New Police Series “The Calling” Tells the Story of a Religious Jewish Detective

Viewers of “The Calling” will quickly realize that this is not your typical TV police procedural. Two minutes later, the lead detective on a new murder silently bows before the corpse…and prays.

Detective Avraham Avraham is an unusual figure in the New York Police Department: A keen observer of human behavior thanks to his studies in philosophy and his Orthodox Jewish faith.

“I’m proud to play a Jewish detective who is religious,” says actor Jeff Wilbusch, who plays Avraham. “It is very unique to have a series like this. And I think it’s an important story to tell.”

Peacock’s series “The Calling,” starring Juliana Canfield as Avraham’s partner, is directed by celebrated writer/executive producer David E. Kelley and directed by Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson and an Emmy, in the first two episodes, and with music by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro. It opens on Thursday.

Based on a series of books by Israeli crime writer Dror A. Mishani, “The Calling” places a Torah-quoting Jewish detective at the center of US prime time during a new spasm of anti-Semitism.

“We live in difficult times, sad times,” says Wilbusch. “I believe a lot in the power of storytelling. I don’t know how much power I have, but I’m very proud of the series.”

This image released by Peacock shows Juliana Canfield in a scene from “The Calling.” (Heidi Gutman/Peacock via AP)

“The Calling” is a quirkier, quieter series that uses borrowed melodies from the Middle East and cinematography that delves into the gritty streets of New York, where it was shot during the spring and summer of 2022. A Recurring Character he is a homeless former teacher.

“This is a different animal. It’s not going to be for everyone,” says Kelley. “It’s a battle to fight for the viewer’s attention, and when you use a quieter character on a quieter show as a vehicle to fight, it comes with some challenges.”

Wilbusch’s Avraham, or Avi to his colleagues, is a lone wolf of investigation, brilliant, but a bit aloof and sometimes too direct. He scribbles pictures of fish on napkins to relax and can read a room – and a suspect – like no other detective.

“The setting of the series is intentionally enigmatic,” says Canfield. “Avi is a detective who acts differently from regular detectives. And I think the series reflects his approach in many ways, meaning both the series and Avi are deeply interested in character and human behavior.”

This image released by Peacock shows Jeff Wilbusch in a scene from “The Calling.” (Heidi Gutman/Peacock via AP)

The first season focuses on the case of a missing teenager, which spans the length of eight hour-long episodes. The detectives follow all the clues, from his school friends and his sister to his unhappy mother and her stern father. Avraham is always trying to get inside the suspect or victim’s head, even sitting quietly on the edge of the missing teen’s bed to feel the scent of him.

“See the world with empathy,” says Wilbusch. “He believes that each of us is entitled to infinite respect, no matter where you come from, what faith you belong to, or the color of your skin.”

It is a character that immediately intrigued the Israeli-born actor. Few acting jobs led him to prepare by asking real homicide detectives how they break down after work, all the while reading essays on Hellenistic-era Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius.

This image released by Peacock shows, from left, Juliana Canfield, Jeff Wilbusch and Karen Robinson in a scene from “The Calling.” (Heidi Gutman/Peacock via AP)

In one scene, Canfield’s character notices the bookshelves in his partner’s cubicle. “There is a copy of the Torah and the Talmud, but there are also books written by great Greek and classical philosophers. So he uses Judaism as a kind of entry point into a way of thinking about the world philosophically. And that’s how she approached her detective work.”

The interaction between Avraham and Canfield’s rookie detective is delightful. She is an ambitious, textbook cop who sees how he uses his knowledge and hyper-detailed observations of social behavior to solve cases. “You can’t learn what he does,” her commander warns. “Yes I can,” she replies.

It becomes the yin to your yang. “She is not daunted by his sometimes alienating tendencies. And I think he’s also someone who has things to teach her about keeping her feet on the ground and how to get out of her cloud-covered castle of genius in the sky,” says Canfield.

This image released by Peacock shows Karen Robinson in a scene from “The Calling.” (Heidi Gutman/Peacock via AP)

“She manages to surprise him,” says Wilbusch. “They build a very interesting relationship that they didn’t really know they needed so badly.”

The original book was set in Tel Aviv. Kelley and the creators decided when moving it to New York that they should keep religion and spirituality at the center.

“We thought, ‘We’re not going to shy away from that.’ Far from being alienating, it is absorbing and enriching for the characters. So we decided to jump right into it,” says Kelley.

With information from The Times of Israel

New Police Series “The Calling” Tells the Story of a Religious Jewish Detective