Bravo TV

The Israeli Star of Bravo’s Imposters, Inbar Lavi

(The following piece ran 02/03/2017 on The Huffington Post before the first season of Imposters began. Season Two premieres Thursday, April 5th at 10/9c on Bravo.)

When I was single and in the Jewish dating scene, Natalie Portman was often cited as the desirable prototype and celebrity crush of my male acquaintances. She was born in Jerusalem – as Meryl Streep may have reminded you – and is on an elite list of hot Jewish Hollywood stunners along with Rachel Weisz and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman). Now, an arrestingly beautiful and talented Israeli actress named Inbar Lavi is about to take the extended Jewish community by storm – as well as the rest of the world. Lavi is not an unknown, but her fan base is about to increase along with Bravo’s straight male viewership.

She previously was on MTV’s Underemployed and Fox’s Gang Related. Unlike the latter which only lasted a single season, her new chapter on Bravo’s riveting scripted thriller Imposters looks promising. I was lucky enough to screen the first three episodes and can attest to the talent of its star who plays Maddie, an irresistible persona- shifting con artist who is always on the move. When each assignment is completed, she has wiped out savings accounts and left victims blindsided and brokenhearted, not knowing her true identity. Then three of her scorned exes join forces, intent on piecing together clues and tracking her down as she begins her next con job (See Video Below).



I had the opportunity to chat with Lavi and get to know the actress behind the fictional vixen:

SHW: Hi Inbar, how are you? Or should I say “Mah shlomech? Mah Inyanim?” I actually know Hebrew but not as well as you do! I can understand completely, but speaking is another matter.

IL: (In Hebrew) Good, how are you?!! (Back to English) Your Hebrew is good! The more you practice the better you’ll do (laughs).

SHW: I read about how you had started really watching TV and thereby, studied acting while you took the nebulizer for asthma when you were younger. I know that you grew up in the Ramat Gan neighborhood of Israel. Is that where you trained in acting?

IL: I actually didn’t really train in acting in Israel. I had one class that introduced me to method acting and I knew it was what I wanted to do. But, I wanted to go to school in New York for it so I moved to the States. My upbringing in Israel was actually in dance. I went to an academy for ballet and contemporary dance which really introduced me to the stage and the constant performance for an audience. It taught me a lot of my…Oh how do you say it?

SHW: You can say it in Hebrew.

IL: It just taught me how to work really hard. My work ethic came from my dance background and I owe a lot of what I do today to my upbringing there. Physicality and body movement.

SHW: I detect maybe the slightest accent now although you do sound mostly American. When I watched the preview of Imposters, that fake French accent stood out. Then we see how that is the accent used to con the husband Ezra.

IL: It’s all about conning the audience all season. That’s what we do. I get to play with languages and accents on the show. Full of effect and melodies.

SHW: How were you discovered for TV?

IL: Oh my god, I wish I had just been discovered. That would have been so cool. I think there’s an urban legend that happens to someone like Rianna where they’re on the beach and some talent or model scout discovers them and makes them famous. I had to claw my way (laughs) into Hollywood and I feel like I’m still doing it every day.

SHW: If the first 3 episodes are any indication, I think you’re going to be one of those actresses that is chased around by paparazzi. I also think you’ll be the new desirable celebrity crush for the Jewish boys I know and a sort of ‘It Girl.’

IL: You’re so kind to say so. I do play a character that can also be quite dangerous to both men and women so it’s nice to hear you would feel someone would actually fall for that! I relate to a lot of things about Maddie, her passion for her work and her enthusiasm. She’s also very fun loving and I can relate to struggling with her line of business. It’s very similar to what I do in the sense that I put on a mask every day and pretend to be different characters for a living. Once you do that for a while, you lose a bit of yourself in the journey. I turned 30 this year and there are a lot of inner conflicts that go on. All of a sudden your priorities shift and things you didn’t want before…there’s a hunger for them. I’ve always been sort of a gypsy in my travels and all of a sudden I’m craving normality and having an anchor. These are things that drew me more so than ever before so I can appreciate many things in the journeys that Maddie goes through.

SHW: Do you miss Ramat Gan, Israel?

IL: I was born there but I actually grew up in Cholon, which is outside of Tel Aviv. My parents got divorced and are now living in different parts of Israel. I am Israeli first and foremost – in my blood, veins and my art. Ani po aval halev sheli sham (Translation: I am here but my heart is there.)

SHW: You suffered from asthma as a kid, so was the Israeli army not an option for you? How is your asthma today?

IL: I had childhood asthma so I mostly grew out of it. I was very lucky and I’m completely cured and very healthy. Dance really helped and connected me with my breath. I suffered from many knee injuries so the army wouldn’t take a risk with me due to my bad knees and I ended up not serving in the army.

SHW: I know about bad knees from having been a runner and aerobic jumper myself. You do seem graceful in the dance scenes that I saw on Imposters.

IL: Yes. There’s lots of physicality in this character. You will see through more of her personas how I absolutely use my body, my movements and my breath in every scene. I studied sense memory technique at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. We learned Strasberg’s method and sense memory is one of the tricks you draw from your own experiences. There are different senses to trigger the emotions. You go back to the memory and recreate it. Thank God I have this in the back of my mind because I used it with the different characters.

SHW: Which actors inspired you?

IL: Natalie Portman, like many other female actresses that I admire, is always honest and brave with her choices and she’s absolutely grateful, kind and down to earth. I respect everything about her. I like that she has a long-lasting, respectable career while keeping her private life private and raising a child and having a family. I admire her efforts to make the world a better place. There’s also Ayelet Zurer, an Israeli actress along with Ronit Elkabetz, a wonderful artist who we lost last year to cancer. She was also an incredible filmmaker who was nominated for an award just before she died.

SHW: Where do you see yourself in 10 year?

IL: Oh wow. Wow…Wherever it is I just hope that I’m happy.

SHW: Uma Thurman is one of your co-stars on Imposters and the show reminds me of Pulp Fiction so that was very suiting! How did that come about?

IL: Pulp Fiction was a big inspiration throughout the pilot and it was always on our vision board. We looked at the color scheme, the tone and the dark comedy. When the creator showed Imposters to Uma Thurman, she asked to be in it. It just fit and made total sense to have an actual piece of the Pulp Fiction puzzle. I still can’t believe I got to work with this incredible icon. I haven’t seen the rest of it either, just the first three episodes as you did, so I am just as excited as you are to see episode four…and beyond. It’s like being pregnant forever and I can’t wait to see this baby and birth it and take care of it!

SHW: This show is different than ANYTHING on Bravo. I think it’s going to bring a whole different, new viewership to Bravo like ABC’s Scandal viewing crowd.

IL: B’ezrat Hashem! B’ezrat Hashem! Todah Rabbah Rabbah. (“With the help of God! With the help God!” Thank you greatly, greatly!”)

Imposters is produced by Universal Cable Productions (UCP) with Adam Brooks and Paul Adelstein (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) serving as Executive Producers. The show premiered on Bravo in February of 2017 and returns with a second season this April.


She Survived a Terrorist Attack and Now Helps Other Victims

sarri singer

As someone who lived in Israel for a year and visited many times, I am passionate about the land. I am also concerned with the safety of all people there. I can tell you that each visit of mine was a quiet and calm one with no incident, despite what we may see on the news. Reports by the BBC and on CNN often amplify the unrest and contentiousness between Palestinians and Israelis, but do not spotlight the positive daily interactions that restore hope. I desperately crave peace and coexistence in the “promised land,” wanting Muslims and Jews to somehow miraculously come to an impasse.

In my own personal life, a close friend is a religious, American Muslim of Pakistani descent and I’m from an observant Jewish American family with Eastern European roots. The two of us have joked about wanting to start a podcast called “Peace in the Middle East” to discuss how similar our cultures are, while dissecting differences and points of debate. Our end goal would be to convey to those who see “the other side” as the enemy: Why can’t we all just get along?! Look at how much we actually have in common. (It goes without saying that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is way more complicated than this and there is so much to examine.)

Sarri Singer is another friend of mine who is focused on bringing together people of different religions (Christians, Jews, Muslims…) and people of all backgrounds. For her, it is for a specific mission that aligns with her personal passion: helping victims of terrorism. Sarri started an organization after surviving a horrifying bombing attack on an Israeli bus. To this day, when a glass drops, she’s reflexively brought back to what she describes as a “silence of death all around.”

On June 11, 2003, the daughter of New Jersey state senator Robert Singer was on Bus 14 in Jerusalem when an 18-year-old suicide bomber boarded. Minutes later, 17 people were killed and more than 100 people were injured, including Sarri, who could not fully open her eyes to see the casualties around her. She screamed and a man from blocks away, not a paramedic or an EMT, but a civilian, brought her to safety.

“In Israel, people instinctively know to help everybody,” she says, adding: “He didn’t pause, but just ran over and jumped right into action.” After being rescued from the carnage, Sarri was hospitalized for two weeks and says, “I’m happy with my injuries because I’m lucky, I am still here when others did not come home that day” referring to the minor loss of hearing in one ear and shrapnel in parts of her body that aren’t removable.

Sarri had never imagined she would find herself in a hospital bed, the survivor of a bombing. Until September 11th, she had worked as Director of Recruitment for National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) a few blocks from the World Trade Center in New York City. After walking the streets and seeing the destruction from that day, observing tourists snapping photos and feeling a desperate need to do something, Sarri resigned from her position and moved to Israel to help terror victims.

There she coordinated bone marrow drives for Gift of Life, volunteered with organizations such as KEDMA, Kids4Kids, The Koby Mandell Foundation and the One Family Fund. Then, on her way to meet a friend that fateful day in June, she boarded Bus 14 and her life changed forever, making her mission a more personal one.

She would later return to Israel after convalescing at her parents’ home in New Jersey, determined not to show fear or let the terrorists win. Israel was where her heart belonged. She loved the land and its people and would not be chased away by fear.

“I went back in September 2003 after the attack because I wanted to be there,” she explains, “I didn’t want that 18-year-old who boarded the bus to hurt and murder innocent people to make me scared. Terrorism is about paralyzing us with fear. I didn’t want to be the victim that the terrorist wanted.”

Sarri went on to work as an administrator in a school until medical issues brought her back to the U.S. In June 2012 she founded an international organization Strength to Strength (originally called One Heart) which is based out of NYC and assists terror victims worldwide by bringing them together to heal and move forward.

Strength to Strength specifically focuses on the long term psychological care and peer to peer support for victims and their families. The organization continues to share insight into the ongoing struggle for those affected by these types of tragedies globally.

“We work to bring survivors together,” Sarri explains, “Dealing with the residual trauma and helping people heal over time.” Sarri notes how in the Israel people don’t think twice about assisting right away, giving of themselves, their money and their hearts.

Rami Levy is exemplary of this concept. He is the owner of one of the largest eponymous supermarket chains in Israel and came over daily to stock cupboards and refrigerators of a family that lost relatives suddenly and tragically in an attack. When one family member expressed their appreciation to him, he replied, “You will get used to my face. I have committed myself to that every week. I will deliver food and stock your home until the youngest orphan turns 18 years old.”

People like Rami Levy are Sarri’s inspiration. She says that just like the many incredible people who gave of themselves despite not knowing her – including her hospital visitors (“The Arab-Israeli politics that we hear about in the news do not exist in the hospital,” she explains, “It was such a pleasure to welcome anyone who came to visit me”) – we must keep “recognizing that we are all responsible for each other, and that those directly impacted by terrorism, injury, or the loss of a loved one deserve no less than our very best.”

Each spring, Strength to Strength brings a group of terror survivors to New York City as part of its mission of healing for their Young Ambassadors Program.” The participants of the annual trip are between the ages of 15-20 and lost either a parent or immediate family member in a terrorist attack, or were injured themselves. The teens hail from around the globe including (but not limited to): Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, England, France, Israel, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Spain, Uganda and the United States.

Sarri explains that in addition to meeting with community and political leaders, the teens embark on a tour, visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Tribute Center, SONY Technology Labs, a museum, FAO Schwartz, NY Sky Ride and the Empire State Building. The trip aims to bring together those affected by terrorism in solidarity, to be able to support and comfort one another and build a global peer support group where the participants are in touch long after the program finishes.

“Restaurants, companies and individual donors contribute their resources to make these trips not only possible, but absolutely incredible,” Sarri says. “The goal is to ensure a week filled with exciting and fun activities combined with meetings with leaders. We want to empower these teens to take their personal experiences of trauma and share them with each other to bring about healing.”

For more information about how you can support those affected by terrorism, visit Strength to Strength

**(An earlier version of this article appeared on my Huffington Post blog. The above has been updated and revised with new information.)**