'Dig' actor primes for big breakout
Ori Pfeffer’s star is on the rise with his new role in USA drama.
He has played supporting roles in blockbuster movies like “Munich” and “World War Z,” the hit comedy “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” and guest parts on TV shows including “CSI” and “CSI: New York,” “NYPD Blue,” “Alias” and “The Unit.” But Ori Pfeffer's breakout role may just be his current one in the USA series “Dig,” playing the pivotal role of Detective Golan Cohen, who is forced to work with an FBI attaché (Jason Isaacs) on an investigation, and clashes with him from the start.
“I love how Golan does things on his own terms. And I love that he has a sense of humor,” Pfeffer, who did research for the role by accompanying real police detectives, told From The Grapevine. “It was an eye-opening experience. After working night shifts, making busts, you change, you see the city through a different lens, assessing everyone and everything,” he said. “I liked it so much that I considered volunteering with the force. but I’m not sure I’m cut for it like Golan."
A native of Jerusalem, where “Dig” is set, the actor grew up in the same neighborhood as the show’s creator, Gideon Raff, and knew the producer, but he still had to audition, and “bit my nails until I got word that I got the part.” He loved the script from the moment he read it.
“I couldn’t put it down, I couldn’t read fast enough,” Pfeffer says, noting that the global scope reminded him of a James Bond movie, and conspiracy plot elements seemed “straight from the morning newspaper or a conversation I just had in the coffee shop.”
“Dig” brought Pfeffer back to his hometown in a very gratifying way. “Jerusalem has changed since I left,” he says. “I was 21 then, but filming there was part magical and new and on some other weird note, natural, as if I never left. There was a chase scene we shot in the neighborhood Gidi [Raff] and I grew up in – my mom still lives there. I looked over at Gidi and gave him a big fat hug, and said, ‘Can you believe this?’ I always dreamt about it, but I never thought I’d shoot an American TV show in the backyard of my childhood home. It’s a moment I’ll cherish forever.”
When filming moved to Croatia and New Mexico after the pilot episode, a certain amount of “movie magic” was necessary, Pfeffer notes. “You have this one scene where I walk into my uncle’s house shot in Jerusalem, I sit with him in New Mexico, then I leave, and that’s shot in Croatia. It was shot over the course of eight months. And you would never know!”
Pfeffer first discovered acting back in the third grade, when the self-described neighborhood troublemaker took an acting class taught by a teacher from New York. “Being the misfit that I was, that class changed my life, gave me a place where I felt I belonged, where I could be who and what I wanted to be. To this day, I love this work. I get to stay a kid and play and explore different worlds and different ways of life and get away with it.”
During high school, he got his first professional job on a TV show, and later moved to New York to study acting at the Lee Strasberg studio, appeared in the Off Broadway hit “De La Guardia,” and then began working in Hollywood productions. “I was fortunate to work with people like Spielberg, DiCaprio, Adam Sandler and so on,” he says. “With the new film voices that came out of Israel, I began to juggle both places, working with the new exciting talent we have in Tel Aviv,” where he now lives with his wife, Yael Goldman, and daughters Emmanuelle, 3, and Tehila, 1.
While “Dig” is a closed-ended story, there’s a chance that it could come back in some form and Pfeffer “would do another season if they asked me. I had the time of my life. In fact, I’ll go wherever Gidi asks me to.” He feels lucky “to have played a wide range of roles, from very dramatic as in this year’s Sundance official selection movie ‘Princess,’ to comedy, where I get to goof around and create more extreme characters,” Pfeffer says. “I love the challenges of every role and genre, and I’m super excited for things to come.”
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: