Tonight, January 10, Netflix is releasing a new series that looks to be a guaranteed hit with American audiences. The new show called “When Heroes Fly” centers around an Israeli Special Operations unit that was fighting in Lebanon in 2006. They then reunite to rescue a woman they believed to be dead, held in Colombia.
The unit is getting ready to leave Lebanon and have an exfiltration route planned to get them back in Israel where their families and lives are ready to get back to normal. But all hell breaks loose. Moving along their exfiltration route, they come across a disabled Israeli tank that is believed to be empty and the IDF air force is preparing to blow up to keep it from falling into the hands of Hamas. But when the unit finds the tank, there are two young scared crewmen still inside.
The Special Operations team gets into a fierce firefight with Hezbollah fighters that greatly outnumber them while trying to rescue some crewmen from the disabled Israeli tank. During the fighting, their commander is killed and several men wounded. The team is torn apart over it and bitter recriminations go back and forth over their decisions on that fateful night and it gets worse after they must conduct an after-action review for the Army upon returning home.
The men go their separate ways for 11 years and each is shown dealing with the stress of their war and loss in their own way until the sister of one of the team members, who was also the lover of the officer who took charge when the commander went down is seen in Colombia by one of the men while looking at a photo in a newspaper. The catch is that she supposedly died in a car crash there nine years before. And they find out that she’s being held against her will. So the commandos reunite for a final, personal rescue mission.
The team, still bitterly resentful to one another, reunite for final mission together that takes them deep into the heart of the Colombian jungle, where they soon realize that if they are to succeed in their search to find Yaeli, the missing woman each of them must first confront the trauma of their battle in Lebanon that tore them apart so many years before.
The trailer for the series can be seen below:
SpecialOperations.com was fortunate enough to sit down for a telephonic interview with the two main stars of the series, Tomer Kapon who plays Aviv Danino, the second-in-command of the Special Ops unit and who still suffers from terrible PTSD 11-years after his horrific experiences in Lebanon. And Israeli pop singer and actress Ninette Tayeb who plays Yael ‘Yaeli’ Ashkenazi, the love interest of Aviv who everyone believed killed in Colombia in a car accident nearly a decade ago. She is the pivotal character in the series that everything centers around.
While both Kapon and Tayeb are already big stars in the Israeli entertainment industry, they are both going to be well-known to American audiences as well. Besides “When Heroes Fly”, Kapon will be seen in the soon upcoming American miniseries, “The Boys” starring Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings), Jack Quaid and Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad). Tayeb has moved to Los Angeles and in addition to her acting career, she is kicking off her music career in the U.S. as well. She has released her first video, which was directed by her husband.
So, when we were contacted by the film company and asked if we were interested in getting a sneak peek at the series, we jumped at the chance. The Israelis are producing some excellent quality miniseries for television. “Fauda’ which centers around another Israeli Special Operations unit that goes undercover inside Gaza also starred Kapon.
The company sent us a trailer and a teaser with the entire first three episodes. While we have no idea how the show will play out, the first few hours of the series is plenty enough to hook you right in. It was the most popular new show in Israel and won the Canneseries Award at the Cannes Film Festival last April for the Best Series.
So we asked first to the both of them why they thought it was initially so successful in Israel last year. Both believed because it was so well done had a lot to do with it and the fact that it tells such a personal story for all of the actors. And the plight of the soldiers with PTSD is something that not only touches Americans but also resonates deeply with the Israelis.
With the PTSD, I asked Kapon about the scene where his character, Aviv has returned home three years later and is in the bar he owns with his girl (Tayeb). Everything is good until he sees one of the tankers they rescued, a young soldier who was shot in the head. He has a crushing flashback that sends him into a terrible depression and his life spiraling out of control. It was among the most powerful scenes in the first three episodes.
Kapon, who was an Israeli paratrooper and fought in Lebanon, knows how that would play to fellow soldiers. “Thanks, bro, it was a great scene because we were showing how everyone can be affected by PTSD.”
Tayeb’s character, Yaeli who has to try to somehow to hold Aviv and their relationship together is ripped apart by her inability to reach and ultimately help the man she loves. “I’m glad you picked up on that,” she said. “It was very intense and you are dealing with a very hurt individual. So many soldiers and their families have to deal with this. And it shows that the wounds of war are not always visible. Many times they are hidden, and that is why the character of Yaeli was so important. Because she was the woman who can bring him and all of them back.”
She said that she told the director that her role scared the shit out of her, but she wanted to not only take it on but jump in with both feet.
Tayeb who is a very accomplished singer but suffers from panic attacks allowed her husband to bring that out of her in her newest music video. We asked if she used that to pull some of her character’s felling out of the show. “Oh, you saw that? Thanks, it was similar, but obviously a very different emotional state there, I use a different emotion I think in my music,” she added.
About the series, this will relate to everyone, she says because everyone has a heart, a soul, it is so emotional she said because war is everywhere and we all know someone that has been affected like this.
I asked them about filming in Colombia and how they enjoyed their time there. “The place was magical bro,” Kapon said. “It was beautiful, so different from Israel. I loved it there.”
Tayeb agreed that it was magical. “We shot our first scenes in the jungle and I loved it,” she said. “When we arrived there, I immediately loved the place. I picked up my guitar and took off into the jungle all by myself for a while and just played and got in tune with the entire place which is unlike anything I’ve ever been.”
We asked Kapon about his latest experience filming his upcoming American feature, “it was a blast” he said. “We were filming up in Vancouver and had a great time and I think that show is going to be a good one.”
So, we asked him, can we expect some of the same edge of your seat reaction that we saw in Fauda? He said, “This is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, while Fauda dealt a lot with the action in the unit, this deals more with the characters and how they struggle to overcome their issues and how they pull together in their search for Yaeli”
We don’t want to give too much away here, because we want everyone to just enjoy the show as it unfolds. These Israeli Special Operators all get a second chance to find the peace that has eluded them since their days in a war together over 10 years before. But to find that peace may require perhaps even more loss.
The series was created by writer and director Omri Givron, co-creator of the Israeli show “Hostages,” and based on a book by late Israeli author Amir Gutfreund.
Other cast members include: Nadav Netz is Yaeli’s brother, Dov ‘Dubi’ Ashkenazi, Michael Aloni is the very successful business Dotan ‘Himmler’ Friedman. Himmler blames Aviv for their commander’s death and the two have become bitter towards one another. And Moshe Ashkenazi is Yakir ‘Benda’ Ben-David, the one member of the team everyone loves regardless of how they feel about the others. Benda is a character every unit in every army in the world has. While he has had own problems, the sight of him always brings a smile to the face of his former teammates. And they all greet him the same way….”Fucking Benda!”
The Hebrew-language series with English subtitles is guaranteed to appeal to the fans of the action genre as well as those who prefer the thriller type cliffhangers. Having watched the first three episodes, we can’t wait for the rest of the series to make its debut starting tonight. And the series was picked up for a second season which is good news to see the story continue on.
Tune in tonight on Netflix, you’ll be glad you did.
Photos/video: Courtesy of Spiro Films