From the interview archives.
VULKAN caught up with actress Efrat Dor to discuss her new film The Zookeeper’s Wife, a historical drama about Antonina and Jan Zabinski, a couple who bravely risked their lives to save hundreds of people and animals during the holocaust. We also asked her about learning to screen write and had her dish on the best things to do in her native homeland of Israel. Check it out below!
You’ve said your love of stories is what drew you to acting. The Zoo Keeper’s Wife is based on a true story; what was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned about that event while filming?
I was really taken by surprise that I had not yet heard about the Zabinskis. Their story is such an amazing one. I was just shocked at how this couple of non-Jews helped so many Jews when they could have easily looked the other way. It is just unbelievable how brave they were. The most amazing fact is that the zoo is actually still open now. The human spirit prevailed.
I understand you have some Polish roots as well, was the story at times overwhelming given your ancestry?
This was definitely the most personal project that I have been a part of so far in my career. It touched me so deeply. I cried a lot, on and off set. From being in cold Prague and away from my family, I had a lot of time to think about my and her story during those hard times; but what gave me great strength is knowing she is so proud of me. I am telling such an important story that will help people never to forget the holocaust.
Your character, Magdalena Gross, had to go into hiding. Do you think if you were in her shoes, you would have done the same?
This is such a hard question. We never know how we will handle these in-human situations. I want to say that I would have joined the fighters and would have given the Germans hell, but I could easily be hiding frozen in fear. I hope that I will never have to know the real answer to that. Neither will anyone else.
You had to don a Polish accent for this film. How difficult was that for you to learn? Did you work with a speech coach?
Well, for the audition I did a Russian accent, which was really easy for me. When I came on set, I worked with Joan (our amazing dialect coach) to make it more Polish. It wasn’t very hard. I love languages and accent, so it was free classes for me. I enjoyed it so much.
The Greenhouse Academy is also out this year on Netflix, what can you tell us about that?
The Greenhouse Academy was a very fun project. It’s an Israeli hit teen show that was sold to Netflix. I was proud to be part of the remake and represent Israeli talent. Most of the cast members were American, but it was all filmed in Israel. I had a great time doing a teen show (which I never do) and I hope it will be a great hit!
You don’t seem to be drawn to any particular genre and you’re a very versatile actress, so how do you choose your roles? Do you just kind of wake up one day and say, “I think I’d like to do a drama film next?”
Oh, how I wish it worked like that! Maybe someday, but not yet. I do try really hard to only do deep, profound and interesting projects that I feel speak to me, but sometimes you can’t be all that choosy. I have also learned that I might be surprised! So these days, I try to get as much work as possible and of course choose carefully, however, it is always a gamble. What I love to do is drama. I almost never do comedy. I love moving people more than I like to make them laugh, and I love action, so hopefully an action film will be next for me!
You’ve said you’d like to work with another female director in the future, who’s at the top of your list?
I love Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife director) and will gladly work with her again, and again, and again. Other female directors I would love to work with include: Sofia Coppola, Andrea Arnold and Patty Jenkins. There are really so many great directors, but of course I love to work with any great artist, male or female.
I understand you recently took a screenwriting class. How often do you take time to take a new course or learn a new skill like that?
It really depends. If I have time off between filming, I usually love to learn something and challenge myself. I am already a certified Yoga and Pilate’s instructor, so screenwriting was a cool change and a really practical choice for me. I loved it, and I’m now in the midst of discovering a whole new world.
As an actress, would you say it was beneficial to your craft to take a writing course or does it feel like a different medium entirely? Does it help you understand how other writers craft the characters you portray?
I think the writer’s course gave me a lot as an actress, but it mainly gave me another medium to create as an artist and as a storyteller. I believe these two arts complement each other, and actors have special insights into character writing, so that’s cool. It was also a challenge because I am so used to seeing things through my character, that it took me many months to try and see all the characters as important and valuable. I am still struggling there.
When can we expect your first screenplay?
I am writing a show (hopefully!) and hope to finish soon and get it out there to networks to produce! I am not a patient person, so I hope you won’t need to wait too long.
Since both you and your husband work in TV/film, are there plans to get your kids involved in the industry as well? Have they expressed any interest yet?
God no. We lead a very quiet and actually screen-free house. I hold the opinions that TV and Film are not suitable for young children that have not yet gained a sense of reality, so we keep our work separate from our family life.
If I were to visit Israel tomorrow and could only spend a day in the country, where would you recommend I go?
Luckily for you, Israel is a small country and you can see a lot in one day. I would suggest going to Jerusalem of course and see all the must-see places. Have a Hummus in Abu-Gosh outside the city, drive down to the Dead Sea and walk on water, drive back to Tel Aviv and have dinner in one of the many gourmet-chef restaurants, and then go out and enjoy the amazing night life of TLV. You’ll probably arrive at the airport drunk, but I promise it will all be worth it!