Jewish sleuth bows on TV amid wave of anti-Semitism

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NEW YORK — Viewers of “The Calling” will quickly learn that this is not typical TV police procedural. Just two minutes later, the lead detective of a new murder quietly bows over the corpse – and prays.

Detective Avraham Avraham is an unusual figure in the New York City Police Department: a keen observer of human behavior through his study of philosophy and his orthodox Jewish faith.

“I’m proud to play a religious Jewish detective,” says actor Jeff Wilbusch, who plays Avraham. “It’s very unique to have such a show. And I think that’s an important story to tell.

Peacock’s ‘The Calling’, which co-stars Juliana Canfield as Avraham’s partner, is from acclaimed showrunner, writer and executive producer David E. Kelley, starring Oscar and Emmy winner Barry Levinson , directing the first two episodes and Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro providing the music. It starts Thursday.

Based on a series of books by Israeli crime writer Dror A. Mishani, “The Calling” puts a Torah-quoting Jewish detective at the center of prime time in the United States during a new spasm of anti-Semitism.

“We live in difficult times, sad times,” says Wilbusch. “I strongly believe in the power of storytelling. You know, I don’t know how much power I have, but I’m very proud of the show.

“The Calling” is an offbeat, quieter spectacle, using borrowed Middle Eastern melodies and cinematography ground to the gritty streets of New York City, where it was filmed in the spring and summer of 2022. A recurring character is a homeless former teacher.

“It’s a different animal. It won’t be for everyone,” Kelley says. silent in a silent show, it comes with certain challenges.”

Wilbusch’s Avraham, or Avi to his colleagues, is a lone wolf of a detective – brilliant but a bit aloof and sometimes too direct. He doodles pictures of fish on napkins to relax and can read a room – and a suspect – like no other detective.

“The mood of the series is intentionally enigmatic,” Canfield explains. “Avi is a detective who operates in a different way than your ordinary detective. And I think the show reflects his approach in many ways, which is that both the show and Avi are deeply interested in the character and human behavior.

The first season centers around the case of a missing teenager, which spans the eight hour-long episodes. Detectives follow every lead, from school friends and his sister to his unhappy mother and stern father. Avraham is always trying to get inside a suspect or victim’s head, even sitting quietly on the edge of the missing teenager’s bed to feel his essence.

“He sees the world with empathy,” says Wilbusch. “He believes that each of us is entitled to infinite respect – no matter where they come from, what faith they belong to and the color of their skin.”

It is a character that immediately intrigued the actor of Israeli origin. Few acting jobs have had him prepping by asking real homicide detectives how they decompress after work while reading essays on Hellenistic period Stoics like Marcus Aurelius.

In one scene, Canfield’s character notices the book shelves in his partner’s cabin. “There is a copy of the Torah and the Talmud, but there are also books written by great Greek philosophers and classical philosophers. He therefore uses Judaism as a kind of entry point into a way of thinking philosophically about the world. And that’s how he approached his detective work.

The interaction between Avraham and Canfield’s rookie detective is delightful. It’s an ambitious, book-faithful cop that sees him use his knowledge and hyper-detailed observations of social behavior to solve cases. “You can’t learn what he does,” warns his commander. “Yes, I can,” she replies.

She becomes a yin for her yang. “She is not put off by her sometimes alienating tendencies. And I think she’s also someone who has things to teach her about how to stay grounded and how to get out of her genius cloud-covered castle in the sky,” Canfield explains.

“She manages to surprise him,” says Wilbusch. “They are building a very interesting relationship that they never really knew they needed so badly.”

The original book was set in Tel Aviv. Kelley and the creators decided upon moving to New York that they needed to keep religion and spirituality central to the work.

“We just thought, ‘We’re not going to shy away from that.’ Far from alienating, it’s engrossing and it’s enriching with the characters, so we decided to navigate right into it,” Kelley says.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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