As it has done in the past, The Equalizer once again shines a light on an important issue with the March 12 episode, this time, anti-Semitism, and it’s personal for Harry (Adam Goldberg).
In “Never Again,” after a string of anti-Semitic hate crimes terrorizes a local community, Harry reconnects with his Jewish faith as he leads the team in finding the culprit before another attack. Co-showrunner Adam Glass co-wrote the episode with Ora Yashar, both using their personal experiences. (Glass, Yashar, and Goldberg are Jewish.)
“We knew very early on that this was an episode we wanted to do. Adam’s an Ashkenazi Jew, I’m a Mizrahi Jew. My family came from Iran. So it just felt like the combination of getting our perspectives together,” Yashar tells TV Insider. “Unfortunately, as we were writing this, anti-Semitism became even more relevant in today’s world, and so there was a lot of discussion and there was a lot that we were able to take from, and that really inspired the episode.”
Shares Glass, “We’re not a monolith, but we have similar experiences. We both saw anti-Semitism in our lives. But I always wear my Star of David and Harry has these lines where he says, ‘Don’t wear your Star of David out’ and ‘You’re white ’til they know you’re Jewish.’ Those are things that my grandmother used to say to me. And I thought, ‘OK, bubbe, you’re just old fashioned. That’s not going to be the issues of my generation, my family.’ Yet here I am now saying the same things to my children because I’m concerned for them. At the end of the day, it’s unfortunately a problem that just continues to get worse in our society today, and it’s really scary.”
Dante (Tory Kittles) says “Hate’s hate.” It’s something that affects all groups. “Hate groups want to divide and conquer. They want us all against each other, but any group of people — it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, it doesn’t mean if you’re black, it doesn’t mean if you’re Jewish — we’re all dealing with the same issues, that a group of people don’t like us for who and what we are,” Glass continues. And so, as Yashar adds, “we can’t fight hate alone. We need each other. And it has been really hard to see the divides that are very purposefully being created between minority groups in the country. For Adam and I, that was really important for this episode, showing how our entire team comes together and it’s not about just one person.”
Glass reached out to Goldberg before there was a script to let him know their plans, and the two discussed their different points of view growing up Jewish.
“I have always grappled with being a kind of cultural Jew but not a religious Jew, and so we just exchanged ideas about what that particular American Jewishness is about and what it’s like to have that kind of identity attached to you and not necessarily embracing it,” Goldberg says. “It ended up being, strangely, an emotional experience, which I swear I really did not expect. And by the end of the episode I found myself really deeply moved within the scenes themselves in a way that seemed unexpected, particularly the last scene.”
“[Glass] wanted to make sure that I felt comfortable doing this because I’d certainly done my share of Jewish-themed projects and roles. If you had written this role or even this episode for me, I don’t know, a few years ago, I might have balked just because I’d sort of feel like, ‘hey, I’ve done that to some degree. I’ve sort of been there. I don’t need to do this on this particular show,’” the actor admits. “But given the climate in the last several years and particularly in the last year or two, it really felt necessary and I was very happy with how they managed to integrate my character’s personal life into the storyline.”
It was also important for the writers not to ignore Harry’s Armenian heritage (on his father’s side). “That was something that we also discussed, finding ways to keep that alive because that’s also a community who has experienced their own holocaust,” Yashar explains.
The episode does get personal for Harry, revealing more about his mother and his family’s history. “That’s the thing where life and art begin to overlap a little bit, where he’s, on the one hand, being somewhat cavalier about it, saying, ‘oh, whatever, I grew up in this neighborhood and it was a Jewish neighborhood and my mom was Jewish but she bailed and then I grew up with my Armenian dad and blah blah, blah. It’s like not that big of a deal.’ And that’s the way I’ve approached my own Jewishness in a way,” according to Goldberg.
“In the last several years, I’ve come to really own it in a way that I hadn’t even by doing films like The Hebrew Hammer. [Here], Harry starts to really end up grappling with his own identity because this crime takes place in his old neighborhood, and it sort of stirs up all of this stuff,” he previews. “And in the parallel, in the metaverse of doing a TV show about the subject, I found myself sort of exploring some of the same feelings or being affected by it in the same way.”
Glass reveals, “What I think this case does is not just remind him where he comes from, but reminds him who he is. And I think it’s something that a lot of people can relate to. We go out in the world and try to find who and what we are, and you sometimes come back to your foundation. So I think for Harry, it’s really the journey of having forgotten but now remembering, and not only remembering but realizing he has a place in this fight. This is his fight, too.”
In for her own kind of battle is Robyn (Queen Latifah), dealing with Miles (Stephen Bishop) wanting custody of Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes). She will do “everything” to keep her daughter with her, Glass says. “You don’t mess with a mother bear’s cub. [But] the surprise of this episode is not just what she’s willing to do, but what Aunt Vi’s [Lorraine Toussaint] willing to eventually do.”
The Equalizer, Sundays, 8/7c, CBS