Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas and Laurie Simmons

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.

Finding Roots Backgrounds, The Lucky Ones

As noted last week, MICHAEL DOUGLAS and LENA DUNHAM will be the guests on the "Finding Your Roots" on Tuesday, April 2 (PBS—check local schedule for exact time).  

Last December, when this season’s “Roots” guests were announced, I wrote a paragraph about Michael Douglas. Here’s a refresher: Michael, 79, is a star actor and producer, like his father, the late KIRK DOUGLAS. Michael’s mother wasn’t Jewish and Michael was long secular. However, about 10 years ago, he embraced Reform Judaism. This ‘embrace’ was influenced by his son, DYLAN. When he was 11 years old, Dylan told his father that he wanted to study Judaism and have a bar mitzvah ceremony. Dylan, now 21, had his bar mitzvah (2015) in Jerusalem and, in 2015, Michael received the Genesis Prize for “Jewish achievement”.

Here's a heads-up: Douglas will play Benjamin Franklin in an 8-part Apple+ series entitled “Franklin” (begins April 12). More about “Franklin” in my next column.

Dunham, 37, is best known as the creator, writer, and star of the hit HBO series “Girls” (2012-2017). She grew-up in New York City. Carroll Dunham, her (non-Jewish) father is a respected painter. LAURIE SIMMONS, her mother, is a well-known photographer. Lena has long identified as Jewish, but I didn’t know much more until she was profiled in February by El Pais, an on-line magazine.

Dunham co-stars in “Treasure”, a film that recently played a Berlin film festival and will open in theaters this June. She plays the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Sadly, Berlin festival reviews were bad. But “Treasure” did prompt the El Pais piece.

She told El Pais: “[When my grandmother] died in 2016, I started studying with a rabbi, reading religious texts, and authors like YEHUDA AMICHAI. What I like about being Jewish is that it’s not mandatory to have a relationship with God, but rather, with the community around you. For me, being Jewish is about being someone you can trust, being a source of support, being able to recommend a good doctor…or being the person who shows up with bagels in an emergency situation.”

After “Girls” ended, Dunham had serious physical health issues which lead her to overuse anxiety and anti-depression drugs. The El Pais article says she’s “okay” now.

Dunham may have a career-uptick soon (even if “Treasure” flops). Filming right now is “Too Much”, a Netflix rom-com series which Dunham co-created and co-wrote with LUIS FELBER, 37, her husband. He’s a U.K. native and a fairly well-known musician. His father is British Jew. His mother is Peruvian, and not Jewish. Lena and Luis wed in a Jewish ceremony.

 “Too Much” follows a New York comedian who moves to London following a break-up. The Jewish cast members include RHEA PERLMAN, 75, MICHAEL ZEGEN, 45 ("Mrs. Maisel"), EMILY RATAJKOWSKI, 32 (her mother is Jewish), and Brit STEPHEN FRY, 66. He also co-starred in “Treasure”. 

“We Are the Lucky Ones” is an 8-part Hulu series began on March 28. It is based on a best-selling 2017 novel of the same name by Georgia Hunter, 38ish. The novel and the series are “historical fiction”—based on real events, but with some details and dialogue imagined

Hunter’s maternal grandfather was ADDY KURC, a Polish Jew. He was in France when WWII broke-out. He found refuge in Brazil and, later, in the United States. He never talked about his Jewish background or the Holocaust, and Hunter didn’t even know she was “one quarter” Jewish until after his death.

Around 2000, Hunter began researching the “story” of her Jewish grandfather, his three siblings, and their parents. Remarkably, they all managed to survive the Holocaust. Even more remarkable, some 22 members of the extended Kurc family survived.

The cast is heavily Jewish: LOGAN LERMAN, 32, as Addy Kurc, JOEY KING, 24, as Addy’s sister, HALINA; Israeli actor AMIT REHAV, 28, as their brother, JAKOB, and Israeli actress HADAS YARON,33, as MILA, their sister.

ROBIN WEIGERT, 55, and Israeli actor LIOR ASHKENAZI, 55, play the Kurc siblings’ parents and Israeli “superstar” MICHAEL ALONI, 40 (“Shtisel”) has a recurring role as Mila’s husband.

Weigert, a very good, Emmy-nominated actress, now has a main cast role on “Tracker”, a CBS series that premiered in February. The title character tracks down bad guys for a fee. Weigert plays his sort-of-agent: finding jobs for him.  

"Tracker" got good reviews and big audiences. It was quickly renewed for a 2nd season. I say, “good for Weigert.” She’s been a frequent guest star, but she hasn’t had a main cast series role since she played Calamity Jane in “Deadwood” (HBO; 2004-2006).

Attendee panel closed


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