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Interview: Alona Tal

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Amazon Studios just announced that it was picking up the pilot for Hand of God to series. One of the reasons the pilot was picked up to series was the amazing performance by actress Alona Tal.

Hand of God is a psychological drama about a morally-corrupt judge, played by Ron Pearlman, who suffers a breakdown and believes God is compelling him onto a path of vigilante justice. Alona plays Jocelyn, the daughter-in-law who suffers a traumatic event and because of this event, her husband attempts suicide and is now in a coma.

Alona has built an impressive resume that would be the envy of any young actor in Hollywood. She was the lead on the short-lived, but fan favorite series Cult. She’s had major arcs on series such as Burn Notice, Veronica Mars and Supernatural. On the big screen, she appeared opposite Mark Wahlberg in the film Broken City and also appeared in the films Half Past Dead 2 and Kalamity.

She sits down with us to discuss her work on Hand of God, the religious elements of the pilot and what it’s like to be part of the Supernatural universe.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us the basic premise for Hand of God?

Alona Tal – It’s about a prophetic judge that believes he’s anointed and hears God through his comatose son. His son is telling him to go on these vengeance quests.

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Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us about your character Jocelyn?

Alona Tal – I play Jocelyn Harris who is the judge’s daughter-in-law. I am married to the son who is brain dead according to what we learn in the pilot. She is in the middle of coping with what no wife should ever have to cope with. She was raped and that alone is traumatic in itself, but on top of that, her husband attempted to commit suicide. We pick up with her basically coming apart at the seams and anything can set her off. She is forced to make a decision that no spouse or parent should have to make; do I or don’t I take my husband off life support. So, that is essentially what her journey through the pilot is.

Pop Culture Principle – What was it about the script that attracted you to this project?

Alona Tal – What makes it so edgy in my opinion is what most people might find repulsive. Religion or any sort of touch in that world is very sensitive. Because it was so sensitive, I thought it was appropriate to touch on. The people involved are amazing and the script itself is superb. Jocelyn is a strong woman even though in the pilot it seems like she’s a victim, but she’s not. She’s just a woman who was dealt a set of circumstances and how does she cope from there. She’s actually very strong and is the only one who stands up to the judge who is also a strong character. I liked the subject matter and liked that it was almost taboo. I knew it would spark strong reactions and I like that.

Pop Culture Principle – Faith and religion play a huge part in the pilot and are big issues in today’s society. Did you or any of the cast and crew have any concerns about how the audience might react?

Alona Tal – I haven’t had an open discussion with anyone else on the cast. I am sure that everyone took it into consideration because I did as well. When I read it I felt that it was something that resonated with me. I was raised Jewish, but I am not particularly religious in the conventional way. I am a fan of criticizing, raising questions and putting up a mirror to things that are sensitive because that is the only way to keep things in check in my opinion. I think that any good art evokes a reaction whether it is good or bad, it needs to evoke something.

The creator said to me that we are touching a real nerve here and we are. A young woman asked me on Twitter not that long ago was the show appropriate for seventeen year olds because it misrepresents Christianity. I told her that it wasn’t my place to judge what you should or should not watch. I don’t want to tell you to watch something and it is totally offensive to you. People should use their own judgment and be able to see something and deduct whether they like it or not without having it be a statement that if you watch it you are x, y or z. You can watch a piece of art that somebody else created and you can like it or not. That’s the whole meaning of art, it isn’t for everybody.

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Pop Culture Principle – Did you do any research ore preparation for the role?

Alona Tal - Yea, to the extent that I could. The main thing that was important when it came to Jocelyn was to make it very personal. I did research on rape victims and how people cope with rape and the stages of rape. Unfortunately, it is quite abundant the number of women who have dealt with this. I can name at least five women that I know that have gone through this horrific ordeal.

Pop Culture Principle – You have some very intense scenes with Ron Pearlman. What was it like working with him?

Alona Tal – Ron is probably one of the biggest sweethearts I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I was a little nervous when I first met him because he is so powerful, but he’s such a loving human being. He was so happy to be there and so happy to play ball with whomever was in front of him. While we were on set, he kept saying “this will never be like this again” and “absorb every moment and this will be the best it will ever be.” He knew that this was a special thing as did we and he was very excited to be a part of something like this where he could stretch his stuff.

Pop Culture Principle – Another standout performance in the pilot is by actor Garret Dillahunt. What was it like seeing his work?

Alona Tal – He is brilliant. Talk about standouts in the pilot! It’s weird how he can bring humor without even trying. He’s creepy, terrible and funny at the same time. It’s awful but that is how people are. He’s really not doing anything or trying at all. I think he’s brilliant in the pilot and terrifying because he has ideology behind his actions which is scary.

Pop Culture Principle – The issue of family members not agreeing on taking a loved one off life support happens a lot in this country. Did you take that into consideration when filming the pilot?

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Alona Tal – Yes, of course. The most important thing was to put myself in that situation. What if I had to make that decision? What if it was my husband or someone who was dear to me? It’s very different for a parent to pull the plug on their child, it’s very different for a child to pull the plug on a parent and it’s different for a spouse to pull a plug on their partner. They are all very different points of view on a subject that is very difficult.

The only way you can do it justice is to really put your loved one there and you don’t really need to guess too much. People will react differently to it. Some people are very contained and some people would lose their mind. The coping mechanisms are different and it’s also a balancing act with families. If this person breaks down, there is someone who has to be the rock and can’t afford to be emotional. We heard that over and over. Jocelyn is very controlled and her reactions are very weird. She was upset with him and angry with him at the same time. She loves him obviously, but she was still angry with him.

Pop Culture Principle – How is Pernell’s decision to block Jocelyn’s wishes going to affect their relationship?

Alona Tal - There is going to be the butting of heads, whatever that means. Obviously there is a court order, so we will see where that goes. People are forgetting that she doesn’t want to take PJ off life support. People and the doctors are pushing her. The therapist tells her the sooner you do this, the quicker you can heal. She’s been in this pain and broken down state for months. Add to that the fact that her husband tried to kill himself and now she’s completely left in this vortex. She’s the center of something that is going to unfold and I have my own speculations, but I truly don’t know.

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Pop Culture Principle – If Hand of God is picked up to series, how would you like to see your character progress?

Alona Tal – I would like to see her heal, whatever that means. There are different stages to grief and healing. I don’t know if that is going to happen in the first, second or third season. Right now I want to see how she continues to cope because people have to cope with things and it just doesn’t end nicely by episode five in their life. Life keeps throwing curveballs at them whatever it is.

Pop Culture Principle – You were part of the series Cult which unfortunately was cancelled. What was your experience like working on that series?

Alona Tal – You know, it was sad because it was another one of those shows that was different and unique. We wanted to be one thing and I don’t know where the ball dropped. I can’t point any fingers because there were so many components to this big machine. I know that we were sad when it didn’t do as well as we had hoped. I think it was confusing for people and yet frustrating at the same time for some people. It was a high concept that was lot of fun. I’ve been a part of a lot of things that never happened and you never know. It’s such a role of the dice.

Pop Culture Principle – You’ve played several strong female characters. When choosing your next project, is that a conscious choice?

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Alona Tal – Honestly, I look for work. I look for things that aren’t totally embarrassing. As women, there are not that many good roles unfortunately. I’m not in a position were roles are being offered to me left and right; I have to fight for everything.

Pop Culture Principle – Even though you aren’t on the show anymore, you are still part of the Supernatural universe. What has your experience been with the fans when you were on the show and after?

Alona Tal – The Supernatural fans are probably the most rabid fans out there! I think I did six episodes and they are just the biggest fans. I love when fans appreciate your work and can separate you from the character. They are such a loyal and amazing fanbase and you look for people who will be invested in your work.

We would like to thank Alona for taking the time to talk with us. If you are interested in keeping up with her latest news, you can follow her official Twitter account @talalona.
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