‘Ottawa’ Q & A: Lior Raz, Fauda Creator and Lead Actor
Lior Raz was a younger man when he left his life as an officer in a top secret Israeli special forces unit.
Now, 45, the Jerusalem native is continually surprised by the fame his new life has brought him.
His show Fauda became a breakout hit television series in Israel. The same thing happened after it premièred for North American audiences in December after Netflix picked up the show.
It follows Doron, played by Raz, a ruthless ex-Special Forces officer who comes out of retirement for one final mission: to find and kill a Hamas terrorist.
The lead actor and co-writer lands in Ottawa on Sunday for a sold-out appearance at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. Megan Harrison talked to Raz about his experience in working in the Israeli Special Forces, his transition from combatant to the creator, and the impact his hit TV series has had on Israeli Arabs and Jews.
Q: Tell me about your experience serving in the Special Forces and how it shaped your show?
A: I was in the Special Forces when I was in the army. I thought I was going to be James Bond. But the reality was very different from James Bond movies. You have to deal with real life and real stuff — and heavy stuff sometimes … you do heavy, heavy things, and you have to deal with things somehow. This is how I dealt with things. I wrote this show because I wanted to talk about the mental price that warriors pay for their actions.
Q: How did you make the transition from a combatant to a creator?
A: It took a long time. But all my life I wanted to be a part of the creative society and to explore the creative side of me … And I think this is the way for me to release all the demons I had because of the army. To write, to act, to talk, to be free with my body and with my soul. This is what happened.
Q: Where does the title for Fauda come from?
A: In Arabic, fauda means chaos. In the late 1980s, there was the first intifada that began in Israel. The Arab population started to use this word fauda to mean, “Let’s go out and demonstrate.” But on the Israeli side, soldiers started to use fauda as a code for rescuers when someone discovered they were Jews or Israeli … they would call on the walkie-talkie and say, “Listen, we have fauda,” which was the code for the rescuers to come. So it has a double meaning.
Q: How do these experiences have come through in the writing of your show?
A: I’ll give you an example. When I was 19 I had a girlfriend. She was in the army as well. We worked together for three years. It was a big love … One day she went out of her house and a terrorist (from Bethlehem) stabbed her to death. I didn’t talk about it for a long, long time … When we started to write the show, we wrote a character that was based on her. She dies in an explosion, also from a terrorist attack, and (we wrote) how it effects her boyfriend, who’s serving the army at the same time … It’s exactly what happened to me. There are so many things that are very connected to our lives.
Q: The protagonists and antagonists in your show have a very in-depth storyline. Why was it so important for you to tell both sides of the story in such a personal way?
A: It wasn’t our purpose. We wanted to talk about people in a war and people in a war is much more complicated. We’ve been there. I saw people, I talked to people and also terrorists, and I know everything is very complicated. It’s not just … simple. In a war zone, everything is complicated, and we wanted to show (that) … On the other side, as an actor sitting in the writers’ room I said, “Listen, I want to love and want to play every single one of these characters” so they have to be rounded. Even the bad guys have to be loved, and even the good guys have to be hated.
Q: The second season, announced at the start of December 2016, promised to focus a lot more on real world events. How would that come forward in your show?
A: I can tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. No, I’m just kidding. It’s going to be much more personalized, as well as, we’re going to be talking about what’s happening in the world … We’re trying to be much more authentic.
Q: How do you believe your show has impacted the lives of Israeli Arabs and Jews?
A: I know that this is the most viewed show in the Arab population in Israel, and this is amazing, and I know that many Jewish Israelis want to learn Arabic because of this show, and this is amazing too … And the Arabs we honoured their language and we honoured their narrative as well … That’s why I think people from both sides really, really love it. I got an email from a girl from Kuwait, she said, “This is the first time I’m feeling compassion to the Israeli side.” And also a right-wing woman from Jerusalem wrote to me and said, “This is the first time I feel compassion to the Palestinian side.” So we did something good I think, because everybody is feeling compassion to the other side.