‘We Were the Lucky Ones’ Stars Joey King and Logan Lerman on Resilience, Heartache and the Power of the Human Spirit | Digital Cover

The friends and costars lead Hulu’s true story chronicle of a Jewish family divided by World War II

Joey King and Logan Lerman (Photo: Jeff Vespa for TheWrap)

Joey King and Logan Lerman have always been truth-tellers. Veracity comes with the enterprise of being an actor, after all – and with a combined four decades of screen acting experience between these Young Hollywood A-listers, it’s proven to suit them just fine. 

It was their shared instinct to run toward the truth – even when difficult and dark – that drew King and Lerman to their latest starring roles in Hulu’s Holocaust drama “We Were the Lucky Ones.” 

Based on Georgia Hunter’s 2017 book of the same name, which documents her family’s fight for survival and unity as the Nazi persecution of Jews took hold of Poland during World War II, the Erica Lipez-created, eight-episode limited series charts the Kurc family’s unbelievable true story. Forcefully scattered around the world following Germany’s invasion in 1939 and eventually brought back together at war’s end, the Kurcs open the series as an affluent Radom-based Jewish clan sitting at the table for Passover and end it as that same family – nine years older, battle-scarred and bruised – sitting for the Seder once again. 

For TheWrap’s digital cover story, presented by Hulu, Lerman said in conversation with King that while he typically has “a hard time” with stories regarding the Holocaust and World War II because “they can easily feel exploitative” of the Jewish experience, “We Were the Lucky Ones” felt like it was contributing to the canon in new and resonant ways. This was particularly seen in the series’ family-driven struggles outside of concentration camps and in that his character, Addy, was a refugee in Paris and later Brazil. 

Joey King and Logan Lerman in “We Were the Lucky Ones.” (Hulu)

“It was really appealing to explore the Jewish refugee experience, which I really hadn’t seen before,” he told TheWrap. “There’s a universal thing at the core of this: It’s about people that are at the center of these conflicts and the real human stories and human suffering that happens in the middle of an event like this. So if we can find angles that haven’t been explored before and ways to tell these stories, I think we should tell them.”

He added: “But it’s hard to find those stories, especially ones that are as beautifully written as this.”

King, Lerman’s longtime friend and former “Bullet Train” costar, agreed that “We Were the Lucky Ones” “felt like we were adding to the history” of Holocaust dramatizations by showing the visceral, heartbreaking experience of a family forced apart by war and hate. 

Her character, Halina, is the youngest of the family and shares a particularly strong bond with Addy, even while he was in Paris pursuing a career as a composer and musician. As Nazi soldiers occupy their city, she stays with her parents, who refuse to flee despite mounting pressures and apparent threats to their safety. Hiding her identity and passing herself as Aryan, Halina also felt like a singular voice in a market already featuring a number of definitive Holocaust and World War II renderings. 

“She’s hiding her identity, and a lot of Jewish people had to do that,” King said of her role. “It’s not a story of a family in concentration camps. It’s a story of them maneuvering their way through Europe somehow. It’s just miracle after miracle — that’s why it’s called ‘We Were the Lucky Ones,’ because it’s just insane that this happened. It’s truly miraculous. And so I think any new experience as a true story that’s told about this time adds something.”

To see the real family members of the people we’re portraying… added a different level of connection to the material and to the experience”

Logan Lerman

There’s a sequence in the finale episode of “We Were the Lucky Ones,” titled “Rio,” where Halina’s years-spanning strategy to hide in plain sight is thwarted by a former neighbor who turns her in to local authorities. Halina is beaten down, bloodied and broken by her arresting officers and held with other suspected Jews in a cold, lightless cell. Staring into the middle distance from the cement ground, blood pooling around her, it’s a years-old memory of her brother Addy’s promise to wait for her from earlier in the series that keeps her looking to the future. 

King reflected that her own personal relationship with Lerman over the last 11 years allowed her to genuinely pull on that longing to be with him again – especially when she was stuck filming much of the series’ most dramatic traumas in isolation. She recalled reading the prison cell scene from the finale and hoping that it meant Lerman would be filming with her that day. 

“I found out he wasn’t going to be on set because it was supposed to be a flashback of something we’ve already shot before, and it was  funny because I got so sad because I had missed Logan, I hadn’t been seeing him a lot lately at that point,” King said. “I love Logan so much and I feel very connected to Logan in this way where I was like, he’s one of my best friends, I haven’t seen him in forever, and I was feeling this pain of missing him. And I was like, this is actually kind of helpful because Halina’s missing her brother so much and Logan has become like family to me. I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is just a very small fraction of the pain of missing that Halina must be feeling.’”

That straight-to-the-heart connection to the material was felt in all aspects of production, largely thanks to author Hunter’s consistent presence and involvement on set with her family. King and Lerman never forgot that they were telling the equal parts horrific and inspiring true story of someone’s bloodline. 

Getting the opportunity to tell a story like this, it always feels timely”

Joey King

Lerman said that having Hunter and her family available as a resource and support “transcended production.”

“To see the real family members of the people we’re portraying there, watching us, seeing us in our wardrobe, seeing us go through these scenes, walking through sets that were recreations of their family’s lives, that added a different level of connection to the material and to the experience,” he said. 

Logan Lerman, Joey King (Photo: Jeff Vespa for TheWrap)

As for the real-world repercussions of telling the Kurc family’s story today, it’s not lost on the Hulu series stars that it debuted as rates of antisemitism continue spiking nationwide and the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas makes daily headlines and stirs divide the world over. Spotlighting the Jewish peoples’ varied histories of persecution and hardship is the artist’s way of combating such tensions. 

In other words, they’re continuing to be truth-tellers in the face of it. 

“How could it not feel relevant right now to tell a story like this?” Lerman posed. 

“The state of the world is in a very difficult spot right now. Racism, islamophobia, antisemitism – it’s all just, it’s really sad … Getting the opportunity to tell a story like this, it always feels timely,” King said. 

“As actors, we don’t always get to tell material that is something that is close to home – a lot of the time, we’re playing people we have absolutely nothing in common with, which is the coolest part about acting. But it’s very beautiful and rare we get to do something that taps right here,” she added, indicating to her heart.

Dessi Gomez contributed to this story.

Credits:
Creative Director & Photographer: Jeff Vespa
Video Production: Thadd Williams

Joey King’s Wardrobe: Suit by Cong Tri, Earrings by Hugo Kreit, Ring by Dries Criel Jewelry, Ring by Type Jewelry, Shoes by Andrea Wazen
Stylist: Jared Eng Studios
Hair: Rena Calhoun
Nails: Thuy Nguyen
Makeup: Allan Avendano

Logan Lerman’s Wardrobe: Jacket by All Saints, Sweater by Prada, Shirt by Hanes, Jeans Vintage Levi’s, Watch by Omega

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