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NBC Insider The Tattooist of Auschwitz

What Surprised Melanie Lynskey About The Tattooist of Auschwitz Author Heather Morris

Actress Melanie Lynskey stars opposite Harvey Keitel in the “harrowing” new Peacock limited series The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

By Stephanie Gomulka

Melanie Lynskey (The Last of Us, Yellowjackets) knew there was something about The Tattooist of Auschwitz that felt right as her next project.

The actress plays fellow New Zealander, author Heather Morris, in the limited series drama on Peacock.

“The writing was very good,” Lynskey told NBC Insider in a recent interview. “I think it’s important to keep telling stories about this time in history.”

The show shares the story of young Lali Sokolov (Jonah Hauer-King), a Holocaust survivor who met his future wife (Anna Próchniak) while they were both imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Scenes are intertwined with older Lali (Harvey Keitel) recalling his time there to Morris.

Melanie Lynskey Plays The Tattooist of Auschwitz Author Heather Morris in New Peacock Show

Heather Morris and Lali Sokolov in The Tattooist Of Auschwitz

Executive Producer Claire Mundell found the true story to have a message about hope and love.

“Two young people facing an unimaginable future in…the most notorious of concentration camps and for them to find each other, and find it within themselves, to connect and to love each other was just really inspiring,” Mundell said.

For Lynskey, playing a real person was a “huge” responsibility.

“She wasn’t expecting to be portrayed in the show either,” Lynskey said about Morris. “She thought it was an adaptation of her book, which obviously she’s not in so she had some hesitations, and she was very nervous about it

Although Lynskey and Morris are both from New Zealand, the way she speaks sometimes now sounds “kind of American,” Lynskey said about her accent, so she just tried to sound as much as Morris as possible.

“It’s lovely getting to play a fellow New Zealander,” Lynskey said. “Everybody is very proud of her.”

Morris’ relationship with Sokolov was so meaningful to her, Lynskey explained. He started to share his story with her after his wife, Gita Furman, died.

“One of the most important [relationships] in her life, so to get to be a part of bringing that story to the screen was really emotional,” Lynksey said.

The relationship between Sokolov and Morris would be impossible to sum up, Lynskey said. 

“They got so close…it’s like trying to explain your best friend to somebody,” Lynskey said. “You could explain this part or that part, but there is just…an entire history of knowing somebody for so long.”

Harvey Keitel in The Tattooist Of Auschwitz

Morris and Sokolov’s conversations revisiting his past are reflected in the moments on screen between Lynskey and Keitel (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs).

“The scenes are all so harrowing,” Lynskey said. “There’s so much going on. It was definitely a very intense time.”

All six episodes of The Tattooist of Auschwitz are available to watch on Peacock.