0 11 min 3 weeks

(Dean on the Scene with actress Joey King, showrunner Erica Lipez & author Georgia Hunter)

On this edition of SNAPSHOTS, we are going to experience a powerful limited series coming to Hulu TODAY.

Based on the novel by Georgia Hunter — which in turn was inspired by the actual history of her ancestors — the miniseries, We Were the Lucky Ones, traces the far-flung journeys of the Kurcs, a Polish Jewish family, throughout World War II. That their paths will be harrowing is not in doubt; a sobering opening caption reminds us that “By the end of the Holocaust, 90% of Poland’s three million Jews were annihilated.”    

I recently sat down with New York Times best-selling author Georgia Hunter, showrunner Erica Lipez and star Joey King who plays Halina Kurc to talk about this amazing miniseries. 

Georgia, this is NY Times bestseller, sold over a million copies and its now this miniseries which I enjoyed watching.. Tell us about the process of having this story of hope being brought to life on Hulu.    

Wow, it has been the experience of a lifetime hands down. It has started as such a passion project, age 15, discovering this piece of my family history the book is based entirely on my grandfather’s story. His siblings, this family of Polish Jews. It’s something he never talked about as a kid when we were when I was growing up even though we were neighbors we were very close.

But, I learned about it after he had died thanks to a school project and an interview with my grandmother. Fast forward through some family reunions, over hearing some stories that I’d never heard before. And in 2008, I decided I was going to set off and try to record the story really for the purpose of honoring my ancestors and trying to tell it as truthfully as I could how they managed to survive the Holocaust. And also, so that my kids and their kids and so on could pick it up and understand where they came from in their own roots. This whole process took me almost a decade.

And then a dear friend Tommy Kail called after the book came out and said, “Hey, buddy, how would you like to partner up and try to bring this to the screen” and we go way back. I think we’ve known each other 25 years. So to be able to partner with not only someone who’s insanely talented and one of the best humans I know but a friend and who I trust felt like a dream come true. He introduced me to Erica, I immediately fell in love. We found the most amazing writers to help with our scripts and our casts. I am in awe and adore every single one of them. So, the whole project from start to finish…  

Joey King: What about me specifically? (we all laugh)

Joey King, blew it out of the park. Wait, just you wait. No, it’s true. No, I cried a lot. Every time I saw one of the casts on the monitor for the first time…. waterworks. And then again and again and again. I spent so long imagining the story. So, to see it come to life, through like these actors was just remarkable. And everybody took such care and how the story’s so delicately in their hearts. Really from start to finish, it’s been such a joy and an honor to be a part of it.

Erica, this is a powerful story to tell the audience. What was it about the book that spoke to you directly and pushed you to be part of the project?

Wow, when I read Georgia’s book, I think I read it in about 24 hours. It was one of the most incredible family stories I had ever read. I fell in love with the Kurcs family. And I think also as somebody who I felt like I had a pretty good education about the Holocaust, this was a lens on to the Holocaust that I had never seen before. Through this one family, we get to spend nine years travel across four continents. It’s this epic ensemble story. And I think the ability to tell sort of this diversity of Jewish stories within one family was so exciting and daunting.

I felt like it was the opportunity of a lifetime and to get to collaborate with these two ladies, it was it was the stuff of a writer’s dream, and very hard. But also, we had a lot of fun and joy surrounding this project. I think we knew when you’re working on material like this, you need to surround it with love and joy. And that was what everyone brought to it. So, it was it was a great experience. We’re lucky to be here.

Joey, talk about your role of Halina Kurc and the connection that you establish while stepping into her shoes.    

When you take on a story like this, because it’s not you know, when we talk about our characters, we talk about them as characters and we say “role” but at the end of the day, those words don’t quite feel right, because this is a person that I was playing. This is a real human being that is related to Georgia. And there is a massive responsibility in that and there’s also a fear but that’s also the best part about it is because when you step on to set and there’s a character a role a person that requires you to learn a new dialect to divulge little bit deeper into your research of a subject that is really tough and also close to your heart. There’s just there’s a scariness about it, but that means it’s worth doing. Absolutely.

And so, you know, Halina is just this incredible person who has so much bravery and so much strength. When I was getting ready to play Helene, I asked Georgia and I asked her if she could ask her family like, I wanted to know who Halina was outside of the war, or some anecdotes about her that made her. What was her personality like? What were some of her quirks? And I found out some really, truly, funny and bright things about Halina.

Halina had a great sense of humor, and she was really just like a bright light. I really wanted to focus on who was she outside of the war, because I want to infuse that person into who this person is inside of the war. Because she’s a real human, that a tragic thing happened to, but the tragic thing is not who she is. I was really excited for lack of a better word to step into her shoes and nervous. I admire Halina so greatly and playing her was, was the rule of a lifetime.

Erica, which of the characters do you feel a connection to?   

Oh, wow. I mean, this lady to be honest. (points to Joey) Truly about the story what I found amazing is I felt a connection to all of them, which is important as a writer, you sort of have to find your way into everyone’s….

JK: You know you have to give a diplomatic answer. (everyone laughs)

EL: I will say I come from a family of lawyers and Genec as a lawyer, so I did relate to Genec, but then there’s Mila. I became a mom while working on this project. And Mila is a mom and so I felt like I was able to relate to her on a whole new level.  I related to Halina sort of wanting to…I think exactly what Joe is saying that like she is not defined by what happens in that war but that she is her own person. I just really admired that about her. It was such an exciting thing to get to write. I mean, each of these characters had something that was so unique and distinct. I think that was what was most exciting is that they all had such unique personalities. And then we had this amazing cast who brought them all to life in a way that just blew our minds every day.

JK: One thing I always want to add that I forgotten to say my answer was that playing Halina was fabulous because of these two wonderful ladies right here. Because first of all, everything about Halina and her just wonderful personality was already in the book. It was so hearty and infused with her joy and how she experienced everything. The adaptation was so beautiful in Erica’s script, like everything was on the page as an actor was just so exciting to step into something that was so well written on in both forms that I just felt like I really wanted to do my job justice because they made it so easy. Can you tell that we all like each other?

We Were the Lucky Ones comes to Hulu TODAY March 28th with three episodes and new episodes launching weekly.

For SNAPSHOTS, I’m Dean Rogers

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