Lior Raz is one of the few big Israeli stars to break through in Hollywood, thanks to the success of Fauda on Netflix. Raz plays Doron, the brooding solider at the heart of the series. He has had an untraditional path towards Hollywood stardom, however; after serving in the Israel Defense Forces, he worked as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodyguard. Wild!
Let’s get into 18 things to know about Lior Raz, sababa?
1. Lior Raz was born in Ma’ale Adumim, a West Bank settlement outside Jerusalem. Here he is at 3 years old:
2. He is a Mizrahi Jew; his dad was born in Iraq and his mom was born in Algeria.
3. Growing up, he was immersed in Arabic culture. “His father was a career officer in the Israeli equivalent of the Navy seals and in the Shin Bet, the intelligence services; when the family entertained, they did so in a way that would have struck most Ashkenazim as alien. People frequently spoke Arabic in the house and played music from across the Middle East. Later, his father ran a plant nursery, and Lior’s friends were Arab kids from Azaria and Jericho who worked there.”
4. On his Jewish identity growing up, Raz said, “We were culturally Jewish. We celebrated the holidays, we fasted on Yom Kippur and had Kiddush on Friday night, but that’s it.”
5. Raz feels very strongly about being Jewish and living in Israel: “This is my heritage and why I live in Israel. I’m very connected to my heritage and my Judaism. In Israel, it’s not a question at all. It’s something you’re born into when you live in the Jewish state. You fight for the Jewish state. You belong to the Jewish state. You cannot disconnect the two.”
6. After graduating high school, like most Israelis, he enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces where he joined an elite counterterrorism unit, Unit 217, called Duvdevan (which translates to “cherry,” reflecting a “cherry-on-top” status). He was stationed outside Ramallah, in the West Bank.
7. He wanted to be in Duvdevan not for ideological reasons but because “you want to be part of the best people in the country, to test yourself. You want to be true to your friends, to protect them and be part of a team that works together.” He continued, “We were chosen because we were meant to be calm, moral, not to lose our minds in the midst of trouble, to think, not to behave like an animal.”
8. In 1990, when he was 19 years old, his girlfriend, Iris Azulai, was murdered in a terrorist attack. She was 18. “This was a Sunday morning, and I was in Ein Kerem Hospital getting my leg looked at for stress fractures,” Raz recalls. “I heard from someone there that there had been this attack. Iris’s brother called me and said she had been wounded. I just started to walk in a daze until my mother picked me up on the road.”
9. After being discharged, Lior Raz went to Los Angeles with $125 in his pocket. He worked as a bodyguard for actress Nastassja Kinski, then Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. Raz’s take on bodyguard life? “After the army, guarding a house was pretty boring.”
10. He returned to Israel at age 24, when he started taking acting lessons and getting minor roles on TV and stage. His first big television role was on Prime Minister’s Children, an Israeli political drama. He also starred in Scarred in 2013.
11. Raz’s breakout role, however, was clearly on Fauda. He co-created the show with an old friend, Avi Issacharoff, an Israeli journalist, and drew on his own experiences in the IDF. Raz plays Doron, a special-forces operative who goes undercover in the West Bank.
12. This is just a great description of Lior Raz from a 2017 New Yorker profile: “Raz, who is forty-five, also plays Doron Kabilyo, although he is hardly a dashing Sabra or a natural leading man. Like many Israeli men, he shaves his head rather than suffer the encroaching indignity of male-pattern baldness, and his visage has a stubbly, moonfaced aspect. A three-inch scar, a souvenir from a car crash, slashes down across his forehead and lends him a man-with-a-past air. He is built as solidly as a trash compactor, and his resting expression is one of irritable disappointment.”
Seriously, that face:
13. On the nature of Fauda showing both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Raz said, “It’s very unique, because I don’t know of many TV shows doing that. You see their lives and needs and their love in their natural surroundings. I think this is kind of the magic of the series and why people from all over are watching. I know many Arabs from Israel who love the show — this is the first time we’ve honored their language, since you have a show in which 60 percent of it is in Arabic. You don’t see that anywhere.”
Yet, he continues, “I know people from the Arab community, Palestinians, who don’t love the show because they think we’re glorifying the Israelis and the soldiers’ unit and taking their side. But I say to people all the time that I’m Israeli and can write as an Israeli. Me and Avi [Issacharoff] can try to understand and write about Palestinian characters but we are not Palestinians.”
14. Raz has reflected on the deep impact his army service had on him — specifically, coming to terms with his post-traumatic stress disorder. “It all stayed there and deep inside of us. As a person, you wake up eventually and discover that you have post-traumatic stress disorder. You realize you are tense all the time, stressed, you aren’t sleeping, you’re on edge, always on alert. I was giving a lecture the other day at some high-tech firm and I clicked the clicker for a snippet of film about ‘Fauda’ and just the sound of the show—the gunfire—set me off. I was suddenly so stressed. I was immediately looking for the door. We live in a post-traumatic society, all of us.”
15. In 2018, he starred in Operation Finale as Isser Harel, the Mossad director who oversaw the capture of Adolf Eichmann.
On working with Raz, Nick Kroll told Alma, “He’s incredibly smart and hardworking, and such a lovely guy to spend time with — and also a guy who, having spent time in the special forces in Israel, understood some of the things we were doing in a different way and was able to sort of inform us about what protocol would actually be going down. Even though he wasn’t in the Mossad, he understood things in a way that we might not because we hadn’t been exposed to that kind of activity. It’s one of the great joys for me, coming out of the movie, was getting to know him.”
16. He starred in 6 Underground, a Michael Bay Netflix film, where he plays a Turgistan dictator.
He’s set to star in another Netflix thriller, Hit And Run, alongside Sanaa Lathan.
17. His Instagram is mainly photos of his kids, interspersed with promo for Fauda.
18. He is married to fellow actor Meital Barda. They are very cute:
Bonus: He once retweeted me, sharing an Alma article. Thanks, Lior Raz!!
(You can read that Nick Kroll interview here.)
- 18 things to know about Idan Amedi, who plays Sagi
18 things to know about Rona-Lee Shimon, who plays Nurit.
Header image of Lior Raz by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.