’s fascinating performance in the Israeli psychological drama “In Treatment” (2005-6), which was bought by HBO, that opened doors for her  in Hollywood. She went on to have co-starring roles in big budget movies such as “Munich” (directed by Steven Spielberg), “Superman: Man of Steel” and “Angels & Demons” (opposite Tom Hanks), Ayelet has also had a recurring role in the hit Netflix TV series “Daredevil” and in the Israeli TV series “Shtisel.”

Ayelet Zurer and Michael Aloni

Ayelet Zurer, who also stars in Hollywood, and Michael Aloni play major roles in Israeli TV series “Shtisel.” (imdb.com)

Mili Avital also co-starred in a critically acclaimed Israeli TV series, “Hatufim,” which was sold to Hollywood and rewritten into the SHOWTIME prime-time smash hit “Homeland.” She has starred in a variety of in movie and TV roles, including a number of appearances on the legendary “Law & Order” TV franchises.

Another ‘True International Star’ from Israel

Moran Attias in considered a true international star, having headlined in a number of Israeli TV series as well as hosting various prime-time shows in Italy. She made her initial American splash in the STARZ TV series “Crash” in 2008. During the past four years, Moran has top-lined as Leila al-Fayeed, the sultry and strong wife of an Arab dictator in the FX TV series ”Tyrant,” and most recently was seen as Sidra, the mysterious intelligence agent in FOX TV’s “24:Legacy.” Moran’s younger sister, Shani, is also trying to make a name for herself in Los Angeles, where she has had small but important roles in various movies as well as guest-starring roles in the CBS TV hit series “NCIS-New Orleans” and “CSI-Cyber.” According to informed sources, Shani has been cast in a “fish out of water” Israeli TV series, “Golden State,” where she is part of a group of Israelis who come to the USA in order to pursue the “American Dream.”

The two most promising Israeli actresses who are constantly generating positive prime-time TV buzz in the USA are Yael Grobglas and Inbar Lavi. Like Gal Gadot, both are in their early 30s and come from diverse backgrounds. Yael, who was born in Paris and moved to Israel at the age of two, garnered headlines in the Israeli media for her alluring role in the teen sci-fi series “The Island” (2007-2009). In 2013, Yael started to make an impact in prime-time, playing the role of a beautiful Italian noblewoman in the hit CW series “Reign.” That performance caught the eyes of CW’s casting directors, who in 2014 plugged her into the role of Natalia aka Petra Solano (and her twin sister Anezka) in “Jane the Virgin,” one of the network’s most critically acclaimed series.

Time Magazine lionized the Israeli actress… “Grobglas […] has turned Petra into one of television’s most amusingly complex comic villains. Fans love to hate her, yet as Jane delves deeper into Petra’s back-story — and shows off her lighter side — they’re starting to love her as well.”

In an exclusive interview with World Israel News, Yael recalled her indoctrination into Hollywood and the fast-growing Israeli population in Los Angeles.

“When I first arrived in Los Angeles I was extremely pleasantly surprised to be received with such open arms as an Israeli. Almost everyone I met with here had either family in Israel or had been on a Birthright tour and absolutely loved it. That’s exactly the sort of thing I love hearing about Israel. Having come to Los Angeles alone this made me feel very at home and welcome,” she revealed.

‘A Great Support System’

“Israel is a very tight community. It always makes me laugh when someone meets anyone from another country and asks “Oh! I met a guy from Canada once! Jack! Do you know him??” Obviously, they usually don’t. But in Israel’s case, we are such a small country and everyone is pretty tight that chances are, when I’m asked, I might actually know the person! It’s happened before. Before coming to Los Angeles for the first time I had no idea how things worked in L.A.  I didn’t know anyone and I got plenty of great advice from many fantastic Israeli actors who had made the trip before me. It’s a great support system and I try to pay it forward by advising other new Israeli actors who come to Los Angeles.”

Ramat Gan-born Inbar Lavi moved to the US in her teens in order to pursue an acting career. After securing several small roles on well-known TV series such as “Criminal Minds” and “CSI-Miami,” she started to catch attention in Hollywood by being cast in a variety of off-beat and compelling roles in MTV’s “Underemployed” (2012) and FOX TV’s “Gang Related” (2013). In 2015, BRAVO TV cast Inbar in the lead role of foxy and complex con woman, Maddie Jonson, for their quirky TV series “Imposters.” Inbar has earned a well-deserved round of accolades in the media for bringing life to such a beautiful and conniving character.

Hollywood casting directors continue to love Inbar as well, with FOX TV providing her with the role of Sheba, a new character on the “limited event” fifth season of the hit series “Prison Break,” parts of which were filmed across Morocco. Coincidentally, Inbar is half-Moroccan on her mother’s side.

Steve K. Walz, is a noted international reporter and former member of the TV Critics Association of America.