Liev Schreiber Will Play Anne Frank’s Father in New Disney+ Series
Jewish actor Liev Schreiber will play Anne Frank’s father Otto in a new Disney+ limited series, the latest dramatization of the Frank family’s harrowing life in hiding from the Nazis.
The eight-episode miniseries, “A Small Light,” is being produced by the National Geographic Channel, which is owned by Disney. It will follow Miep Gies, Otto’s non-Jewish Dutch employee, who along with her husband Jan hid the Frank family in her secret annex for two years to evade the Nazi authorities. Following the family’s discovery and deportation to the concentration camps, Gies also discovered and preserved Anne’s diary for Otto, the family’s sole survivor, to publish after the war.
Gies is often referred to as the Frank family’s “protector” — the series title comes from a quote attributed to her late in life.
Bel Powley, who like Schreiber has a Jewish mother, will star as Gies, who died in 2010 at the age of 100. Powley’s breakout role was as the star of a very different “Diary”: “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” a sexually frank coming-of-age drama from 2015. British actor Joe Cole, who appeared in the Netflix drama series “Peaky Binders,” will play Jan.
Schreiber, who played a growly Hollywood fixer on the long-running Showtime series “Ray Donovan,” has appeared in Holocaust projects before. He co-starred in the 2008 thriller “Defiance,” about three Jewish brothers who formed a guerrilla group to fight the Nazis, and he had a supporting role as a boxer in the 1999 concentration camp drama “Jakob the Liar.”
“A Small Light” is set to begin shooting this summer in Amsterdam and Prague. It is far from the only Anne Frank project in recent years: “My Best Friend Anne Frank,” a Dutch film about Hannah Goslar, another figure in the Franks’ orbit, premiered on Netflix earlier this year, and a controversial new animated adaptation of Frank’s diary premiered last year at the Cannes Film Festival from Israeli director Ari Folman.
— Andrew Lapin
Idina Menzel, Ilana Glazer, Rachel Bloom and Several Others Participate in Antisemitism Show
It’s fun and exciting when our favorite celebrities regale us with the minutiae of their lives. What color were the balloon arches at Jenny Slate’s bat mitzvah? How does Morgan Spector react to being the object of the internet’s thirst?
But when our favorite celebrities speak out on issues that matter, that’s a special kind of heartening.
In “Recipe for Change: Standing Up to Antisemitism,” a YouTube special released last Thursday produced by The SpringHill Co., a whole cohort of Jewish celebrities are doing just that.
Featuring (seriously, prepare yourself for this star-studded list) Idina Menzel, Ilana Glazer, Rachel Bloom, Skylar Astin, Michael Twitty, Hannah Einbinder, Alex Edelman, Tommy Dorfman, Josh Peck, Hari Nef, Michael Zegen and more, “Recipe for Change” brings together this group to discuss the current global rise of antisemitism.
In the special, the celebs are divided into three Shabbat dinners and are each given a scroll. As they dine on delicious-looking Black and Middle Eastern-inspired Jewish food, they open their scrolls to discuss the tough questions they pose like, “Have you ever experienced antisemitism?” and “Could the Holocaust happen again?”
For “Mrs. Maisel” actor Michael Zegen, the latter question prompted memories of intergenerational trauma. “My grandparents on my mother’s side were Holocaust survivors,” he remembered. “My grandfather essentially lost his whole family. His father was shot on the way to the trains because he had a club foot and couldn’t keep up. So they shot him.”
But the dinner conversations aren’t about only antisemitism. Rather, some of the scrolls focus on Jewish joy, asking, “What makes you proud to be Jewish?” and, “Tell me you’re Jewish without telling me you’re Jewish.” Other scrolls prompt discussions about Jewish identity, like whether Jews of European descent are white.
In a moment of perfectly blended humor and a confession of Jewish assimilation, Idina Menzel revealed, “I have to come clean, so my real spelling of my name is M-E-N-T-Z-E-L. Which everyone would say ‘Ment-zel’ and I had a lot of self-hatred about that for some reason. And then [I] wanted this cool-sounding [name], so I took the ‘t’ out, which didn’t help anybody say it right.”
“Recipe for Change” also succeeds in its radical inclusivity. Instead of just focusing on what Jewishness and antisemitism mean to cisgender, straight, Ashkenazi Jewish men, the special very purposefully makes room for the voices of Black Jews, Mizrahi Jews, LGBTQ+ Jews and Jewish women.
What results are conversations that are as thoughtful and poignant as they are full of laughter and Jewish pride.
— Evelyn Frick