This interview with Dana Modan, Israeli creator and the writer behind primetime hit Significant Other, took place at the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan and conducted by Isaac Zablocki, the center's Director of Film Programs and the Israel Film Center.

Both seasons of acclaimed Israeli TV show Significant Other are now streaming exclusively on ChaiFlicks.

Zablocki: Thank you so much for being here. I want to start with how you came up with the idea for Significant Other? I identify it as a show about two broken people trying to fix themselves together.

Modan: Yeah, I don’t know where ideas come from. It's the biggest question for any creative person, for everyone, because ideas come not only when you’re writing or doing something. The same group behind Significant Other, Assi, and Ram [Nahari], who is the director — we did another show in 2004 [popular romantic comedy Love Hurts]. 10 years later, we knew we wanted to make a new show.

So we’re sitting together and we’re just putting on ideas, until something would catch on, and at some point we had the idea that Assi’s character will die. I don’t know if you know this, but Assi is the biggest star in Israel, like ever, and so for me it was really funny to see him like that, he would gain weight for the show, with this funny hair, and so miserable, it just was funny. And for him it was funny that I would have a heart attack, and then I’m fat and old. So that we didn’t know if I’ll have heart attack or he’ll commit suicide, and then we said “oh, if we put it together, it would be so funny.”

Zablocki: It’s like a double-negative.

Modan: It’s such a comedy and we’re laughing all the time while writing it, and I think like 80% of the audience got it, and [some] people just didn’t understand it was a comedy. But for me it was very funny.

Zablocki: You need to see it in a big group to get the laughter.

Modan: Yeah, because I saw it several times [with] groups, and sometimes people don’t know if it’s allowed to [be] funny. At the beginning, I saw it here too. You see someone who wants to die, and you wonder “Can I laugh? Can I laugh? I don’t understand.” Until the first one starts laughing and says “okay, it’s funny.” I just want everyone to laugh all the time.

Zablocki: So you pitch this as a comedy about a guy who wants to die because he’s had a terrible breakup with his wife and a woman who had a heart attack… and the networks are like “greenlight!”

Modan: No, actually less so. Because Assi is such a big star and I’m a big writer, and we had that hit show [Love Hurts] before, we just came to them and said “we want to make this show” and they said “ok”, and after that they really regretted it. Our last show, Love Hurts was a classic romcom, and that’s what they thought they were getting, and they didn’t. They never forgave us for it.

Israeli actors Assi Cohen (left) and Dana Modan (right) co-created and star in Significant Other.

Zablocki: I wanted to mention earlier how you’ve been a real part of the growth of Israeli television. You first broke onto the scene with the show Florentine, which was my favorite series. Were you kind of the “sassy spice” there?

Modan: I'm a writer, it’s in my resume, but it’s not part of what I’m doing. Because it’s acting and I don’t see myself as an actor anymore.

Zablocki: So that was really my next question, whether you see yourself as an actor who writes, or a writer who acts?

Modan: Oh no, no, no, I’m not an actor. I act in my things because I think I’m a servant of my art, and if I think that I’ll do this part the best, I’m doing it for the writing which is my thing. So I’m not really an actor.

Zablocki: And how close are you to the character that you wrote for the show?

Modan: I can’t tell you! Well actually, I will tell you a very interesting thing. I’m now married, happily married for my fourth time, but the last one. And when we started working on this project, I just moved in with my current husband, and with his two kids and my child and for me this show was the fantasy of being alone. Because I’m not such a family woman, I like to be alone, I’m a writer, I like to sit in my room and write, I don’t want anyone to disturb me. And then [writing Significant Other] was like a song to “praise the loneliness!”. It was very interesting because people think that I write about myself, [but] I don’t. I write about life, I’m part of life, and a lot of people that watch the show thought that because it’s about a woman who’s alone, so of course she’s bitter, and she wants someone, and so it’s about how it’s bad for a woman to be alone. That was the opposite of what I wanted to say. A lot of single women did understand me, and so a lot of people still think today that I’m alone. But I write not just [about] myself, what I write is my perspective of life, and how I see you all, and how I want you to improve, to see what you don’t like, and change it. If you can’t change the world, change yourself, right?

Zablocki: And let me ask a little bit about that writing process, because the dialogue in this is so unique… is it all written, do you improvise?

Modan: On screen, it’s all written to the word. If an actor is changing one word, I can kill him. But the way we did it, we were improvising as we needed, since we were good friends for several years, and we came up with ideas together. Then I would put what I think is right to paper and write it out. Because I’m a woman I’m doing all the hard work, right? And then we would practice and rewrite over and over again. My husband is a doctor, so [he would] sit down at 11 PM, he’d come back from five surgeries, [and I’d tell him] “I’m your patient now, I had a heart attack, what do you say? Start talking!” But he’s a really good writer, it’s all improvising with him, all the medical stuff.

Zablocki: My last question is really [about] your other show Love Hurts [which] was picked up as an American remake as well. Obviously a lot of Israeli shows are having international appeal, you can’t make a show in Israel without thinking about its Netflix availability. I found this show to be so Israeli at its heart. Did you think about an international audience at all?

Modan: I don’t think about the audience at all, period. That’s how I have a career of about 30 years now. And I haven’t even started yet, from my point-of-view. Because you can’t think about the audience, what the audience is, [there are] so many people… you can’t know what your wife thinks, how can you know how people think! So I have this saying that my mother told me, “you have to do what you want, and then you can be sure that one person is happy.” So that’s how I do things.