Between stage and screen

For up-and-coming Israeli actor Nadav Nates, moving between both theater and TV is a dream come true.

Nadav Nates (photo credit: DANIEL KEDEM)
Nadav Nates
(photo credit: DANIEL KEDEM)
Nadav Nates is one of Israel’s most acclaimed stage actors – he is starring in the production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time running in Tel Aviv – and now, with his performance in Eytan Fox’s new television drama, Good Family, he is poised to become one of Israel’s biggest screen stars.
In Good Family, which premieres on November 13 on Channel One at 9:50 p.m., Nates plays Eran, the brilliant, driven son of parents played by veteran Israeli actors Lior Ashkenazi and Anat Waxman who appoints himself the caretaker of his more volatile siblings and the one who mediates all the family conflicts. At the same time, he struggles to succeed in high tech, and is thrown into turmoil when he finds himself attracted to a co-worker who comes from America, a tough, self-possessed woman who is utterly different from his sweet fiancée.
“I’ve been working very intensively recently,” said Nates. “Eytan scheduled the rehearsals and the shooting of Good Family so I could keep performing in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
Preparing to play Eran in Good Family came easily to Nates, who says that Fox, who co-produced the show with Itay Segal, “likes to use actors who psychologically and physically are a good fit for their character.... It was fun for me to play him. I don’t take on a role to search for a challenge. I want to do what is correct for the character.
“With Eran, there’s much more going on than what meets the eye. He has a very problematic relationship with his girlfriend and with other people in his life. What he does is not what he wants. He’s calm on the outside, but there is a violence inside him, an inner rage.”
His siblings on the show are all artistic, loud extroverts, but “Eran keeps it all inside.”
In his breakout stage role, as Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, based on the novel by Mark Haddon, Nates plays a very different character: a teenager with Asperger Syndrome (a form of high-functioning autism) who discovers some hard truths about his family and the world when he tries to find out what really happened to a neighbor’s dog. Nates did a great deal of research to prepare himself to play this character.
“One thing I read when I was starting out that helped me was the quote, ‘If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.’ That gave me the freedom to make the character my own.”
One book he read that influenced his portrayal was The Reason I Jump, a Japanese book in which a 13-year-old boy with autism typed out answers to his mother’s questions, which were compiled in a book.
“Many of the answers are very simple but they gave me a lot of ideas,” he said.
He met with two young boys with autism in Israel, and spoke to their parents, but did not model his portrayal of Christopher on any particular person.
“I didn’t want to imitate anyone, but I did want to understand them,” said Nates.
His insight and preparation paid off in a performance that has garnered glowing, star-making raves from critics. Helen Kaye wrote in this newspaper that, “When, at the end of the play, Chris says, ‘I can do anything,’ you root for him and the actor who plays him.” Michael Handelzalts, writing in Haaretz, said, “Nadav Nates, in the lead role, is nothing short of a genuine wonder.... There was something so convincing about his performance that for a moment at the end I was ready to swear that, at the age of 15 and with Asperger’s, he is capable of anything.”
Although Nates has a grueling schedule of performances – between 17-23 per month – he has no intention of leaving the show.
“It’s fun and it fulfills me. Being in theater and being on film and television are both very fulfilling. When I look at a role, I look at my gut feeling, and try to figure out if it’s good. And if it is, I go for it.”