The play was Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, and all Ayelet Zurer did was kiss another girl onstage.
But the scene was racy enough for her mom to "freak out" in her seat. "She and my dad were already shocked about my acting career," Zurer recalls. "This was a lot for them."
But some 30 years later, Zurer notes that her mom watched all eight episodes of Losing Alice — a provocative Israeli neo-noir limited series complete with after-hours skinny dipping, a hotel tryst and murder. "I think parts of it were hard for her because the journey goes to extremes," she says of the Apple TV+ acquisition. "But she wanted to know where the journey was heading, so she was full-in!"
Zurer plays the titular character, a director and mother who worries that her prime years are in the rearview mirror. Then she meets a young screenwriter (Lihi Kornowski) on a train and becomes obsessed, rattled by jealousy and insecurity. "She has a love-hate relationship with this woman because she's intrigued by how she carries herself sexually," she says.
Alice's twisted rabbit hole aside, the Tel Aviv–born actress connected deeply to the character. "I know how it feels to look backward and think, 'This is it,'" she says. "Yes, I've had amazing roles, but I've also been inside the lulls where you sit and wait."
Zurer has been a familiar face for almost three decades on Israeli screens and half as long in the U.S. In her native land, she starred in the acclaimed 2003 film Nina's Tragedies, followed by the hits BeTipul (remade as HBO's In Treatment) and Shtisel. That was also her in Man of Steel (as Superman's birth mom), Angels & Demons and the Netflix series Daredevil.
The game-changer? Steven Spielberg's 2005 drama Munich, for which she mastered English. After its release, Zurer uprooted to L.A. with husband Gilad Londovski (her former snowboarding instructor, he now runs surf and snowboard camps) and their then-infant son.
And though Losing Alice is done, she's not yet done with the dark side; Zurer next appears as a therapist "who digs to find the truth" in the third season of the Netflix thriller You. She calls that experience a breeze. "Just coming in and being on someone else's show was nice," she says. "And compared to Alice, the role was so light and fun!"
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2021