Trust No One at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival #MCTVF
BY Yako Molhov
Trust No One, Keshet 12's new nine-part high-stake thriller produced by Shenhar Productions and starring Yehuda Levi (Fire Dancer, A Body that Works) and Yael Elkana (The Stylist, The Baker and the Beauty S3), was nominated for the Official Selection of the 62nd Monte-Carlo Television Festival’s prestigious Golden Nymph Award. The Festival took place from 16-20 June 2023, with the two stars and part of the creative team behind the series attending the Festival and talking with journalists about the topics tackled in the production - espionage, the lack of privacy, leadership, parenthood, betrayal, etc.
Regarded in Israel as Keshet’s biggest upcoming drama launch for some years, Trust No One is a 9x60’ thriller co-created by the team behind Traitor and Valley of Tears - Ron Leshem (Euphoria), Amit Cohen (False Flag) and Daniel Amsel (The Gordin Cell) - and directed by Ofir Lobel (A Wonderful Country, Black Space).

Starring Yehuda Levi in the central role of Itamar, Trust No One is a story about leadership, about how lonely it gets at the top, and about the death of privacy. The youngest-ever director of the most powerful intelligence agency in Israel, Itamar has forged a career by recruiting and handling well-connected informants. Now he is facing the worst crisis of his life: Itamar is being framed as the source of a cyber security leak that is exposing the Shin Bet’s top-secret agents one-by-one - starting with Shuruk, the daughter of a Hamas leader who was recruited by Itamar to spy on her father when she was just 17 years old. Totally isolated and no longer able to trust anyone, Itamar is forced to use the kind of morally questionable espionage tools he has always opposed, to clear his name and save his agents’ lives – exposing a world where any smartphone, CCTV camera, and digital device can be hacked, and deep fake videos and spyware are as commonly used as Instagram filters.

Daniel Amsel, writer & co-creator of the series, Ofir Lobel - the director as well as the two main leads - Yehuda Levi and Yael Elkana - sat down with journalists to talk about the series, its reception during the Festival, the idea behind it as well as how the project was shot. Trust No One will premiere in mid-October on Keshet.

Amsel briefly described the plot of the series, focusing on Itamar - the youngest head of the Israeli FBI equivalent Shin Bet that is under cyber attack and he is under a personal attack and has to find out who is behind this and who is behind the leak that endangers the agents of the organization. Levi and Amsel both said that the idea about the series came from reality, from life. The writer noted that Israel has become the N1 exporter of spyware in the world so the story was around them on a daily basis but the specific story is a mix of reality and the creators' imagination.

When asked by TVBIZZ about the budget of the series and it being part of Keshet's new 100 million NIS slate, Amsel commented that the broadcaster has been focusing on high-end dramas and Trust No One is part of this slate and creators and broadcasters in Israel really believe that high-end drama series is their special power and they want to push this kind of content worldwide.

Explaining the popularity of Israeli shows worldwide, Lobel commented that this is their 'survival mode' - be honest, say what you feel - this is very Israeli DNA. Israel is a small country, their budget is not that big (compared to US and European series) and because there are not that many sources, they need to be resourceful, original, creative. They need to sleep with one eye open, that is their attitude, even when it comes to creative.

In terms of adaptations of Israeli shows - Amsel commented that it is a joy seeing other people adapt something you wrote and created into its own specific language, with own conflicts. They tried to be involved in the process as much as they can but sometimes they need to let it go and let other people create their own project.

Amsel also shared to TVBIZZ that his colleagues co-creators Ron Leshem and Amit Cohen were part of the Israeli Defence Force, in intelligence roles, and they all did a huge amount of research for the series, part of it was based on their service in the armed forces, although the show is trying to portray a futuristic fear, look and feel of the world which has changed since their service. Amsel commented that they wanted to create this feeling that everything is a need to investigate, "we are carrying our smartphones, our digital devices everywhere and we don't even know that it is a tracking device, it can see you, listen to you, they wanted to portray this feeling that everything is danger".

When talking about the characters, Yael Elkana, who plays a technological genius, commented that she prepared for her role by doing research, she joined NSO Group (the largest cyber company), she followed a hacker, watched his habits, how he likes to work in the dark, "it was a very interesting and scary experience". The series shows a world where you have no control (at this very moment during the interview Elkana got a voice notification and they started laughing that NSO was listening, Ed.) about anything. When asked if they are now more concerned about their own privacy after playing these roles, Levi noted that he is an actor and he is not concerned he has nothing to hide - he has his very small life. But from a wider perspective it is frightening, dangerous, can be very destructive and people cannot distinguish what is true, what is false with all this deepfake technology and people need to find their way through all this information and try to still be normal. Levi shared that in the beginning it was frightening to portray this character - the youngest head of an intelligence agency (Shabak) because he needed to embody a very powerful figure. He had to feel this heavy-weight feeling, the perspective that nothing gets too much into him, emotionally. Lev did not take into account the stereotypes about Israeli intelligence agencies, them being so secretive, so clandestine - he was attracted to the plot, wanted to play a role in an espionage series and the more important aspects were humans, relationships, conflicts, inner conflicts - everything is about humanity.

Director Ofir Lobel added that it was a great challenge directing the role of Itamar - Yehuda and him worked on building this character as Yehuda is a very emotional person and Itamar needs to be like an arrow - he needs to be concentrated, he cannot be broken and yet he is very fragile. In the first episode viewers will see the fractures in his confidence and he allows himself to break down only when he is alone and he worries about his kid but he needs to be the leader, to be there 100% person and this was a challenge for Yehuda to play the both sides of Itamar. Levi added that this is a character that needs to put a steel nest, nobody should see the fractures inside. Even the real head of Shabak is a human being and he knows how to put on this uniform so that people cannot see through him.

Lobel also added that Israelis are cynical, they know everything - they have been to the army, to Gaza, to the Shabak, people know everything and they need to be very precise. They even brought real navy seals, the locations were precisely selected and depicted; etc.

In Lobel's opinion Trust No One is one of Israeli's bravest shows - it relates to the character of Itamar - "we show the archetype of the strongest intelligence security agencies leaders and he makes mistakes"; the series depicts Israel, the Shabak as an organization which is responsible for the country's security but yet it makes mistakes through the choices of the characters and this is not usually what they show - Israel is usually strong and brave and everything is calculated and sharp - "we see the fragile side of machismo".

Elkana commented that her character is different from her - she is a lonely wolf, she grew up alone, she acts alone, trusts no one, Itamar took her under his wing when she was very young, saw a potential in her but she has no one - when she went to prison she believed that Itamar will come to save her and no one comes. Her struggle is to trust someone again, to have family, to have friends.
Share this article: