How Time in the Army Prepared Lior Raz for Filmmaking + Acting on Netflix

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Photo Source: Noa Nir

The following Career Dispatch essay was written by Lior Raz, who stars on and co-created the Netflix thriller “Hit & Run.” The series is now streaming.

From an early age, I dreamed of being an actor. Even throughout my time serving in the Israel Defense Force (IDF), I was always acting. As a member of the Special Forces, going undercover was the highest stakes acting in the world. Did you think Tarantino’s “three takes per scene” rule was harsh? Because here you only have one take, and if you mess up, you risk your own life and the lives of your dearest friends. There were no exceptions; you had to be a great actor every time you went out into the field. 

I was born in Jerusalem to an ordinary Israeli family. We didn’t live a lavish life, but we were happy—we had each other. My father worked for the Israel Security Agency (ISA), and my mother was a secretary. It felt like my life was supposed to have a set path: go to school, get good grades, serve in the military, get a job. Acting was simply a fantasy for someone like me, though it was the one place, even as a child, I felt like I could truly succeed. 

As a child suffering from ADHD in the 1970s and 80s, I thought I was just lazy. I never performed well in school and the infrastructure to deal with these types of developmental disorders simply did not exist. I wanted more than anything to be the best, but no one knew how to help me succeed in the classroom. Thankfully, my school recognized the existence of these “invisible” disabilities and encouraged kids like me to seek more creative outlets. The catalyst should have come when I was allowed to create a short film with my friends instead of writing a long essay for my literature class. It was a big moment for me, and yet I still failed to realize that filmmaking was not only a viable path, but the one I was destined to be on. 

After my time in the army, I traveled between Los Angeles and Israel working as a bodyguard and in sales. I was great at my job, but I was far from happy. An old friend looked at me one day and asked, “Why are you so sad? If you had a million dollars, what would you want to do?” That’s when I knew the only thing I truly wanted in life was to be an actor. So, we opened the yellow pages and found the best acting school in Israel, and from there I never looked back. 

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of success in acting, especially with my background. But the one thing I could never have prepare myself for was the amount of “nos” I heard before finally booking even just a small part in a commercial. Nobody was waiting for me like I had imagined they would. I thought I would be an instant success story, that I would be a superstar just because I knew I was good enough. Apparently, that wasn’t the case, and for someone with an ego as big as mine, I took it personally.

One day, I got a call by accident from someone and was asked if I produced commercials. It took me no more than five seconds to say, “Of course I do!” despite having no experience and feeling completely out of my element. After calling a few friends, we created a production company and made the commercial. It was a big success for me, and from there, I got to work stumbling my way through the entertainment industry. 

I believe that as an actor, I also needed to be an entrepreneur. You can’t lie back and wait for success to come to you because it won’t—you must do it for yourself. If there isn’t a role for you, create one. I created Fauda, with my friend and partner Avi Issacharoff, because it was my dream role and I knew I was the only reason it didn’t exist yet. Even then I was told we needed an A-lister as the lead, so I auditioned and gave myself the opportunity to prove that I was the only one who could do the role justice. More recently, with “Hit & Run,” which I produced with Avi through our company, Faraway Road Productions, even though I didn’t write the role for myself, I had proven that I was more than capable and was asked to take it on. Now, I can’t see anyone else in that role; it feels like it was written for me.

READ: How to Become a Netflix Showrunner

At the end of the day, I believe actors should act. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve asked a young actor why they want to pursue the craft and their response is based on achieving fame. Fame is the byproduct, not the product. Acting in and of itself is the product, and when you act for the sole purpose of becoming famous, you risk living a life full of disappointment and regret.

My greatest advice I can give is to remain patient, but always be proactive. Don’t wait for the role of your dreams to magically appear in front of you. Live in the moment and make the most of the time you have doing what you love. 

The Buddhists said it best: “Relax. Nothing is under control.”

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