'Hunters,' A New Amazon Prime Video Series Debuts On Friday
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
A comic store employee, a Vietnam vet, a nun and an actor all living in New York in the 1970s. Very different walks of life, but they all share one secret in common. They are a team who've discovered that high-ranking Nazi officials escaped Germany and are living among them. Their mission - a bloody quest to bring them to justice. This is the concept behind a new thriller series on Amazon. It is called "Hunters."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HUNTERS")
AL PACINO: (As Meyer Offerman) There is evil among us.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) We will purge this country of the filth.
PACINO: (As Meyer Offerman) So we created The Hunters.
GREENE: So one of these Nazi hunters is a grandma. And after she dies, her grandson joins the mission in her absence. And in some ways, there are parallels here to be drawn with the show's creator, David Weil, and his own grandma, who was a Holocaust survivor. I spoke with David. And we began by talking about his inspiration.
DAVID WEIL: My grandmother - her name was Sarah (ph) Weil. She grew up in Lodz, Poland. She was in the Lodz ghetto, then taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Unterluess and then back to Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated on her birthday...
WEIL: ...April 15. And, you know, from a very young age, she would tell me and my three older brothers her stories, her stories about the war. But it would be - you know, I'd be eating dinner, and I wouldn't finish my meal. And she would tell me about how, for so many years, she starved in the camps and how important food is and finishing the meal and how people don't have what you have and things like that. So these stories began to penetrate, you know, my life. And at such a young age, those stories felt like the stuff of - it was the only thing I could relate it to - are the comic books and the superheroes that I loved.
GREENE: You thought of comic books and superheroes as she would talk about these stories.
WEIL: I did.
GREENE: That's really cool.
WEIL: I think that was the lens on my own world. So I thought my grandmother was this superhero. I always thought if I opened her closet, is there a cape in there? You know, if I open her drawer, does she have her secret weapon? I mean, she - the stories of her heroism felt so grand. And they were so grand. You know, even just surviving was heroic. You know, she was probably 5'2'' or 5'3'', but she always seemed so tall to me. You know, I just always remember looking up at her. And she just felt so big, so grand.
GREENE: So take me into the show. Like, what does it mean to be in this inner circle of Nazi hunters? What are they all about?
WEIL: My goodness. They are a ragtag, eclectic, centric group of people.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HUNTERS")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) We're a lockpicker, spy, soldier, master of disguise...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) It's showtime.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) ...And two weapons experts.
PACINO: (As Meyer Offerman) We will bring God's justice. What do you say?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) I want in.
WEIL: We have a Japanese American, a Vietnam veteran who was in the internment camps as a young boy. We have a black activist, Roxy Jones, who has a young daughter who's 5 years old. We have Sister Harriet, who's a nun. And what you begin to uncover throughout the series is that each of these people, if not affected by the Holocaust directly, have all been affected by the white supremacism that reigns either in our country and around the world. And so I think it was important for me - you know, this is not just a Jewish story. This is not just a black story. It's not just a gay story. But all of those others, you know, in our society are depicted. And I wanted to create this kind of ragtag superhero team of people who so rarely we see as superheroes.
GREENE: But they can be brutal themselves...
GREENE: ...At times. I mean, so it feels like a gray area that we're dealing with. I mean, can we call them always heroes? Or is it more complicated?
WEIL: No. No, it's incredibly complicated. You know, and I think the question for me of the show is really, if you hunt monsters in the darkness, do you risk becoming a monster yourself? The show is so much about the cost of violence, the cost of revenge. What is revenge, and what is justice? Must you commit evil to take out evil? To me, that's the most nuanced superhero story that we can tell, where our heroes live in the murk. They live in the gray. And I think they question, you know, their own code of morality.
GREENE: Wow. Were their real hunters. I mean, were there hunters who searched for these people? Or is that...
WEIL: There were. Oh, there absolutely were. And they - you know, to me, they're the prime of the Jewish people. They are the superheroes in some way. Simon Wiesenthal, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, Malkin and Mossad. But they all went the legal route. You know, I think our hunters take a different path. And in episode eight, you'll see this great scene between Meyer Offerman, played by Al Pacino, and Simon Wiesenthal, played by Judd Hirsch, where they debate, what is the right mode? What is the right path? And, you know, is it going down the legal route, or is it taking justice into our own hands?
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HUNTERS")
PACINO: (As Meyer Offerman) There comes a time where we all must choose between the light and the darkness. But when there's great darkness in this world, perhaps the choice is made for us.
WEIL: And they'll really question, what is Jewish? Which path is Jewish? Do we cease being Jewish if we choose one path or the other?
GREENE: Wow. I just want to go back to your grandmother for a second.
GREENE: You said that as you were trying to figure out a way to tell her story and honor her story, it sounds like there was this sense of responsibility and weight, you felt, to to honor her? I mean, is that the emotion you were feeling?
WEIL: Absolutely. I mean, I felt a great deal of responsibility to honor my grandmother. I felt a true birthright. And not only her, but I think her truths and her story - we're now facing an epidemic of both anti-Semitism but also Holocaust denial. I think the ADL just did a study...
GREENE: Anti-Defamation League, yeah.
WEIL: Yeah. I mean, in Europe itself, I think the amount of people, the percentage of people who know about the Holocaust is dismally low. And then of that number, the people who actually believe that the Holocaust happened or that it happened in the way or to the magnitude that it actually did is even lower. So for me, as a descendant of a survivor and with the numbers of the survivor community growing lower each year, I think it is really our responsibility, my responsibility to continue on this story and continue on the truth and to make good on that promise of never again.
GREENE: What do you think your grandmother would think of the show?
WEIL: I think she would say, you got Al Pacino on your show?
GREENE: She'd be pretty impressed?
WEIL: She'd be - I think she would feel really seen and really heard. She was incredibly selfless. So I think she would be a little - you know, I think my grandmother would feel very humble and a little uncomfortable by all the attention. But I think that she would be very proud that the story of the millions of others who survived and the millions of others who died was being carried on in some way.
GREENE: David, thanks a lot.
WEIL: David, thank you. Thank you so much.
GREENE: The show is "Hunters." It is out today on Amazon Prime. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.