The perils of playing a Russian spy on ‘Homeland’
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The perils of playing a Russian spy on ‘Homeland’

Ukranian-Israeli actor Mark Ivanir had no idea how long his role would last, but he made it through the season

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

It’s been a tough few weeks for Ivan Krupin, the Russian agent portrayed by Mark Ivanir, the Ukranian-born Israeli actor cast in the most recent season of “Homeland.”

The season began with the inscrutable, accented Krupin sidling up to CIA double agent Allison Carr (Miranda Otto) to reveal deadly plans and stolen CIA files.

But by the end of the season — spoiler alert — Ivan has been played by Allison and doesn’t have many options left.

Turns out Ivanir didn’t know where his character would end up, either.

“It wasn’t clear how long the role was going to go, or how big the part was,” said Ivanir, speaking from Tel Aviv, where he’s currently shooting another TV series. “They liked the character after an episode or two, and the part grew, but I didn’t know for how long. They would tell me, ‘You will be in episode four and five, but we’re not sure.'”

Sometimes Ivanir would receive the script for the next episode while filming the previous one.

That was exciting, he said.

“I didn’t know anything ahead of time,” he said. “They make decisions on the spot and you get your lines the day before.”

When Krupin and Carr — spoiler alert — are caught in episode 9, it was originally Russian agent Krupin who was supposed to remain cool and come up with the plan to turn another trick on CIA agents Dar Adal and Saul Berenson.

“I ended up being the one who loses it, which in hindsight was a great way of changing the whole way we interact,” said Ivanir. “We had to do an adjustment right there and then.”

It was the first time that Ivanir, a veteran character actor raised in Israel and now living in Los Angeles, acted on the award-winning Showtime series. He was up for a part on the show two years ago, which didn’t end up working out.

“I have to thank Gidi Raff (the creator of the original Israeli series “Hatufim,” upon which “Homeland” is based), for recommending me,” said Ivanir. “This time I auditioned for a few parts, and this was the part they finally offered me, which was better than other parts.”

When the Russian agent role grew bigger than he expected, Ivanir flew back and forth to Berlin from his home in Los Angeles, rather than staying in the German capital for four months of filming.

Now he’s in Israel shooting the second season of Keshet television production “To Be With Her,” in which he plays the overbearing agent of model Noa Hollander (Rotem Sela), whose relationship he’s trying to break up.

Mark Ivanir (right) with Israeli comic actor Guri Alfi in 'The Human Resources Manager' (Courtesy 'Human Resources Manager')
Mark Ivanir (right) with Israeli comic actor Guri Alfi in ‘The Human Resources Manager’ (Courtesy ‘Human Resources Manager’)

Ivanir trained at Jerusalem’s Nissan Nativ Acting Studio and then spent ten years establishing and acting with Tel Aviv’s successful Gesher Theater in a seminal period of his early professional life. He initially thought he would be a stage actor in Israel but, looking back now, doesn’t believe he would have survived.

In fact, Ivanir was looking into changing professions and becoming a linguist when he and his wife moved to London and then Los Angeles, pursuing her career. It was in Los Angeles that Ivanir was cast in Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” in “one of those moments that changed everything,” he said.

“Things just started happening for me in London and then in LA,” said Ivanir, who now travels between the US, Europe and Israel for his wide range of acting roles.

Mark Ivanir as Marcel Goldberg in Steven Spielberg's 'Schindler's List' (Courtesy Mark Ivanir)
Mark Ivanir as Marcel Goldberg in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ (Courtesy Mark Ivanir)

Television, however, holds a certain appeal, he said.

“Right now, TV in many ways resembles what used to be independent movies,” he said. “It has what movies don’t have anymore, which is funding, and lots of TV is an ongoing story, so it’s just a long, long movie. It’s interesting subject matter that deals with stuff in a complicated way.”

Besides working on “Homeland,” Keshet’s “To Be With Her” and the film adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday,” Ivanir also does voiceovers on video games, an acting experience that he likens to theater.

“Work is work, when it’s good, it’s good,” he said. “I try to choose things that I’m happy working on, whether it’s film or TV, but frankly, it doesn’t matter.”

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