Life & Culture

Shtisel star, Michael Aloni, hints at a third season for hit Charedi show

The multi-talented actor tells the JC about fame, playing frum, London plans and his pet dog


The news that thousands of people have been waiting for came a step closer this week.  Heartthrob actor Michael Aloni, who has shot to fame as the star of the Israeli drama Shtisel, told the JC that its cast are keen to make a third series. “We’re all hoping for it,” he said.

“As they’d say on Shtisel, by the will of God we’ll make a third season. With the help of Netflix we might a find a shooting associate.”

Mr Aloni was speaking ahead of a visit to London to speak at two events raising funds for JNF UK, which surely must have been the easiest sell for any celebrity fund-raising event in recent years.

They will support JNF project Yad Tamar, supporting cancer patients in Israel.  “I think it’s a very good cause,” says Mr Aloni, 35, who promises to talk about his acting career, his shows — along with Shtisel, he stars in thriller When Heroes Fly — and answer questions.

He started out in acting as a teenager, making commercials, and then  was a host on Israeli  children’s TV.  He now hosts the Israeli version of The Voice, and has written novellas and short stories.  He’s directed a short film, Shir, and acted in many Israeli films and on stage— most recently in Martin Sherman’s  play Bent. Two more projects are in post production. But he was barely known outside Israel until Shtisel was streamed on Netflix.

The series set in the Strictly Orthodox community in Jerusalem has won fans around the world.  Mr Aloni plays Akiva Shtisel, the gentle, dreamy, lovable but sometimes confused youngest son of the family who, over the course of two seasons of twelve episodes, abandons his career as a teacher to try and make it as an artist, and gets engaged three times, only to break up with all three women.

For Mr Aloni, the religious way of life was something he had to “learn from scratch.”

“Akiva is so far from my world. Only 30 minutes away in distance, but a whole world away in our lives. It was exciting as an actor to step into a world that you don’t know, to be exposed to a whole new totally different culture.

“The power of the show is that it takes something secret and closed and shows that it’s not so shut off from the rest of us. As an artist, I relate to the dreams and hopes that Akiva has, that we all have.”

There’s a Facebook group  for Shtisel fans which has more than 9,000 members. It often has discussions — and even polls— about which of Akiva’s three fiancées he should have ended up with. What did Mr Aloni think?  He laughs “Don’t put me in that situation! The writers make the stories, I just act them!”

As part of their research, the cast were hosted by Charedi families. “They all watched it. Everyone watched it. It was phenomenal”

Now people all over the world are enjoying his performance -  and also admiring his piercing blue eyes,  “Netflix has a very powerful platform,” he says. “I’m so happy that people can enjoy the work that we do all over the world. It brings a lot of satisfaction to reach a wider audience, that we’re not limited to the local area. It warms my heart that people enjoy the show.”

 Has Hollywood been in touch? He’d prefer London, he says.  While he’s here he’s hoping to get tickets to see Tom Hiddleston in the Harold Pinter play Betrayal and he’d also like to visit the Dior exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum.

“I’m the voice behind Paddington Bear in Israel and I felt very British to do that. So I’d love to do something” — he adopts a British accent— “back in the old country. Why not the West End? Or a BBC series?”

The only problem, he adds, would be his dog, a midget Rottweiler named Bruce (who has his own, extremely cute, Insagram account). “The dog stays in Israel, he follows me everywhere. So it would be hard to leave him for long.”

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