Mor Cohen is an award-winning Israeli actress and filmmaker based in New York. She began her career as a child, taking on roles with Israeli television and regional theatre companies. After graduating from The Academy of Performing Arts in Tel Aviv in 2013, Mor relocated from Israel to work directly with Hollywood A-lists in Paris and LA. In 2016, she moved to New York and committed herself to a full-time career in producing and acting. In the two years since coming to NY, Mor has been acting and producing for Amios theater collective, which generates over 60 original theatre works per season by local theatre professionals. She is also a co-founder of the Israeli Artists Project, which comprises multidisciplinary Israeli theatre creatives in New York, with the ultimate goal of showcasing Israeli works to NYC theatre goers, and bridging the gap between Israeli culture and American audiences.
She’s a Lead Programmer at the New York Film Awards film festival, a member of the CICFF committee in India, and an online juror at the Voce Spettacolo annual Film Festival in Italy. On screen, Mor can be seen in Natalie Portman’s directorial debut A Tale of Love and Darkness, Mean Murderer, and The Doll. Her producorial credits include Scoop (Off-Broadway), The New Galileos (short film, 2018), and Over the Wall (short film, 2018).
Exclusive Interview with the talented Actor and Director or Cohen
London Prestige: Tell us a little about yourself, growing up and your passions.
I grew up in Israel and was acting pretty much from the start. I took interest in many different things as a child – from writing to sports, through music, science, history and linguistics, but performance and storytelling were always above all. When I was 13 I got accepted to a performing arts high-school and that’s when it became a persistent part of my everyday life. It gave me better tools to communicate what I think and feel, and a wider vocabulary (verbal and non-verbal) to express it. Being able to act and write and share my inner world on stage is a huge part of who I am, and it has been since. I graduated from that high-school with honors, and went on to study acting at The Academy of Performing Arts in Tel Aviv, and New York Film Academy in NYC.
I got into filmmaking much later in the process, when I realized there’s a big gap between the stories I wish to tell and the roles I’m being called-in for. I had very specific ideas of what I wanted my career to form into, and it suddenly hit me that I can’t sit and wait for someone to create this sort of content around me. I learned a lot about producing and directing from working on sets as an actor, and decided to give it a go. It’s extremely liberating to know that I can produce my own content whenever I want. That said, my first love is and always will be acting, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than stepping into a new character, figuring its behavior and transforming into that new person for a bit.
London Prestige: What are you currently working on?
I tend to juggle many projects at the same time, so there are a few things that are currently in the pipeline. I don’t know if it’s the best tactic in general, but I really like what I do, and it’s hard to say no when being approached with a good script.
There are a couple of short films and two features that I’m involved in, and are planned to go into production between now and the end of 2019.
London Prestige: What made you take this role?
Different things appeal to me in different roles, but the main factors I take in consideration are the relevance and social importance of the project. In example, I’m shooting a short period film in Berlin this fall, Klaviermann, that points the spotlight to the flourishing queer culture in the city in 1920-1930, right before its tragic fall in World War II. Telling these stories today is crucial in my opinion, just as it was 100 years ago – if not more, and I feel honored and obligated to do so. It’s a way for me to actively raise awareness to my causes and prevent history from repeating itself.
London Prestige: Tell us a little bit more about this film, what is it about, who else are you working with, and who is the director?
Klaviermann is a period piece that outlines the loss of rights and freedom in the queer community in Berlin in 1920-1930, through the personal story of Elizabeth, a social activist that fights the system, and her musician partner, Theo, a trans man who’s trying to lay low and just focus on his music. Their attempts to navigate their lives in art under the new restrictions, create a beautiful and terrifying tableau of what it was like to live and work in the scene before the dark times of the second world war. It was written by Brian Andrew Hose and Sabrina Rücker, who’ll be directing the film together as well. I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with Brian on several projects in New York last year, and I am excited to continue our work flow and let it grow internationally.
London Prestige: What is the most challenging role you have played and why?
A few years ago I had an audition for a german film that was shot in Israel, and the role was in German. I don’t speak German yet they asked me to read for the part, so I had 24 hours to prep for an audition in a language I don’t know and hardly ever heard around me at the time. I was pretty clueless and almost cancelled the audition, but then I ran into a couple of tourists from Germany on the street and recorded them reading the scene for me. I somehow booked the role and later on got a dialect coach that the production hired for me. Klaviermann is going to be shot in German as well, so I’ve been taking classes to get a better flow of the language before we shoot it this fall. In general, I have my dialect coach, Lee Nishri-Howitt, with whom I work on a semi-regular basis for different roles and accent requirements.
London Prestige: And the most fun one?
I played a demonic presence in a series of music videos called Jimmy. This was one of my first projects with Brian Hose, in collaboration with the incredibly talented musician Joe Vilardi. The character, Phyllis, was very dark in spirit, but had some kindness and charm to her, that made her endearing to portray. It was also the first time I ever played a ‘villian’. The fine balance this role required was challenging and very exciting for me, and I think that’s actually the source of fun in this profession. Working on this set with Brian, Joe, and the entire cast and crew was an incredible experience.
London Prestige: Where have you played a lead role? What was the character about?
Earlier this summer I shot a film with Director Nadav Ginosar, in which I played the leading role of Claire, a millennial in the modern dating pool who’s separated from her phone for a few hours, and gets a short glimpse of what it’s like to live in a world without a buffer. This character was an emotional roller coaster to play. Claire has a very strong sense of self, and an even stronger need to keep it intact and protected, even at the price of isolation. So she finds herself in a deep conflict of interests when it comes to intimacy, which she strives for, but requires vulnerability. There was something very lonely about this character, that sadly hit very close to home.
London Prestige: Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?
I think my biggest accomplishment so far is actually a producorial one, and it would have to be Over the Wall, a short film I produced overseas with my long time friends and collaborators, Roy Zafrani and Nami Melumad. It tells the story of a brave friendship between two boys from both sides of the Israel-Gaza separation wall. Pre-production for this film took almost a year, in which we scouted every rock in Israel, looked through every profile of every child-actor in the country, and had intense production meetings in three different time-zones till we got it exactly right, and now, looking at the final product, I really believe we managed to create something that sends our message across. Over the Wall is about to take its first steps in the festival circuit soon, and I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to see what the future holds for it.
London Prestige: Have you ever considered branching out into directing or screenwriting?
Yes. I actually directed a couple of short films already, and I’m happy to say that I have a few more directing opportunities lined up for the summer. I love directing, and I benefit a lot from it as an actor and a storyteller. Screenwriting is newer field for me. Though I’ve always admired the written word and growing up I used to write and read a lot of poetry, I never really attempted writing a screenplay until very recently. I honestly think screenwriting is the hardest job in this industry. Writing, personally, is where I get most self conscious, and it’s been a setback for me for a very long time, but a couple of years ago, with encouragement of close friends and other writers, I decided to brave the beast and I’m currently finalizing my first feature-length screenplay, that will hopefully go into production later next year.
London Prestige: Which film did you serve in the director’s role? What is the film about?
I directed a short film titled The New Galileos, together with my friend and co-creator Amy Berryman, who also wrote the script. The story follows three female scientists who are being held hostage by the government for their stance on climate change. It was a dual-purpose project; it gave us the opportunity to create an actual female driven piece with innovative leading female characters, and discuss the important topic of global warming and politics through their just fight for our planet. It was included in Cannes Short Film Corner this year, and is schedule to screen in film festivals in the US and all around Europe later this summer.
London Prestige: What television shows or show would you love most to be on?
Well, first and foremost I must confess that I am an all-time fan of Law and Order. I must’ve seen all seasons several times and I’d love to be in it at some point, though my focus is currently set on other projects. I really like watching modern and futuristic TV shows about dystopian societies, conspiracy theories, and police action-dramas, and this is also how I choose the content I create; Besides Law and Order, I’d love to take on a role in shows like The 100, Mr. Robot, Sneaky Pete, WestWorld, and The Handmaid’s Tale.
London Prestige: What’s your goal for this year?
My biggest goal for this year is to secure full funding for two projects I’ve been working on in the past couple of years. One of them is The New Galileos, which I already mentioned. After completing the short, we realized the topic and these characters deserve a wider discussion on a much broader platform, and we decided to develop it into an episodic series.
The other project I’m focused on at the moment is the feature film that I’ve been writing for the last couple of years. This film is about the nature and formation of human connections in our current technological era, and the toll we’re forced to pay for it in behavior and intimacy. This story is very dear to my heart and I am most excited about telling it. I’m hoping to complete it by the end of 2019.
London Prestige: What is your advice for aspiring actor/director?
Just get up and do it. Nothing should ever stop you from doing what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. You’ll hear a gazillion Nos along the way but you can’t let it stop you. If this profession is something you’re really passionate about – don’t hold back.
*Cover Photo Credit: Christopher Janaro