Based on Georgia Hunter’s non-fiction book of the same name, We Were the Lucky Ones follows one Jewish family trying to survive the events of the Holocaust and reunite after World War II. Lerman stars as Hunter’s grandfather, Addy, and King stars as another family member from the same time period, Halina.
When one audience member asked what makes this series different—and not just another “prestige” show about the Holocaust—King responded, “It’s a crazy thing to think that people just make Holocaust stories for a pat on the back. But I do understand that trope!”
The actress went on to argue that, while there may be no shortage of series and films about World War II, it’s imperative to continue retelling stories from the period. Her own generation, King said, has started to care less and less about the atrocities that occurred during that time.
“Gen Z, we don’t really know or care about the Holocaust,” Kind said. “Every perspective from this particular time in history, they can all be so unique and I think they’re all worth telling. It’s funny that [this genre] is associated with wanting prestige. But our show especially, it’s hopeful, it’s optimistic. It deals with a lot of pain and suffering and sadness, but it’s hopeful.”
The most recurring word during the panel for We Were the Lucky Ones was “timeliness.” While several journalists asked why now was the right time to release the series, showrunner Erica Lipez said she actually didn’t want it to relate to today’s times.
“You hope something you make has relevance, but you don’t want it to be timely in this way,” Lipez said. “It’s really sad and really devastating. Living alongside this family really altered me as a person. I’m a much sadder person, confronting this chapter of history and thinking about what we can do to each other as human beings. But I’m also a much more hopeful person, trying to lead with compassion.”
Because Lerman and King are both Jewish, they were able to really connect to their respective characters. Moreover, researching and developing these roles allowed them to learn more about their heritage.
“It wasn’t just about the connection to my own Jewishness, but also being able to explore a role that touches on my own ancestry, it’s very personal,” King said. “It takes on a new meaning. A lot of roles I’ve had in the past and hopefully continue to take on in the future, I’ve been able to connect with in a special way. But when a show’s subject matter is that personal to your own history and your own family, it’s even more special.”
Lerman had a similar experience. While developing the role of Addy, he was able to relate the story of We Were the Lucky Ones back to his own family’s history with the Holocaust.
“My character Addy, he’s trying to get out of Europe and find safety on a years-long journey to South America,” Lerman said. “My family had a similar story. That element was really appealing to me, because I haven't seen this side of history explored. That was something that really attracted me to the role: I was able to bring my family and my identity, my cultural background [to it].”
Hunter told the audience that her grandfather Addy was a composer and musician. A couple of his compositions even ended up in We Were the Lucky Ones. In order to get closer to the role, Lerman attempted to play these tunes—to no avail.
“I spent a long time trying to learn the pieces,” Lerman said. “They’re very challenging. He’s a brilliant writer.”