Michael Aloni Goes from Haredi Artist in ‘Shtisel’ to Family Scion in ‘Beauty Queen of Jerusalem’

Michael Aloni goes from 'Shtisel' to 'Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.'

Israeli actor Michael Aloni enchanted American audiences as Akiva, a soulful Haredi artist looking for true love in the Net- flix series “Shtisel,” which chronicles an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem’s Geula neighborhood. Aloni, who has appeared in Keshet Media Group’s “When Heroes Fly” and Hagai Levi’s “Scenes From a Marriage,” now stars as patriarch Gabriel Ermoza in “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” Oded Davidoff ’s multigenerational saga about a Sephardic Jewish family living in Jerusalem. The series extends from the Ottoman Empire through Israel’s War of Independence. The first 10 episodes bowed on Netflix in May; part two drops July 29. Aloni talks to Variety about the show, his expanding career and future projects.

How does it feel to have Israeli series gain such widespread popularity on American streamers?

I’m just happy that “Shtisel” and “When Heroes Fly” and all the work that we are doing is able to spread its wings and touch so many people around the world, especially in the States. But I’m hearing about it from every cor- ner of the world because of the territories that it was distributed to, and it really warms my heart.

“The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” based on Sarit Yishai- Levi’s novel, is the most expensive TV series Israel has produced. What attracted you to the project?

I love the book, and I loved what they started to do with the adaptation, which laid the ground for a soapy plot. But as it came together it was more of a period piece in terms of its large scale and production. And they attached a great director, Oded Davidoff, who I loved working with. And so, combining that with the complexity of telling the story of this great book, and the character of Gabriel himself, was interesting. To be able to play this character from the age of 19 through his 50s in the first half of the series, and to be able to change through all those dif-ferent periods of time, that was a great challenge to me as an actor.

In the series, Gabriel’s relationship with his mother, Merkada, is quite funny. She controls his every move, and he listens to her every command, despite his reluctance. He is the ultimate mama’s boy.

Gabriel, he’s always trying to take control back over his life, because he was always run by other people. And attheendofit—I’mnotgoingto tell spoilers for the second season — but it shows how he’s able to take control back of his life. The actress who plays Merkada [Irit Kaplan] and I actually have a lit- tle web series that we shot, like a comic takeoff of the series. It kind of makes fun of everything. Hope- fully, you’ll be able to watch it.

While the series is set in Jerusalem, much of it was shot in Tzfat, a city in northern Israel and the center of Kabbalah.What was that like?

The initial aim was to shoot in Eastern Europe in a studio, but because of COVID, we had to bring the pro- duction back to Israel. Tzfat is a very special place. It was kind of fantastic because it was pandemic lockdown at the time and it felt like the city was just for us — like our own playground. It almost became like Universal Studios.

What’s your next project?

“Plan A” is coming out soon in the States. It’s a great movie in which I star opposite August Diehl and Sylvia Hoeks and directed by Yoav and Doron Paz. The film tells the untold story of Jewish revenge after the Holocaust.

Things you didn’t know about Michael Aloni

Age: 38
Hometown: Tel Aviv
Hanging 10: He loves surfing — favorite spots are Israel’s
Jaffa Beach and California’s Point Dume.
A dog named Bruce: He won’t disclose who the dog is named after, saying with a grin that it’s “top secret.”