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You never know how celebrities look in the harsh light of the day, away from the TV or movie cameras and out of reach of the makeup artists. Viewers of the popular series, The Island, which started on Kids TV on October 28, certainly like what they see in Yael Grobglas (Jeanie in the series), Efrat Ben Yaakov (Anna) and Oz Zehavi (Chief). As it turns out, they are just as appealing in real life.
Grobglas, Ben Yaakov and Zehavi - all in their early 20s - are three of the main characters on the show, set on a remote island in 2009. It is the only spot on Earth left intact after the planet has been hit by an asteroid and the survivors' mission is to somehow go back in time to prevent the disaster. Naturally there are plenty of obstacles to be overcome along the way - some circumstantial, others personal. "[My character] for example, is quite violent to begin with," says Zehavi. "But things work out OK in the end," he reveals.
Zehavi adds that he and the other members of the cast were not only delighted to be on the series, but also realized the importance of the situation they were portraying. "I never wanted to promote or glorify violence. That is not something I believe in," he says. "But I think there is something very educational about The Island. With regard to my character, for instance, it eventually becomes clear that he is feeling desperate. His aggressive behavior is the result of despondency. It's nothing malicious."
Ben Yaakov also feels the show has a message to convey, although she says viewers should keeps things in perspective. "I want everyone to enjoy the series, but they mustn't forget that at the end of the day, it's only entertainment."
Above all, the three - and their fellow actors - say they had a ball making The Island. "The chemistry between us was instant," says Grobglas, who speaks fluent English with a slightly British accent ("My mother is Austrian and my father is French," she explains).
"We didn't meet before rehearsals started," says Ben Yaakov, who apart from acting is studying toward a degree in psychology. "But we all became instant friends. We just clicked."
The cast did, however, go through a lesson in group dynamics before the shooting actually began. "We spent a month and a half rehearsing, which is quite rare for a TV show of this kind," Zehavi notes. "It helped us not only get to know our characters, but also get to know each other as people."
Considering the intensity of the work schedule, it was a good thing they all got along. "We would get picked up by taxi at four or even three o'clock in the morning," says Grobglas, "and we wouldn't get home until 9 p.m. That was five days a week. I'd fall asleep in the taxi. It was very hard work, but I loved it."
Playing a character in such a concentrated stint can have its drawbacks. "You have to learn to be in character and out of character," says Zehavi. "I never took Chief home with me after work, and we all tried just to chat and be ourselves in between takes."
But that wasn't always the case.
"If I had to do a scene in which I had to cry, or display powerful emotions, I'd try to stay focused and in that frame of mind, even between shots," Zehavi recalls. "Once someone came up to me when I was on the side of the set, and asked me if everything was OK, because I looked so sad. I just told him I was trying to get ready for the next scene."
For Ben Yaakov, her character Anna did sometimes encroach on her private life. "Sometimes, if I'd had a hard day on the set, or if Anna had said or done something bad, I'd go home and act badly there too. My sister had to put up with quite a lot sometimes," Ben Yaakov laughs.
Can we expect any surprises as the series unravels? The cast are playing their cards close to their chest. "We're not giving anything away," says Zehavi, "but I can say that, despite all the troubles the characters have, all ends well."
Amazingly, none of the cast have worked on a television show before. Ben Yaakov has two or three TV commercials on her resume, Zehavi has some theatrical experience and Grobglas mostly concentrated on music and dance. "I got into all kinds of dancing - steps, jazz, classical. But, when I discovered Irish music and dancing that was it for me. There is something so happy and attractive in that."
To date, The Island has received predominantly positive feedback.
"I got a phone call from someone the other day," says Zehavi. "I don't know how she got my number but she only had complimentary things to say about my acting and about the show - so that was OK..."
"I've also had some great responses from people," adds Ben Yaakov. "It's very encouraging. We all need encouragement, especially because we're doing something we've never done before."
Shooting of the 50 episode series is now complete and Zehavi, Grobglas and Ben Yaakov, and apparently the rest of the cast, all agree they'd like the show to keep on going. "It would be great if there were a second series," says Grobglas. "We've all enjoyed the work, and are all thankful for the opportunity to be on the show."
Is there anything any of them regret? "Now that filming is over, we don't see so much of each other anymore," says Ben Yaakov. "More than anything, we are all good friends."