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[This story contains mild spoilers to Netflix’s Hit & Run.]
Hit & Run almost didn’t have its hit and run.
Netflix’s latest bingeable mystery follows Fauda star Lior Raz as his starring character, Segev, investigates the hit-and-run death of his wife, Danielle (played by Kaelen Ohm). The scene, which takes place in Israel, was intended to be filmed in early 2020, but a rainy day made the stunt-heavy sequence too dangerous to shoot. Shortly after, filming came to a halt due to the global pandemic.
“We were yanked out of Israel before we’d finished the show,” recalls co-showrunner Dawn Prestwich of what would become a three-year production. “We spent however many months, eight or so, editing together what we had and sort of praying and hoping that we would get back to Israel to finish the show because we had a lot that we had to do.”
Hit & Run is the first U.S. Netflix production for Fauda co-creators Avi Issacharoff and Raz. The pair, who were looking to link up with American showrunners for their next idea, enlisted Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin, who, like Issacharoff and Raz, have an overall deal with Netflix. They also have a 20-year-plus history of working together on hit series ranging from Judging Amy to The Killing.
All four have co-creator credit on Hit & Run. The result of their Israeli and American partnership is a nine-episode geopolitical espionage thriller that explores duality both in its story — ultimately, one about betrayals — and in its cultural makeup. The bilingual show, featuring a mixed Israeli and American cast, filmed both in New York and Tel Aviv. And it couldn’t be completed without a safe, post-COVID return to Israel. “We were trying to think, is there some way to do the show Hit & Run without the hit and run? Nope!” explains Yorkin. “We needed to go back there and make it work.”
After wrapping filming in New York in late 2019 and pausing production during lockdown, Yorkin still remains in awe that, in early 2021, they were able to return their entire team to Israel to finish the show amid the new era of COVID-safety protocols. “The country was shut down at that moment and we had to get special permits to come in,” she says. “That was a real achievement and we all breathed a sigh of relief when that was done. At least we had the hit and run.”
Below, in a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Prestwich and Yorkin explain the team vision behind Hit & Run and why Netflix has high hopes for their big-budget collaboration: “They want it to be an international hit.”
You two have been working together as writer-producers in television for many years (Picket Fences, Judging Amy, Chicago Hope, The Riches, The Killing and Z: The Beginning of Everything, to name a few). How did you first meet?
Nicole Yorkin: Dawn and I met more than 30 years ago. We both happened to be at the American Film Institute. I was a former journalist and Dawn was a short story writer, and we sort of became friendly over the fact that, as a former journalist, I was very interested in how Dawn’s car had been stolen by the Night Stalker. And, in fact, helped police to catch the guy. They found a fingerprint on the steering wheel, right Dawn?
Dawn Prestwich: Yes. By stealing that car, it was the car that led to the capture of the Night Stalker. My claim to fame!
And you didn’t do that story for Netflix?
Prestwich: (Laughs.) No!
Yorkin: So, we bonded over that and then, after we got out of AFI, we decided to rent a little office over Tommy Tang’s on Melrose, which was a long time ago. And we spent four years trying to write television that somebody might be interested in reading at some point. We wrote a spec script for Thirtysomething and that got us our first job. And, here we are now, a lot older!
Flash-forward to Hit & Run, I read that you two are fans of Fauda. How did you connect with Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz about making a show together?
Yorkin: They were looking for American partners. They had this idea and they wanted it to be U.S. Netflix instead of an Israeli show like they had done before. Honestly, I said to our agent: “Just get us in a room with them and I know that we’ll get the job.” I just had this feeling. Sure enough, Dawn and I met with the guys, and we instantly bonded over the fact that they were partners and we were partners. Avi is also a journalist. And it turned out that Lior and Dawn had some things in common, like, they’re not the ones that do the typing.
Prestwich: We’re the ones that lie on the couch! (Laughs.) We really just hit it off. There was something about them. They have a powerful presence, but they’re really good guys. The four of us just came from a place of total respect and transparency, which was very challenging. They wanted us always to be very direct with them. I think as American women, or just as Americans, we were very careful about the way we approached them when we knew we were going to tell them something they might not like; when we needed to go a certain way, and they were going to push back. They would say, “Just tell us. If you don’t like something, just tell us.” And so, we learned early on that being direct and transparent is the way to go. Ultimately, that got us off on the right foot and we bonded.
Yorkin: They had never done an American show before and didn’t know how to run or be in an American writers room, which is completely different. So that was an education for them. We had a whole room of writers, six or seven. We would sometimes be in person, but we would often Skype with them. Hopefully, they learned something about showrunning as well. And they’d never produced a show on this scale — I guess none of us had.
Were they always looking for American partners to be the showrunners and can you elaborate on the scale of the production?
Yorkin: It was U.S. Netflix, but we shot half of it in New York and half of it in Israel. All of the scripts were written in English and then the parts that were in Hebrew were translated at a certain point. We got Netflix approval, or their promise, early on that when it came time for subtitles we would go back to the original English scripts, even if it was translated differently in Hebrew, so that we could keep the integrity of the story. It took them a little while to get used to the idea of showrunners. But eventually, they came to respect that. Don’t you think, Dawn?
Prestwich: Oh, yes. And I think they, hopefully, appreciated it. These guys are very talented, but they don’t write in English. So if they wanted to break into the American market, they needed American writers. I think they knew that going in, so they ultimately embraced us and then later embraced the writing staff and appreciated the talent that we pooled together for the show. And our writers appreciated them because they have a lot of good ideas and are really smart guys; we were all a team.
Yorkin: Fauda is real run and gun. And, just by necessity — and what blew their minds originally — is that one episode of our show is the equivalent of two full seasons of Fauda in terms of how much it cost. So for them, it was kind of mind-boggling.
Initially, Lior was not also going to star in the show. How did that come about and how did Lior playing Segev change what you had envisioned for the character?
Yorkin: Pretty early on, when Dawn and I finished the pilot and sent it in, people liked it. They asked us to do a [series] bible, and I believe when they picked it up, they said to us, “And by the way, we want Lior playing Segev.” What was Lior going to say, no? (Laughs.)
Prestwich: Lior resisted at first, but ultimately, it made so much sense. It seemed like a great idea to us. Being fans of Fauda, we were like, “Yes! Let’s have him be the star of our show!”
He recently spoke about the death of a past girlfriend in a terror attack and how he drew on that grief in this role. Were there conversations happening about how that impacted his performance?
Yorkin: That was probably the inspiration for the idea for the show. Past that, I’m not sure. He must have drawn on it acting-wise. What he said to it early on was, “Once I’m acting, once I’m on the set, I am not going to be producer any longer. I’m going to focus on what I’m doing as a performer and actor.” He gave it his all. He’s in almost every single scene. He had to speak English; he’s never acted in English before in a major way. He put himself into it completely.
Prestwich: It was a huge job. As we were mixing all of the episodes — at the end of this three-year process! — I just kept saying to Lior, “It’s amazing what you did. Because you acted so much in not your native language.” He worked so hard to have the English seem natural, and, on top of that, he had to carry the show and drive the story. And, he did it beautifully. He’s a star.
Something you don’t always see in action shows starring men are fleshed out female characters. In Hit & Run, you have journalist Naomi (Sanaa Lathan), detective Tali (Moran Rosenblatt) and Danielle (Ohm), who has a secret identity. How did you bring those roles to the table?
Prestwich: As we were talking story, they’re thinking of the main guy and his story. So, to stop everything and say, “Ok, now we need to think of this female character and, let’s give her a whole story. Let’s give her a life. Let’s give her agency and a reason to exist, other than just helping this character.” I think men just naturally do that when they are creating television series. But these guys listened. They very much appreciated the female voices in the room, and took it all very seriously and were very supportive of it.
Yorkin: We had enough women on our staff as well. Not that only women can write women, but we understood that we needed these characters to not just be there for Segev. One surprise to them was the idea that Naomi, Sanaa Lathan’s character, is also Jewish. She’s Black and Jewish, which is not something I think they’ve experienced a lot in Israel because it’s mostly immigrants who are Black and Jewish. That was a really interesting aspect and, for Sanaa Lathan, that was something she really keyed into and researched. We hooked her up with a couple of people, including Yavilah McCoy, who has an organization for Black Jews, and it was something that Sanaa really embraced and was unique; you don’t see a lot of that on TV.
You said this was a three-year process. Was that because of the pandemic?
Prestwich: We started filming for five months at the end of 2019. We were in Israel for two months in the beginning for 2020, and, as we all know, that came to an abrupt end because of COVID. We were yanked out of Israel before we’d finished the show. Then we spent however many months, eight or so, editing together what we had and sort of praying and hoping that we would get back to Israel to finish the show because we had a lot that we had to do. We still hadn’t filmed the actual hit and run. We had to do that! We finally got back to Israel in the beginning of 2021.
Yorkin: The country was shut down at that moment and we had to get special permits to come in; and we had to quarantine and then we had to do all of the very strict COVID protocols that Netflix had in place. Luckily, nobody got sick, which was amazing. And we were able to get everyone in — [executive producer] Mike Barker was in England, and some of our production people were in Australia. So, we were able to get everybody in for this final part of production.
The way the season is structured, you have nine episodes and end on a major cliffhanger. What is your vision for this show and, given your overall deals at Netflix, were you more confident going in that you will get another season?
Prestwich: Actually, we had early on pitched our idea for the cliffhanger. Then, in the process of breaking the story and by the time we knew what the entire season was going to be, and we went in and pitched it to Netflix, we were undecided. We thought, maybe we won’t make that choice. But Netflix missed it and said, “We want that.” So it was like, “Ok, we’ll come back!” We’ve very excited. We definitely feel like the show needs at least another season.
Yorkin: We’re hopeful. And it has not been picked up yet, by the way.
In your pitch to Netflix, did you map out where you would want a series to go?
Prestwich: We have ideas. In a way, it seemed… Nicole, what do you call it, kinehora? It seemed like it was not a good idea to spend too much time thinking about it.
Yorkin: It would need another writers room, which we would be excited to get.
Would you hope for more than two seasons?
Prestwich: We would love two or three seasons. Netflix’s sweet spot seems to be the three-season show, but I’m sure it’s not set in stone that things have to be the three seasons. But, who knows? We would love this to be a franchise. You never know!
Without getting too spoiler-y and speaking in broader terms, the way the show ends seems to disrupt Segev and Naomi’s big plan to expose everything that happened during season one. How does the final scene impact what could come next?
Prestwich: Our feeling is that the ending might not disrupt Segev and Naomi’s plan. And so the question is, what happens when that happens? That could all change once we sit down and really break the second season. But I think that we’re open to other ways to proceed with it. It was important to us — having been writers who were on the first season of The Killing! — that there are a lot of answers, and there’s a sense of an ending in this season so that you’re not left so completely hanging. But, at the same time, we’re saying to the audience, “You may think you know, but maybe there are bigger things afoot, and there are bigger players to deal with.” And I think the second season would be dealing with the bigger players. We sort of elevate.
The show poses questions about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Three years later from conceiving this idea, how do you expect Hit & Run will be received by a global audience?
Prestwich: I think it’s pretty relatable. What we were trying to do — even though we were dealing with two specific countries with Israel and the United States — is explore the idea that countries that are friends can also betray each other all the time, every day. Just like people in marriages can.
Yorkin: The metaphor for the show is that whether with good friends, married couples or countries — relationships are sometimes not what they seem. That was the original idea. I will tell you, there was a lot of back and forth in the room and with our partners about how to play it fairly, so it wasn’t that the Israelis were the bad guys or the Americans were the bad guys.
Prestwich: That’s where there were the biggest cultural differences. Where we recognized that we were people from different countries. We had some very interesting conversations in the room with our partners and writers. I’m sure they learned a lot about Americans, and we learned a lot about Israelis.
With the hope for global appeal, and on the heels of a string of international hits for Netflix and the recent content boom with Israeli dramas, how does that raise the stakes for Hit & Run?
Yorkin: Honestly, we do feel the pressure a bit. Netflix has been honest with us that they have high expectations for this show. They want it to be an international hit and not just a hit in Israel or a hit in the U.S. But we have no control over whether it becomes an international hit or not. So we’re just trying to remain calm and happy that we have accomplished what we set out to accomplish.
Prestwich: That was the goal; to tell a great story. One we would want to watch and binge on Netflix, and that would take us somewhere we have never been before. Nicole and I were very attracted to this idea of coming into America and New York through the eyes of an outsider. Segev is our main character. When he comes to New York, we are seeing it how he sees it and experiencing it as he experiences it. That was an interesting thing for us to do as writers, to put ourselves in that position. And to hear from Avi and Lior about their experiences as they’ve come into New York and experienced America. Lior worked here when he was younger, so he had a lot of good story for us.
The conversation about hero and antihero, “good or bad” seems to be fading; almost all of your characters exist in the gray. Why was that appealing?
Yorkin: That’s where we live, too, as writers. We want to create complex, multi-layered characters who are like real people.
Prestwich: And who are very imperfect and capable of making mistakes, and also capable of being heroic at times. It’s a wide range.
Was there one scene you are particularly proud to have pulled off?
Yorkin: I have two. One is the Batsheva Dance Company part of it. We started wooing the dance company when we first went to Israel three or four years ago. We had a connection who helped us meet with them; we met with Ohad Naharin, who is their artistic director. And then our actress started taking Gaga lessons, and by the time we were in Israel shooting, Kaelen Ohm was actually training with the company. And so the fact that we were actually able to use the real Batsheva company and have Ohad choreograph what we did was a real triumph. It was important to us that it seemed real. And luckily, Kaelen is a dancer. We didn’t use body doubles. I bet Dawn will come up with the second scene I’m thinking of.
Prestwich: You’re probably going to say the hit and run, right?
Yorkin: Well, what was most challenging? It was the hit and run.
Prestwich: That was challenging and, we were very uncertain about how to do that. But not [director] Mike [Barker], he knew what he wanted.
Yorkin: He did. However, the first time we tried to shoot it, which was the first time we were in Israel in 2020, it happened to be raining that day. It had a lot of stunts, and it was very critically timed and balanced, and it just became too dangerous to do it, so we never actually got the hit. So, we were sort of desperate. We were trying to think: is there some way to do the show Hit & Run without the hit and run? Nope! We needed to go back there and make it work. So, this time, we were able to do it. We were able to do it the way Mike wanted to and the way he saw it. He had a really clear vision to have it connect to the dance in the beginning. So that was a real achievement, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when that was done. At least we had the hit and run.
Prestwich: I also love the quiet moments. Because a show like this could just be all action, and it was very important to us that there was a lot more going on. And I think people will be surprised at how the first couple of episodes move. The breath of story that we tell in those episodes is tremendous; there’s a lot of character to set up. The show is so expensive, actually, that we had to combine [episodes]. When we were in New York getting ready to go to Isreal for the first time, we were basically told that we just can’t do it at this budget; it was unbelievably high. So we combined two episodes and had to pull stuff out and make one episode, which was challenging.
Yorkin: And I think it probably came out better because of it.
Prestwich: I totally agree.
You have sold other projects to Netflix and are hopeful for more Hit & Run, but is there anything from your past you would be interested in revisiting?
Prestwich: We love The Killing. We loved doing The Killing with Veena Sud. We were sad that it ended.
Yorkin: If you remember, after the second season, it was canceled and then it was picked up. And then, after the third season, it was canceled and then it was picked up. And so we never thought we were going to be able to get to that endpoint, which we were able to get to. We’ve been working moms our entire lives. We had babies and had to bring babies to our office on our early jobs, which was a challenge in those days — even worse than it probably is now. And so we really related to Linden [played by Mireille Enos], and we related to the fact that maybe she wasn’t the best mother, but she’s doing the best that she could. That was a character to which we totally, highly identified. And Veena did, too.
There is definitely an audience for a Linden spinoff.
Prestwich: I think so, too! Nicole, we should talk to Veena about that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Hit & Run is now streaming all nine episodes on Netflix.
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