The Matriarch of Moonhaven Ayelet Zurer

The Matriarch of Moonhaven

AMC+ came out swinging when it launched Moonhaven. This new sci-fi series brought massive names to the streaming platform in a show that explored character and ideas as much as it did the vast concepts of the future world. With a fantastic storyline and great characters, Moonhaven gave a taste of what AMC+ could be. 

With a cast featuring Dominic Monaghan, Emma McDonald, Joe Manganiello, and Ayelet Zurer, it is hard not to get excited about the potential of the show. Moonhaven managed to deliver on all fronts, with a strong first season that quickly became a must-watch TV show for many.

With Moonhaven being such an exciting entry to the AMC pantheon, CGMagazine was excited to sit down with Maite Voss actor, Ayelet Zurer to discuss the show. With such a complex world, and a wealth of backstory only hinted at during the series run, Ayelet gives a taste of the process, how the show got underway, and what made Moonhaven so exciting to be a part of. 

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CGMagazine: How did you get involved with Moonhaven, and what was the process like to be part of the show?

Ayelet Zurer: Well, they sent a scene which they asked me to read. Actually, they sent two scenes for different characters, and I fell in love with one of them and asked not to do the other one. They said okay, and I did it, and then they asked me to do the other one as well. And once I did that, they realized that I was right, and the first one was the one for me.

So my key from the start was the one that called my name, and I was like oh, this is a very cool character and very different and spiritual in some ways, but also just fun and bizarre. So I really fought for it.

CGMagazine: What was it like being part of Moonhaven, a new show that manages to go in a few interesting directions, and are you a fan of sci-fi yourself?

Ayelet Zurer: I am a fan of sci-fi. I always like sci-fi because I think it gives an opportunity to speak about human nature and humankind. I think spiritually and philosophically, if it’s good sci-fi, it always says something interesting about us. But working specifically for AMC was great because they supported the show and let us do what we do best. And Peter Ocko was an unbelievable show runner, writer and creator.

Not only was he the nicest man to work for, but he was also collaborative. It was really hard at first to understand what he was going for because building a new world is a challenge for actors but also for everyone on the team, so he really orchestrated that shift so well for us. 

There was a learning curve, at first he came to me and said “Hey, so what do you think about a wig for this, I want you to look a little different.” So the hair department opened up a table, filled with all kinds of hair. It looked like a massacre, but it was really fun to look for the right thing. We kept falling and going in the same direction, all of us, and we ended up choosing the look. Once that came along, it was easier to move into the other parts because it affected the movements, the voice, and the outfit.

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There was a whole discussion of what Maite [Voss] wears, when we see her first, does she have status, doesn’t have status? I really hope that I’ve tried to persuade everyone that because they’re Mooners, there’s no status. There was this intricate outfit at first, but then persuaded them not to use it and just use it in the trial. So she looked very much like everyone else, because Mooners do what they do for everyone, not just for themselves. So that idea is embedded in the clothing. 

Working with the language was amazing and a stretch for me because how can you use this language and still make people understand what you’re saying, It was a challenge saying two things at the same time because that’s what she does, in the way that she does, and the rhythm of it. And still being very human, not sounding like we landed with Martians, it was really important for me to make sure that she’s human. I got tons of help from Peter, and every time I had questions he would go back and explain it, and that was helpful for me.

CGMagazine: Just looking at your career, you’ve done a lot of different varieties of films and series, from blockbuster movies to smaller offerings. How does Moonhaven compare to that pantheon of movies and shows you’ve done in the past?

Ayelet Zurer: It felt a little different from a big studio sci-fi thing. It felt very close, and smaller in scale, definitely, but also, TV and films are so different in their essence. It’s just a bigger machine if you’re doing a big film. I think also AMC was supportive, and because of COVID, they were not being picky with the notes. I’m sure they were, I mean I don’t know the behind-the-scenes, but they weren’t there because travel was hard.

So we were there just like people on an island creating something that we were hoping would resonate with people and crowds. We didn’t know what it would become, but then I saw the pilot and then the first episode, and I was stunned by the measurement and how big it looked, and what beautiful work they’d done with visual effects and overall feel.

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CGMagazine: I got to preview Moonhaven a few weeks ago, and I was impressed with just the look and the feel of everything going on. I really did think it was a unique take on the subject.

Ayelet Zurer: Thank you.

CGMagazine: What is your take on streaming and how the landscape has changed in recent years?

Ayelet Zurer: I think it’s great that streamers are doing many things. It’s good for us, the creators, the actors, the filmmakers. I think the only danger that I see is the way in which they direct what we want to watch because the whole point is stumbling on the show you never thought you’d want to watch. It is a thing that starts to become harder and harder because of the algorithm.

So I’m just hoping that we’ll be able to continue doing interesting and strange things, rather than all shows feeling the same. I really think that uniqueness is what I’m searching for, as a creator, but also as a watcher and an audience.

CGMagazine: As I mentioned, you’ve done so many types of shows and movies; what do you look for in a character you jump into, and what is the kind of selling point for you to be a character or be part of Moonhaven?

Ayelet Zurer: I don’t think there’s one thing, but it definitely could be writing the exploration of an idea of a show rather than just my character specifically. It could be something to do with the writing that I just understand what they’re saying and what they want to talk about, the writers. 

In the case of Moonhaven, there was a line that was cut in the editing room, the whole thing was sort of chopped for various reasons. But the discussion there where Maite tells Indira that they realized why they came to the moon and what they learned about human nature. And she asks her what was it, what did you learn? And Maite’s answer is, we are forever dissatisfied with what we want.

I thought this was such a deep idea because what Maite is actually saying is, on one hand, if we are forever dissatisfied with what we want, we always strive to find another solution to grow, to become better, to investigate who we are, what we are, and advance our humankind. But at the same time, if we are forever dissatisfied with what we want, we are greedy and really are playing a role of destruction, we are becoming a destroyer. 

So the question is, are you a maker or a destroyer in some way? So that idea was always inside of Maite’s speech everywhere. When you act, and you spend three, or four months in a space, time and location, you hope that you will have fun while you do that. So the shooting in Ireland was amazing, I always wanted to be there, and I heard it’s beautiful.

I made sure to stay in a place where I could go swimming in the ocean every day. Moonhaven as a state of mind, is a great state of mind, the loving, open-hearted, empathic place to be in, so I couldn’t say no to that too.

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CGMagazine: What do you feel that you have done or have not done that you need to do? And what are some of your favourite roles you’ve done up to this point?

Ayelet Zurer: Well Maite in Moonhaven will be one of my favourites, and I really hope they pick up for the second season, and we will continue doing that show because I have so much to investigate there. I just love the people who I worked with. I really had so much fun with the actors. But I really loved Losing Alice, I enjoyed very much working with Seagal on it. It was such a deep view on what it means to be an artist and a woman artist particularly. 

I loved working on Angels and Demons, who wouldn’t, with Tom Hanks because he was really someone and still is someone I look up to in many aspects humanely and also just the way he thinks, and I loved working with Ron Howard, again, just the way he orchestrates a big studio film. I love some small things I’ve done that no one else saw.

I like to take risks, and sometimes we’ll see on my resume things that no one would care for, or seen or didn’t come out the way we expected or hoped for, but that’s the nature of our business. I think if you only play it safe, you stay on the same path, which is to me, boring.

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