At first glance, The Calling may be seen as your basic crime television show centered around a cop looking to unveil the truth. But Detective Avraham is guided to seek out this truth in part due to his spiritual principles and his Orthodox Jewish faith.
Detective Avraham is, in fact, the first Orthodox Jewish protagonist in a mainstream television show or movie.
“I’m proud to play a Jewish detective that is religious,” actor Jeff Wilbusch told The Times of Israel about this groundbreaking role. “It’s very unique to have such a show. And I think it’s an important story to tell.”
While some characters in television shows happen to be Jewish or are portrayed by Jewish actors, Detective Avraham is proudly Jewish, discussing his faith and values throughout the first eight episodes. He even quotes the Torah. As predicted, Avraham doesn’t operate the way a typical detective would — he is often deeply invested in understanding human behavior.
Said Wilbusch: “He sees the world with empathy. He believes every single one of us is entitled to infinite respect — doesn’t matter where he comes from, which faith he belongs to, and the color of his skin.”
The show is quirky, quiet, and full of dark humor. The mood is purposefully different than your usual crime drama, trying to show the world from Detective Avraham’s unique point of view. Avi is often in his own world, a “lone wolf” type that has to be brought out from his philosophical brooding by his partner, a more outgoing and ambitious rookie.
The Calling is based on a crime novel by an Israeli author who originally had the setting in Tel Aviv. While the Peakcock television series has brought the gritty action to New York, it hasn’t shied away from what made the characters special.
On the contrary, showing how a Jewish person navigates the eclectic, crazy world of New York only shines an even brighter light on this specific population of people. And at a time when antisemitism is on the rise, having this type of representation is even more impactful than ever before.
It’s a role that Wilbusch felt was important in a series that he said he’s “proud” of. The 34-year-old actor was born in Israel, the oldest of 14 siblings. He grew up in a Hasidic Jewish family where they only spoke Hebrew and Yiddish. He said he didn’t even watch movies or television until he left the community at 13. While he won’t discuss why he left, Wilbusch has been open about his journey to Europe to get his master’s degree in economics from the University of Amsterdam and when he later discovered his passion for acting.
Fluent in English, Wilbusch starred in the Netflix miniseries Unorthodox as Moishe, a Hasidic Jew that was sent from Brooklyn to Europe to find a woman who ran away from the community.
“It’s extremely, extremely, extremely important to play complex characters who have not been represented. I’m always thinking about Moishe, and when I meet people from the Hasidic community, I still want to hear what they think. Moishe still lives with me,” Wilbusch told the Los Angeles Times. “With The Calling, I never saw such a character like this — who is Jewish and whose superpower is empathy — let alone played one. And it felt very important in these times we’re in now.”