From yeshiva girl to zombie, comedy sitcoms to Hollywood films, Meital Dohan is the epitome of the tough and feisty Israeli female persona.
Every fantasy about the quintessential Israeli woman and then some, Meital Dohan has come a long way from the Israel Defense Forces Entertainment Corp., and even from the Showtime comedy series Weeds.
As a featured guest with the moniker Yael Hoffman in the sitcom’s second season, Dohan earned a sort of fame with her portrayal of a naughty rabbinical school administrator. Today, at 33, she’s an award-winning actress on stage and screens as well as a published author.
Currently dividing her time between Israel, LA, and New York, where she maintains an apartment, Dohan is the epitome of what today’s entertainment-dazzled woman aspires to be: She’s gorgeous, intelligent and sexy, tough and exotic, and approaches life with no holds barred. She’s in the process of making short work of the challenge to break into American TV and Hollywood, not to mention entertainment on the Web.
But she’s a star on the local scene, too and ISRAEL21c caught up with her when she flew in to make an appearance on the local version of the TV show Dancing with Stars. The petite blonde didn’t make the final cut, but flew in to watch Israeli actor and model Michael Lewis take the trophy.
She enjoyed the experience, but found it extremely intense: “I was flying back and forth a lot and at the same time was working on new projects and a new film; I am kind of ready to be located in only one place,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “But it was fabulous.”
On stage and screens, large and small
Born in a small village called Chorazin Bnei Zion just outside Ra’anana in central Israel, Dohan is far from home these days, working on a few new films, and tying up loose ends on others, including the feature film Monogamy, where she is billed third, alongside Quincy Jones’s daughter Rashida Jones. Dana Adam Shapiro, the director of Murderball is making the movie, and Dohan won’t even hint at the plot of the spring release.
“I actually watched it and think it’s terrific and I am looking forward to the reactions of the audience,” she says. Also appearing in more than five episodes of a new Sony Web-based series, Woke Up Dead, you can find Dohan playing a zombie, the love interest of the main character John. And she has also been filming an Indie project, set in Jerusalem.
From yeshivas to zombies, Dohan does not feel that she’s being typecast as an Israeli in the US, despite her memorable role on Weeds. “People remember this part I had in Weeds very well and I’m happy it made a strong impression. In Woke Up Dead, I am also a tough cookie. And a tough zombie,” she tells ISRAEL21c.
Since 2003, she has worked on a number of projects in the US, including a multimedia play called Bath Party. Dohan appeared on the TV show Sopranos, and in 2008 was in the American premiere of the play Stitching by British playwright Anthony Neilson.
Clearly her Israeli accent isn’t hampering her, but she admits that she’s still working to eradicate it. “As actors, we are always working on our speech and language as we exercise and it’s actually, like, a lot of fun for me to speak in English. I want to play American characters and can’t wait to have a total American character.”
On being a woman
Reflecting on being an Israeli woman in the highly competitive US industry, Dohan says that she’s aware of some elements of the ‘strong Israeli woman’ stereotype emerging. She sees her own identity as bound up with that of her country.
“Israel is a very strong country and doesn’t have a choice but to be strong, and I know it gets to be intimidating because Israelis are blunt and honest, and sometimes too honest,” she says. “But at the same time it does make you a strong person to grow up here.”
Dohan has been sufficiently intrigued by her female identity to examine the role of women in today’s world by compiling a new book on the subject. Love and Other Bad Habits is a collection of poems, thoughts and musings about women’s roles in Israeli society.
“There are a lot of different women featured in between the poetry and short texts – in their roles in society. It talks about women’s roles, as people expect us to be housekeepers, good mothers; we are supposed to have careers… it’s about all these different roles and how they affect the relationships between men and women,” says Dohan who worked on her book with leading Israeli actresses and political figures and a photographer.
And somehow, between all the acting, auditions, rehearsals and dancing, Dohan finds the time to promote her book. Published in 2007 and recently translated into English, it has been included in various exhibitions, and is now available in the US. Proceed from the sales of the latest edition go to a community-building group in Israel called The Women’s Circle.
Watching her story unfold
Dohan may be yearning to be able to play a bona fide American, but she promises that Israel will always be home. “Basically, it’s something I am always seeing as my home and I am always going back and forth – today I am still in Israel but will be flying tomorrow to the States to start working on a few feature films we’ll be shooting in a few months. One is in LA and the other is an Israel-US co-production, including a script I co-wrote.”
Dohan is the middle child, sandwiched between two brothers. She began studying acting at 13. After her army service she studied at the prestigious Nissan Nativ acting school where she received scholarships from the America-Israel Fund. She has written and directed original theater productions and had a long stint at Israel’s Cameri Theater.
Meanwhile, as she hops back and forth between the US and Israel, she says she’s enjoying the work and doesn’t think too much about being ambitious. “I just do it,” she says. “We all have our story to tell and I am looking forward to seeing what my story is going to be like.”