Fans of actor Michael Aloni’s work in the Netflix runaway hit Shtisel love his character Akiva Shtisel, his dedication to his art, and his seemingly constant search for love.
Now in his new project, yes Studio’s The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, Aloni drops the ultra-conservative Jewish garments and the curly sidelocks. If you’ve only seen him in Shtisel, you might not even recognize the actor.
Aloni has become an international star thanks to ‘Shtisel’
The actor was raised in Tel Aviv in a secular Jewish upbringing. Aloni revealed that portraying the youngest son in the ultra-Orthodox Shtisel family was an eye-opening experience for him.
In the role of Akiva Shtisel, Aloni played an aspiring artist in a community that frowns upon the profession. At 26 and unmarried, Akiva is a disappointment to his father, who tells his son of his disillusionment frequently.
“Akiva is so far from my world,” the actor told The Jewish Chronicle in 2019. “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 star explained to The Jewish News that, although he’s well-known in Israel, the community Shtisel was filmed in was unaware of his presence.
“I’m a pretty well-known face in Israel from hosting The Voice, but they didn’t know me in Mea She’arim and we were able to shoot the first season undercover with a hidden camera inside a vehicle and a phone mic in our ears for instructions,” Aloni said.
Aloni on marriage offers from Orthodox moms
The When Heroes Fly actor says the show counts among its fans, surprisingly, the very Orthodox groups it portrays.
“Places vary in levels of orthodoxy, depending on how closed they are, and while there are signs in the neighborhood saying ‘no internet’ and ‘no television’, they had a kosher WhatsApp group and found a pirate route to downloading the series,” he explained.
He’s even received offers of matrimony from Orthodox parents eager to marry their daughters to a good guy like Akiva Shtisel.
“So for the second season they were all shouting ‘Akiva, Hello Akiva’ and some of them thought I was really an artist and wanted to arrange shidduchs (matchmaking),” Aloni said. ““I got requests in my Shtisel inbox from mothers claiming to have wonderful daughters and they had no problem with them marrying a poor artist.”
His new role in ‘The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem’
In the new yes Studios television series, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, Aloni leads the cast as Gabriel Ermosa in the new sweeping drama that follows a Sephardic family throughout the early to middle-20th century.
Co-producer Dafna Prenner stated about the series in part, “After years of watching with envy costume dramas from around the world, we feel lucky to be able to produce a period drama that will bring to the screen the rarely seen sights and sounds of early 20th century Jerusalem.”
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Sarit Yishai-Levi, the historical drama will feature dialogue in Hebrew, English, Ladino and Arabic. Aloni, clean-shaven, no sidelocks, no black hat or coat in this drama, revealed that he wept when he finished the book.
He explained to The Jerusalem Post what drew him to this new series.
“When you write something that’s very particular and seems provincial and personal, you can hit the hearts of people,” Aloni said. “Family is family. Life is full of choices we make that we have to live with, and we carry our family’s history on our shoulders and in our hearts.”
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