Kadia Saraf is a New York-based actor, writer, and filmmaker originally from Israel and Switzerland. She can be seen in the recurring role of US Attorney Anya Avital on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2021–2023), a recent episode of Blue Bloods (2023), FBI: International (2022), The Good Fight (2020), Counterpart (2018), The Blacklist (2017), Madam Secretary (2017), Blindspot (2015) and Rescue Me (2006).
We caught up with Kadia to talk about jumping into acting in New York.
How did you know you wanted to be an actor?
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to perform and as a kid I was quite the performer! I wrote little plays and enlisted the neighborhood kids to play in them. I’ve always wanted to be an actor.
What kind of training have you had?
I studied at The Lee Strasberg Institute, and later with teachers Mary Boyer, Bob Krakower and Ted Sluberski, who’s currently my coach. I’m back at The Upright Citizens Brigade doing improv and I work with Adam Kee on Voice and Speech.
What was your big break?
Still working on that one! But so far, ‘Blindspot’ was my first higher profile gig and got me into SAG-AFTRA. SVU has been a great recurring gig and has gotten me into the WGA-E.
What was your inspiration for your role in the episode ‘Jumped In’ on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit?
I was fortunate enough to have been part of the writing process for that episode. I’ve been studying American Sign Language for a couple of years now and I’ve made some friends in the Deaf community. Some of their stories about the obstacles Deaf Folx face with Law Enforcement were eye-opening and shocking. Since we were actors on the show, my husband and I had the opportunity to pitch a story about a Deaf survivor of sexual assault to the producers of SVU. Eventually they incorporated some aspects of our story into the episode, “Jumped In”, and we were credited as, “Story By”! Very cool! Very gratifying!
More than anything though, the positive feedback from the Deaf community and the fact that they felt like they were honestly represented is most gratifying. I’m so proud to have contributed to that!
How do you get into character?
Depends. Sometimes it’s inside-out other times it’s outside-in. Sometimes I need to figure out what the character is wearing or how severe her make-up is, or not, or how she wears her hair and that will inform how she feels about herself and her experience. So the exterior reflects the interior.
And sometimes the work just calls for tapping into the character’s emotional life. Finding the parallels to my own. That’s always a good way to go because then I’m not making things up and then asking myself to believe them as the character, but I intrinsically know and feel those things because they are already a part of me and can then easily become part of the fabric of the character.
What was the most challenging role you’ve ever played?
Single mom. Hands down.
We read you are an advocate for mental health. How do you mentally and emotionally prepare for a movie or show?
I think that mental health is something that needs to continue to be de-stigmatized. The more we talk about how we are, how we feel, what our challenges are, our triggers and triumphs, the better. The more we can normalize a healthy discourse about what we all universally experience! We all have an emotional life, and we all have difficulties processing from time to time. It’s not unique and it shouldn’t be taboo.
I have struggled with performance anxiety and had to work through some stuff to successfully control it. The better prepared I am, the less I give the anxiety a space to creep in. I do have to be conscientious though. Keep my guard up.
What advice would you give to new or aspiring actors/actresses?
Study, take classes, and become part of an acting community. You have to have patience because this is a long marathon, not a sprint. So much of this business is out of our control and we spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for someone else to give us work. So always find ways to create. Shoot your own stuff, write, do a podcast, whatever! Just keep your intuitive/artistic Self moving!
And write a gratitude list each morning. If you’re aware of and grateful for the blessings you already have, it leaves no room for doubt to creep in!
Do you think cinema/television portrays reality accurately these days or does it have a negative influence? In what way?
Generally, film and TV are stories of heightened reality. It’s people having really good or really bad days. It’s not usually just average people having average days. So, none of it is reality, per se. But I will say that the quality of writing and shooting, at least of the “premium” shows is astounding. The availability of a huge range of quality entertainment makes it possible for people to choose whatever reality they want and have a transportive experience with it. Which is nice because it affords all of us the chance to escape the Clown Show that is spinning around us these days. There’s a therapeutic value in entertainment.
Wow! How can people keep up with you?
I’m active on Instagram