Lior Raz is ready to take Hollywood by storm. Over lunch at the Sunset Marquis, the Israeli actor-cum-co-creator of “Fauda,” the high-octane thriller focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is primed for what comes next. Most specifically he’s focused on his recently-launched Faraway Road Productions and nine-part crime drama “Hit and Run,” which bows Aug. 6 on Netflix.
The series, which follows a Tel Aviv-based tour guide whose wife is killed in a mysterious hit and run accident, was co-created with writer-journalist Avi Issacharoff, whom Raz met during their compulsory army duty and with whom Raz has not only developed and birthed “Fauda,” but also a steady parade of upcoming titles for both film and TV under their Faraway Road umbrella. (Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin are also co-creators of “Hit and Run.”)
The focus, says Raz is “to make TV shows and stories that bring out new voices, different voices, foreign voices.”
Bridget Wiley, formerly executive vice president of current programming at CBS, has been tapped as head of development at Faraway Road. Her key focus, she says, “is to work alongside [Raz and Issacharoff] to help expand their brand with global voices in content.”
Currently, Faraway is in pre-production with director Greg Barker on a fact-based spy thriller for Showtime. Raz and Issacharoff are also writing Season 4 of “Fauda,” an international juggernaut not only in Israel, but in such disparate places as Lebanon, Sweden, Gaza and Turkey.
“I loved ‘Fauda’ and was riveted by their ability to weave their real-life experiences into such a complex, suspenseful, propulsive yet emotional series,” says Wiley. “For creators to deliver on all of this while respecting multiple characters and cultural perspectives is no small feat. There is also something very compelling and dynamic about their creative partnership and how they each approach character and story.”
Between Wiley’s contacts and track record working stateside and Raz’s and Issacharoff’s international relationships, Wiley calls their professional partnership, “a perfect marriage.”
“They are extremely creative and collaborative so they bring ideas, perspective and stories from their part of the world,” she says. “Along with Avi and Lior and our entire team, I help expose and develop these ideas with top talent here in the U.S. and worldwide who are also passionate about doing more global stories that connect us all. We are at an exciting inflection point in the entertainment industry where Lior, Avi and Faraway Road are well positioned to fulfill the growing interest to access these stories from around the world.”
With “Fauda” providing such a runaway global sensation, Issacharoff, who writes about Middle East politics for such news outlets as Haaretz and The Times of Israel, knew that the expectations for “Hit and Run” were going to be extremely high.
“There’s a joke taken from an Israeli movie in which the character playing an officer in the Israeli Special Forces says that when you do a marathon, you start the fastest way possible — and then you increase speed,” says Issacharoff. “Of course, you never run a marathon like that. I know, I’m a marathon runner. But in the case of creating a TV series, you need to do that. Our policy is that you start the fastest way possible. And then increase. You get to the edge, get to the highest peak ever, and then you think about how you get to the higher peak. You can not slow down. You need to increase.”
“Hit and Run” succeeds in reaching those high peaks, with breathtaking, neck-whipping plot twists at every turn. But at its core, notes Raz, the show is also about paternal love, untenable grief and lifelong friendships tested under immeasurable pressure and strain.
“It’s action-driven storytelling,” says Raz. “But also it’s an emotional journey — a crazy emotional journey. It’s the perfect combination.”
The show is also quite different from “Fauda,” notes Isaccharoff. It’s partly set in New York, and several of its characters speak English, giving it a distinct international flavor.
“We’re trying to reach out to everyone,” says Issacharoff. “We want the U.S. market. We want the South America market, and Africa, Middle East. We want everyone to watch it.”
As for what keeps Raz and Issacharoff motivated in the face of an industry wherein rejection is par for the course, both credit their army experience for sustaining their devoted professional drive. When they were pitching “Fauda” in Israel, “nobody wanted it,” says Raz.
“But we continued. We said, we’ll ask until everybody says no. And then we will start all over again. I think one thing the army experience gave us is that we just don’t see any obstacles. We go forward with this belief that everything is possible. We know that everything is possible. It’s just our brains that stop us from achieving what we really want. When you are in the Special Forces, you have to invent yourself every day. So this is what we’re doing in our work. We are not thinking inside the box. We are reinventing ourselves over and over, again and again and again.”