The Calling cast talk about their new Peacock NYC cop drama

In most TV shows set in New York, the cops are tough, no-nonsense authority figures. Of Law and Order: SVU at Blue NYPD, hard-nosed officers are an extension of the city’s courage and resilience. That’s why when a memorable detective like Avraham “Avi” Avraham (Jeff Wilbusch) in The call happens, it stands out.

As an NYPD detective, Avi applies empathy and spirituality to a job that is both physically and emotionally taxing. Avi prefers to defuse a situation with his words rather than his weapon. When a missing person investigation takes an unexpected turn, Avi’s morals are tested, along with his faith in humanity. While he usually works alone, Avi must rely on his unit – Detective Janine Harris (Juliana Canfield) Detective Earl Malzone (Michael Mosley), and Captain Kathleen Davies (Karen Robinson) – to find the answers he so desperately seeks.

In an interview with Digital Trends, the cast of The call talk about Avi and why he is such a magnetic character. Plus, they share their experience working with David E. Kelley and Barry Levinson on a crime show in New York.

Four detectives stand around a table and talk in a scene from The Calling.
THE CALL — “The Pursuers” Episode 106 — Pictured: (lr) Karen Robinson as Captain Kathleen Davies, Michael Mosley as Earl Malzone, Juliana Canfield as Janine Harris, Jeff Wilbusch as ‘Avraham Avraham (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/Peacock)

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Avi is a mysterious and witty detective. Jeff, how would you describe him?

Jeff Wilbusch: Avi’s call, everything he does, solves cases. He’s such an unusual detective because he has so many feelings in him. He cares so much about people and he has such deep empathy for the world. That’s what drives him, and I learned a lot playing that character.

On the other hand, Janine wants to learn from Avi, and they form this unlikely and charming partnership. Juliana, why do you think Janine gravitates towards Avi the way she does?

Juliana Canfield: I think Avi is the kind of detective you can’t learn to be in school. I think Janine is straight, the teacher’s pet, and an ever-prepared student. She arrives at the police station ready to try everything she learned in class, in the field. But, Avi kind of transcends the capacity of what you can learn by being a good student.

I think Janine sees that he’s operating beyond the literal, the obvious, the black and white, and he’s playing in those shades of gray. He sees and hears things in silence and stillness. It’s real genius. Like many ambitious young people, when you see someone who is a genius, you want to understand how they got there.

Karen, you’ve taken on the role of captain in the NYPD. What stood out to you about Captain Davies?

Karen Robinson: She spoke in very short sentences. I like this. There is nothing in this writing that is revealing. They cut out all the extra stuff. When you see a script and David Kelly is somewhere on the front page of that script, you know you’re in good hands. So turning those pages, of course, proved it to be true. Yeah. I love my character because she’s succinct, she gets straight to the point, and everyone can understand what she’s talking about because she then combines that with a look.

Jeff and Juliana stand outside Karen's desk in a scene from The Calling.
THE CALL — Episode 106 of ‘The Pursuers’ — Pictured: (lr) Juliana Canfield as Janine Harris, Jeff Wilbusch as Avraham Avraham, Karen Robinson as Captain Kathleen Davies ( Photo by: Heidi Gutman/Peacock)

Michael, when you see David E. Kelley’s name on the show, was that an automatic yes?

Michael Mosley: Yes, and Barry Levinson and a crime drama in New York this summer. Gravelly. Yes, it was obvious. I pinched myself. I thought that was fantastic. Then have Jeff, you know, creep Unorthodox. That guy who played that villain…

Big role, though.

Mosley: So good! So stressful. Every time this guy appeared on screen, I was just like, “Oh, my God. It’s not good every time that guy was around. So to have him now in a position as a protagonist and a guy that we support, I think is really interesting. It does so well, and I can’t wait for people to see it.

The mark of a good cop show is the cast, and each character in this set brings their own flair. How was the set with this cast?

Canfield: Boring. Very austere.

Wilbusch: Very boring. Never laughed. [Laughs]

Canfield: Everyone just had their helmet on and kept it to themselves. No, it was kind of my favorite thing, the scenes where the four of us were together in the compound. I think each of us has such a different energy, but the common thread between us, I think, is that we’re here to have a good time.

There is a certain looseness and lack of ego that I found in my three partners. Willingness to be stupid and clumsy and to make a mistake. It was the best environment to be in, especially when dealing with fairly dark and twisted material. I just think it’s imperative that you have a group of people you can laugh with.

Mosley: It was awesome. I mean everyone came in so open and ready to go. Everyone was ready to play ping pong against each other. If something funny happened, it usually floated around and we usually kept it, or Barry would point it out and say, “Yeah, that’s funny. Do that” or “That’s right, do that. It was really great. We’ve been very lucky to have this core here, and we’re really lucky to have Jeff because what he does with this very, very weird character is just mesmerizing to watch.

The call | Official trailer | Original Peacock

Jeff, what were your conversations like with David when building this character?

Wilbusch: When I met David, I came with a list of questions. He spent hours with me. He is very busy and the phone keeps ringing.

He has a lot of shows.

Wilbusch: Yeah, I know. A lot. Very busy. It was a great honor to talk to him for so long and I had a lot of questions. It was amazing. I was so excited that I had to write down all the questions because I didn’t want to forget anything. I got answers to all my questions. It’s a dream, you know?

There is such a collection of talent behind the scenes. Barry Levinson, Hans Zimmer, etc. With all that talent, did it give the show a greater sense of specialness?

Mosley: I don’t know if you can think of it like that, you know? I think you just got out there and did your job. But, I mean, in your head, there’s the little boy in me that says, “Barry Levinson? Yeah, that’s pretty cool. The little kid in me is still here and still a fan of what we do. But, I think if you put too much emphasis on it, I think you might strangle it. Keep it loose.

Robinson: Because eventually Barry Levinson is going to say action, and you have to bring it on. If your brain is somewhere else, you can’t do the job. Then when he says cut, he’s going to let you know, and you don’t want that from Barry Levinson. [Laughs]

Mosley: [Laughs] You don’t waste Barry’s film. Every take counts.

Canfield: I think when I got the audition in my inbox, seeing David Kelley’s name on that title page instantly endeared the project. I just knew it would be done skillfully and if David was involved there would be other great people involved because great talent attracts great talent. I love working with experienced, top-notch people because they’re so sure of what they do, know what they can do, and are generous with everything they’ve learned. I feel really lucky and honored to work with a team of veterans, frankly.

Wilbusch: If I can add anything, they do what they do because they have to. If it’s Hans Zimmer making the music, Barry Levinson directing, or David E. Kelly has another show, that’s something they…

Canfield: Want to do.

Wilbusch: [They] I want to do this, and it’s fun for them to do it, and they believe in it.

Jeff and Juliana surround a monitor next to cops in a scene from The Calling.
THE CALL — Episode 101 of ‘He’s Gone’ — Pictured: (lr) Juliana Canfield as Janine Harris, Jeff Wilbusch as Avraham Avraham (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/Peacock)

The series is based on the author’s Israeli book series Dror Michani. Jeff, can you describe the importance of playing this protagonist?

Wilbusch: Great books. I loved reading them. They were so successful in Israel, and I think very unique in Israel as well. We met on set. He [Dror] has come. Such a talented and kind man.

Canfield: A lovely man.

Wilbusch: Great books. I loved reading them. They certainly added to my search. But it’s so beautiful how David E. Kelley took those great books and loosely based the show on them, and added unique characters and cases. So the package is good.

It’s a detective series set in New York, but with a new twist. It’s more sympathetic and compassionate. What can the series bring to those looking for a new take on a crime show?

Robinson: It really gets you there. He asks you to lead with your humanity because you look at all these people. Not just your main characters, but everyone we bring into the story. You look at them all through the prism of their humanity. In fact, through the way Avi perceives them, he always goes first to the heart of the person. It takes you into their life. Your neighbor is in your building or on your street or the people you see on public transport.

He takes you to their rooms. It takes you into the conversations they have in those rooms. I like it because it’s not a thriller. It’s more of why these people are the way they are without it being something lustful in any way. It’s not that. It’s kind of peeling back the layers of people’s lives, and I love that. As someone who watched part of it, I found myself really drawn to that aspect.

The eight episodes of The call are now available to stream on Peacock.

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