Efrat Dor is breaking into both acting and screenwriting. Efrat Dor is breaking into both acting and screenwriting. Efrat Dor is breaking into both acting and screenwriting. (Photo: Gilles Toucas)

Do you recognize this woman?

With 'The Zookeeper's Wife' opening, and a Netflix show on the way, you'll soon forget the time you couldn't ID Efrat Dor.

Efrat Dor is a household name in her native Israel, having starred in some of its most popular TV series. Now her recognition factor is about to get a boost with the release of projects in America – the World War II drama “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” in theaters March 31, and the Netflix series “The Greenhouse,” premiering later this year.

Although she speaks perfect English, Dor does a Polish accent in the movie, which is set in Warsaw but was filmed in Prague, Czech Republic. She interviewed for the role with director Niki Caro via Skype, and landed the role of sculptor Magda Gross, despite having failed to record and save video of the session.

"Niki is such a sensitive director," Dor tells From The Grapevine. "She is really on top of everything and she makes everyone feel so comfortable on set. She has a lot of respect for actors. I felt so good working with her."

Actress Jessica Chastain in a scene from the new film 'The Zookeeper's Wife."Actress Jessica Chastain in a scene from the new film 'The Zookeeper's Wife." (Photo: Focus Features)

And as for the film's star, Jessica Chastain, Dor says: "Jessica is amazing. She’s so professional,” describing an emotional scene in which the star gave 100 percent even when the camera wasn’t on her. “I asked if she always does that, and she said, ‘Of course, that’s what a partner’s about.’ The way she handles herself on set is so inspiring. She walks around with a huge folder with a lot of post-its on the script, with everything broken down to the fullest extent. I would pick her brain about the scene, and we’d laugh before and after. I loved working with her.”

Dor also bonded with fellow Israeli co-stars Shira Haas and Iddo Goldberg. “We were like the Three Stooges on set. When the scenes are so dramatic, you have to laugh it out in between. It was fun to have them around,” she says.

Switching gears, Dor will play a TV news reporter in “Greenhouse Academy,” set in an elite California boarding school. “It’s my first job with an American accent,” she says of the teen series. She’s still based in Israel, but is considering moving to Los Angeles to enjoy the anonymity it affords her, at least for now. “I love L.A. and the weather, but I also have a lot of work in Israel,” she tells us. She has a romantic comedy coming out there in June.

Enthralled by both the attention and the idea of telling stories, Dor has wanted to be a performer for as long as she can remember. “Telling a good story is what it’s all about for me. I’d see movies that would give me strength or courage or inspired me growing up. That’s what I love about it, the ability it gives you to connect with people,” she says.

Efrat Dor studied acting in both the U.S. and Israel.Efrat Dor studied acting in both the U.S. and Israel. (Photo: Gilles Toucas)

She grew up in a small town with her parents – a writer and an engineer who now live in the coastal Israeli city of Tel Aviv – and three brothers, taking drama classes and acting in plays. At 19, she went to New York to study for a year at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, and then returned to Israel for three years of additional study. Breaking into TV, she starred in comedies and action dramas, including a cop show, playing “a badass Russian police detective. I’d come home with bruises but I loved it. I’m very physical and have a lot of energy and I love getting the chance to take it out on set,” says the sporty Dor, who was into judo and karate as a girl and recently took up running.

Not surprisingly, she’d like to do an action movie. She enjoyed making the Israeli romantic comedy, but remains partial to drama: “Deep, profound characters and stories that I can really sink my teeth into.” She’d also like “to work with and support female directors because there are so few of them.”

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Dor also likes the idea of taking her future into her own hands. She recently took a screenwriting course and has started writing the script for a TV series. “I have all these stories bubbling up inside of me that I want to tell and started writing them down. It’s great to do between projects. As an actor, you’re dependent on being cast. As a writer you’re free to create what you want and you can tell the stories that are important to you.”

Equally fulfilled on a movie set and by being a mom – with husband Mosh, who directs reality TV including the Israeli version of “Big Brother,” they have a daughter Sol, 4, and son Reef, 2 – she believes it’s possible to have it all. “My family is so supportive in helping me make my dreams come true,” she tells us. Now that international doors are opening for her, “It’s up to me to do something with that.”


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