'The Spy' Features Sacha Baron Cohen As You've Never Seen Him Before

by Esme Mazzeo

On Netflix's The Spy, Sacha Baron Cohen plays Eli Cohen (no relation), an Israeli spy who goes undercover as a a wealthy Syrian businessman for Israel's intelligence agency Mossad in the 1960s. The show is based on a true story, so you might be wondering if there will be a Season 2 of The Spy. I went undercover to find out.

I don't have a definitive answer for you, but The Spy is billed as a limited series. So, Season 1 could very well be the end. On the other hand, "limited" doesn't necessarily mean one, so there might be more story to tell. No matter what, you need to know more about The Spy because it's unlike anything Baron Cohen has done before.

The show is a drama, so nothing about it is meant to make you laugh. But the fact that Baron Cohen is famous for alter egos like Borat and rapper Ali G. is what made him perfect for the role of Cohen. He's used to immersing himself into different identities like the spy had to do. He even took method acting so far as to refuse to give interviews out of character for many years. "I've always been intrigued by this question of identity — how people identify themselves," Baron Cohen told NPR about his new role. It's not his first foray into drama, but it definitely isn't what first made him famous.

Eli Cohen had a lot more at stake than Baron Cohen ever has while playing someone undercover. His work with Mossad was saving lives; but he was also risking his own. From the trailer above it's clear that in this job, Cohen is risking more than his family life or even his physical body — his emotional and psychological well-being is eventually effected. For example, he begins to dream as his alter ego Kamel Amin Thaabet while in bed with his wife. "...In the case of Eli Cohen, that question of identity, we suspect, and I played him, as that leading to incredible turmoil," Baron Cohen told NPR.

Baron Cohen said he felt "compelled" to be a part of The Spy in an interview with Vanity Fair. "It was kind of a superhero story — a deputy accountant in a supermarket who ends up becoming the most successful spy in the 20th century," he said. "This is somebody that I could relate to: He has genuine emotions, and loves his wife, and misses his children, and is living this dual life."

The Spy co-creator Gideon Raff made the decision to focus on Cohen's family life to really engage viewers from an angle they can relate to. But while the series takes some creative license with the Cohens' story sometimes, Raff told Vanity Fair, about the domestic aspect of the story, "it’s the truth. His wife is still alive."

I think that comedic actors give some of their best performances in dramatic roles, so I can't wait to watch Baron Cohen in The Spy. The actor brings an intensity to his comedic work that makes it feel authentic, so I expect the same commitment in this dramatic role.

The Spy is streaming on Netflix right now.