If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen Al Pacino on TV much over the years, the answer is simple: the iconic star of films like The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, and Scarface hasn’t done much work on the small screen during his more than five decades as an actor.
Following a guest shot on a long-forgotten 1968 series called N.Y.P.D., Pacino did not show up on TV again until 2003, when he played the evil real-life lawyer Roy Cohn on HBO’s six-part adaptation of Angels in America. Since then, he’s done the TV/cable movies You Don’t Know Jack (2010), Phil Spector (2013) and Paterno (2018). But he’s never had a regular role on an episodic series — until now.
On the new Amazon Prime show Hunters, Pacino plays Meyer Offerman, a Holocaust survivor who leads a diverse group of Nazi hunters tracking down escaped Third Reich monsters in 1977 America. The series is a provocative, combustive mix of Tarantino-esque violence, comic book sensibility and somber reflection — the latter taking up more and more of the show as Offerman and his band of assassins begin to feel the effects of the violence and bloodshed they are immersing themselves in.
“Al’s agent read the script and thought that there was something in this character that Al would really spark too,” says series creator and co-executive producer David Weil. “And Al did. It took four meetings to really talk with about this character is going and where the series is going. But just from day one with Al, it became a partnership. It became the greatest collaboration.”
A Method actor and former student at New York’s legendary Actor’s Studio, the 79-year-old Pacino still back on his training from years ago while prepping for the role in Hunters. “This is a person, an artist who eats, breathes and dreams his work and his characters,” continues Weil about his star. “He’ll always send a note in the middle of the night: ‘Oh, what if we did this? Or maybe we should change the line to that? Or what if I was wearing a scarf instead?’ Both minute details and grand ideas.”
“Al is a guy that asks a lot of questions about the character, about what the intention of the line is, what the intention of a scene is,” says co-executive producer Nikki Toscano. “So there’s this wonderful, alive workshopping that’s happening at all times and you don’t often get that with a TV series because of the timing. You have to be moving so fast. But he allowed it to sort of slow down and give us the opportunity to have those conversations that sometimes you’re not able to have.”
Toscano adds that having an actor of Pacino’s stature — he also recently starred in Martin Scorsese’s epic The Irishman — agree to play a starring role in his first TV series raises not just the show’s profile but the standard of excellence for everyone involved. “It takes it to a different level,” she affirms. “It was life-changing. It obviously raises the profile of any show when you have Al Pacino doing his first bout of television on your series. And Al, without even meaning to be, is a really truly inspiring man. And he takes his craft so seriously that I think that he raised the bar for all of us to bring our A game.”
While Meyer Offerman’s arc in Hunters takes the character and Pacino to some rather unexpected places as the series progresses, Weil agrees that the actor’s influence on the ensemble of actors as a whole is clearly evident: “Al really breathed this character to life in this beautiful way,” says the showrunner. “Al and the actors really became this wonderful troupe, and I think we all became this company, almost putting on this play for six months, and really exploring and improvising. It was just a wonderful, magical process.”
Hunters is available on Amazon Prime now.