'The Spy' Cast Portrays An Exciting Mix Of Fictional & Real Life Characters
Netflix's new series, The Spy, follows the true story of Eli Cohen (Sacha Baron Cohen), who's recruited by Mossad — or, Israel's national intelligence agency — beginning in 1959 to be an undercover operative in Syria. And while he proved to be very successful, the lines soon began to blur between Cohen's real life and his undercover persona, Kamel Amin Thaabet. What's more, he had to leave his wife and children in the lurch back in Tel Aviv for long stretches of time. The series premieres Friday, Sept. 6 on Netflix, when audiences will get to The Spy cast bring the true story to life.
"Eli was probably the most successful spy in the 20th century," Baron Cohen told TVInsider. And while he essentially lost his identity along the way, he was incredibly good at what he did. "He lived a double identity," The Spy star said, "and ended up basically saving his country." However, they eventually caught up with the agent, and on May 18, 1965, Eli Cohen was publicly executed in Damascus, per the Associated Press.
Since this Netflix show is based on a true story, that makes the casting even more important, with some of its characters based on real people. Here are the actors who portrayed these characters in The Spy.
Sacha Baron Cohen — Eli Cohen
Baron Cohen is most recognizable for his "very nice" performance in the absurdist 2006 comedy Borat. Most recently, he went undercover as a variety of personas in his Showtime series, Who Is America?, during which he tricked conservatives like Sarah Palin, Joe Walsh, Roy Moore, and Ted Koppel, among others.
And while it may seem like a departure for Baron Cohen to star in such a serious show, it makes sense that he's portraying someone who goes undercover, as an actor who often does so himself. "Partly what attracted me was: [Eli Cohen's] acting skills rivaled those of [method actor] Daniel Day-Lewis," Baron Cohen says in an interview with NPR. "He was playing the role of a multi-millionaire businessman who'd been brought up in Argentina from Syrian descent, and maintained that persona for many, many years."
Hadar Ratzon Rotem — Nadia Cohen
Rotem is known for her roles in Homeland, Rendition, and Prisoners of War. Here, she plays Eli's long-suffering wife, Nadia, who is left to raise their children alone while he's undercover. As a result, there's even been a statue erected in memory of her patience called "Waiting for Eli," which sits in the Golan Heights region of Syria. According to Amni Magazine, Nadia is still alive and resides in Herzliya, Israel.
Noah Emmerich — Dan Peleg
Fans of The Americans will recognize Emmerich as FBI agent Stan Beeman. Here, he plays Eli Cohen's handler who, according to Netflix, is "a charming, rumpled and brilliant Mossad trainer. [Dan] is wise, wary and stubborn, and has a tendency to blur the boundaries between the personal and professional. He has conflicted feelings about Eli, and is tormented by a mistake he made in the past."
Yael Eitan — Maya
Eitan is an Israeli actor known for Dig and Prisoners or War, among others. Here, she plays a character named Maya who appears to work at Mossad.
Nassim Si Ahmed — Ma'azi
According to his IMDb bio, Ahmed won the 2019 French kickboxing championship in his weight category, which is no small feat. As for his onscreen roles, they include French TV shows like Talons aiguilles & bottes de paille, Hôtel de la plage, and Marseille, among others. In The Spy, he plays Ma'azi, whom he explains on his Instagram is an Algerian-Mexican lieutenant.
Mourad Zaoui — Benny
This Moroccan actor may look familiar to fans of The Blacklist, The Night Manager, or any number of Biblical reenactments. In The Spy, Zaoui portrays the character of Benny.
Waleed Zuaiter — Colonel Amin al-Hafez
Zuaiter is a prolific actor whose credits include the TV shows Altered Carbon, Homeland, and House of Cards to movies like The Men Who Stare at Goats and London Has Fallen. His character in The Spy is Colonel Amin al-Hafez, who takes an immediate liking to Eli. According to the Guardian, al-Hafez was the president of Syria from 1963 to 1966, during which he established the country's first Ba'athist administration.
Moni Moshonov — Jacob Shimoni
Moni Moshonov is mostly known for his work in Israeli TV shows, along with the films Late Marriage, Two Lovers, and We Own the Night. In The Spy's trailer, his character, Jacob Shimoni, is depicted asking Cohen what he'd be willing to give up for his country.
Moshonov's character may have been a real person, as there's a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report from 1955 detailing an Israeli ambassador named Jacob Shimoni.
Uri Gavriel — Sheik Majid Al Ard
Gavriel's character is likely Majeed Sheikh al-Ard, whom Cohen first met in 1962 aboard a ship from Genoa bound for Beirut, according to the National Library of Israel. And as Cohen is told in The Spy's trailer, "The sheik is your only way in."
Alexander Siddig — Suidani
Remember Doran Martell from Game of Thrones? Doctor Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? Ra's al Ghul from Gotham? Alexander Siddig is a prolific actor who has played all of these characters and more. In his latest role, he embodies Suidani for The Spy, who eventually spearheads to Cohen's execution.
So now that audiences have a good overview of who is starring in The Spy, they'll be more than ready when the Netflix series premieres on Friday, Sept. 6.