Hunters creator on killing Nazis and casting Al Pacino in his Jewish superhero series – The Boston Globe

Posted By on January 18, 2020

We face incredible advents of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia throughout the world today, he says. Crafting a love letter to his grandmother, which would honor her struggle while exploring the righteous anger many Jews felt toward Nazis who escaped justice after World War II, started to feel increasingly urgent and timely.

Struck one day by the concept of flooding such a story with the pulpy, propulsive colors of his favorite comics, Weil created Hunters, starring Logan Lerman and Al Pacino. The series debuts on Amazon Feb. 21, with 10 episodes.

Set in 70s New York, it follows a ragtag group of vigilantes who uncover hundreds of Nazi officials living in secret around the United States, plotting to architect a Fourth Reich on American soil. They embark on a dangerous, bloody mission to thwart the Nazis genocidal scheme.

It really comes from the notion of a Jewish superhero, he says of Hunters," which is hyperviolent and stylized. Before the pilots end, characters have been stabbed, gassed, bludgeoned, and dispatched in much nastier ways; crucially, the Jewish characters carry out this violence more than theyre on the receiving end of it.

I wanted to showcase Jews not as intellectual, nebbishy, victimized, or emasculated, but to show them with might and strength, explains Weil. "Wanting to gain vengeance can be Jewish, too. Its the idea of people whove been so otherized and persecuted for so long reclaiming power that is so political.

In searching for an actor to play Jonah Heidelbaum, who becomes a hunter after his grandmother is murdered by an intruder, Weil had long pictured Lerman. Best known for starring in the young-adult Percy Jackson franchise, Lerman has carved out a niche for himself playing sensitive, soft-spoken young men in coming-of-age dramas like The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), Stuck in Love (2013), and Indignation (2016).

Theres this great world-weariness about him so few young actors can achieve, Weil says. Logan can do that in spades. Its the quietude about his performances. He has such heart and soul, and its simply there, within him.

For Lerman, the comic-book framing of Hunters at first felt like a tonal mishmash, given its subject matter. But as he read the scripts, the actor grew to understand Jonah as someone with a strict moral code, informed by his worship of virtuous superheroes like Captain America.

When Jonah is confronted with the ugliness of the hunters mission, its a clash of ideals, says Lerman, 27, speaking by phone. That comic-book lens also plays against the question at the center of the series, which is, Does it take evil to fight evil? Do you have to become a bad guy in order to fight the bad guy?

Another draw for Lerman was the chance to act opposite Hollywood great Pacino, in his first TV series. Pacino currently Oscar-nominated for playing Jimmy Hoffa in Martin Scorseses organized-crime opus The Irishman costars as Meyer Offerman, the mysterious founder of the hunters who co-created the group with Jonahs grandmother.

Its been the greatest honor of my career so far, Lerman says of working with Pacino. I adore him as an actor, and getting to fall in love with him as a human being was truly something special.

Even more effusive about Pacinos involvement is Weil, who remains stunned that the actor signed on in the first place. It took four meetings between the pair for Pacino to make his mind up to do so, during which time Weil felt himself challenged to craft the richest-possible version of Offermans back story and future arc. (At least two more seasons of Hunters are planned.)

You think youre a great writer until you meet a great actor, says Weil. Theres so much Al intuits about characters, from the decisions they make, to the clothes they wear, a look, a glance, the music they love. I would watch him build this character in his mind, brick by brick, memory by memory, just sitting there. It was magical.

HUNTERS

Starring: Al Pacino, Logan Lerman, Jeannie Berlin, Dylan Baker, Carol Kane, Lena Olin, Josh Radnor, James Le Gros

On: Amazon. First season streams on Feb. 21.

Isaac Feldberg can be reached at isaac.feldberg@globe.com, or on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.

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Hunters creator on killing Nazis and casting Al Pacino in his Jewish superhero series - The Boston Globe

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