Lihi Kornowski knows it’s a cliché — the role of Sophie in “Losing Alice” felt like it was meant for her.
“From the very first audition, I felt like I am Sophie — I know that many actresses say that about a lot of parts, but I really felt a very strong connection with her,” Kornowski says over Zoom from her Tel Aviv home.
The 28-year-old actress stars in “Losing Alice,” an Israeli miniseries being distributed Stateside by Apple TV+. It’s the streamer’s second Israeli acquisition, and follows the release of “Tehran” last year. The eight-episode “neo-noir” psychological drama is rooted in an exploration of female obsession, envy and creativity. Kornowski stars as the younger female lead, a screenwriter who encounters and strikes up a conversation with her older filmmaker idol while riding a train. The Faustian story unfurls from there as the director signs on to direct her husband as the star of the young woman’s screenplay.
Kornowski connected to the character’s bold, no-holds-barred approach to life and the youthful oblivion that allows her to believe that the world is hers for the taking. “You’re always thinking ‘Am I doing wrong, am I doing fine, am I acting good?’ She doesn’t have this, she says what she wants,” Kornowski says. “It was magical for me. I was like, oh my god, I wish I could be her.”
The actress notes that “Losing Alice” is thematically and tonally different from many Israeli shows. Before filming, female writer-director Sigal Avin gave Koronowski a list of films and directors to watch as artistic references for the series: Hitchcock, David Lynch, Polanski. “It’s a genre that’s not very common is Israel — usually here in Israel we do religion things and Army things,” Kornowski says. “She wanted us to understand the language of the series, so that we would all talk together in the same artistic language.” Her favorite movie on the list was “Braveheart”; her reaction to Lynch’s repertoire was “oh my god — he’s so f–king crazy.”
When the series was released in Israel several months ago, reception to the show’s unfamiliar thematic premise was split. “Some people really loved it, like it was mind blowing for them. And some people didn’t really connect to it, and they didn’t understand the deeper energy that Sigal wants to pass to the audience,” Kornowski says. Others wrote it off as “weird.” “There was one [review] in a newspaper here that said, you know, ‘It’s not Europe here.’”
Now Apple TV+ is bringing the series to American audiences, who are more accustomed to watching dark, edgy and “weird” content. “I never imagined that American audiences will watch me, or watch the show. You know, it’s a dream come true, really,” she says of her first project to be widely distributed outside of Israel. “I’m usually [just] an Israeli actress. And I hope that Americans will love it.”
Kornowski, who’s from a city outside of Tel Aviv, originally trained as an opera singer, beginning as a child. She joined the Israeli army as a musician, and after her service planned to move to Berlin to pursue a singing career.
“And while in the army I decided that I wanted to explore more things in me. You’re young, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s what I’m going to do for all of my life, just sing?'” she says. “I started to act, and I fell in love.”
She went on to study at an acting studio in Tel Aviv, and in 2016 her first film role earned her a best actress nomination from the Israeli Film Academy, the country’s Oscars-equivalent. In addition to her screen work, Kornowski is a member of Israel’s national theater, the Habima Theatre. She was recently part of a filmed performance, sans audience, as the theater remains closed due to pandemic restrictions. Kornowski has heard talk of a possible late spring return to the theater, but that timeline is uncertain. “I’m really missing it,” she says of performing. “It’s like air for me.”
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