Based on her screen presence as Wonder Woman alone, there’s probably no better role model to speak about women empowering and lifting one another up than Gal Gadot.
And yet, as we learned in a Zoom interview for the National Geographic short film series Impact, which Gadot hosts and executive produces, she has abundant empathy, warmth and a sense of equality that transcends the silver screen. In fact, she’s our favorite new gal pal.
During a Zoom phone-in with media, Gadot appeared fit, refreshed (we learned from her that she is pregnant) and ready to talk about the impact that Impact had on her. With six short films (about 12 minutes each) for season one, the series focuses on groups of women who take charge of their lives — managing fear, grief, poverty and the threat of violence — in winning ways. These are women who start small, from their own experiences, to make other people’s lives better.
I would love to have a community of good-doers. Because no matter where we are in the world, we're all the human race, and essentially we all suffer from very similar problems.
“What Impact shows is that you can start with small actions, and actually have great impact,” she says, adding, “I would love to have a community of good-doers. Because no matter where we are in the world, we're all the human race, and essentially we all suffer from very similar problems. And we — the majority — have most of the power. For me, this is something that I would love to achieve. I think the ripple effect, the domino effect and the powerful circle that can be created by hearing and seeing these stories is very, very empowering.”
And what stories. The first is “Ice Breakers,” opening on eight-year-old girl Alivya, taking her first steps on an ice rink with coach Kameryn Everett by her side. Kameryn teaches figure skating to disadvantaged Black kids in Detroit who’ve never seen a rink before. Why? It’s empowering to master a new skill, and gain the confidence vital to survive what can be a dispiriting environment. As Alivya skates, her voiceover busts out in free-verse rhyme that could give Biden inaugural poet Amanda Gorman a run for the money.
In “Surf Sisters,” we meet Kelsey Ellis, who lost her twin sister, a medical frontliner, during the early days of COVID. Working through her grief, and missing the days of surfing with her sister, she forms a surfing therapy group composed of women who have all faced some kind of grief; the ocean becomes a metaphor for summoning and releasing their feelings to the vast blue waters.
There’s Kayla, a trans person who, in “Coming Home,” runs My Sistah’s House, a safe haven for homeless black transgender people who don’t feel safe in public shelters. Faced with a lack of facilities in her native Memphis, Tennessee, she goes one step further: raising funds to build 10 actual homes for her shelter sisters.
And there’s Arianna Martin, a college student in Puerto Rico in “Ripple Effect” who addresses the serious lack of potable drinking water in her country, years after Hurricane Maria’s devastation, by inventing a portable water distiller that people can use in their homes or set up in nearby streams.
Gal notes the series concept was initially focused on global stories of women (the segment that first won her over as producer was about a Brazilian ballet teacher who inspires young women in Rio De Janeiro’s most dangerous favelas through dance).
But then came COVID. “And then we said, ‘Oh, my God, we got to go back to the sketch board and figure out, like, domestic stories that are going to be strong enough to have an effect and inspire people.’” She said the number of stories in the US was “mind-blowing” (“It was literally super hard to choose which one you're going to end up telling and which you won’t”) and that a second series will pick up on other “ripple effect” stories from around the world.
“I feel like we're living in such a dark era, where there's so many blaming fingers and people not taking responsibility for their actions and they're just angry,” says the actress. “I think it’s something so refreshing to surround yourself in and hear and see stories that are driven by good, and goodwill.”
She’s right. Our takeaway is that people reaching out to make a difference has a multiplying effect. Clearly, that’s what this executive producer hopes will happen.
These women that come from very, very problematic backgrounds – whether it's discrimination or natural disasters – and whatever it might be, they don't let it put them down. They actually use the pain they're struggling with and make it into something positive.
“You see these women that come from very, very problematic backgrounds — whether it's discrimination or natural disasters — and whatever it might be, they don't let it put them down,” she says. “They actually use the pain they're struggling with and make it into something positive. And that can affect other people.” Going forward with the series, she says they’re talking now about having a “charitable system” set up around it to help these women “maintain the good they do.”
Just being around Gadot, even on a Zoom screen, is uplifting. When I mentioned to Gal that I watched the series with my wife, the actress said, “Well, where is she? Don’t hide her!” So Therese joined in and we got a chance to exchange smiles and greet Wonder Woman together.
Women have a special place in healing. But future men are important, too. “It all starts from education. That's why I'm so happy that small girls watched Wonder Woman and were inspired by her character. But it's also so important for the little boys to go and see a strong woman that can do amazing things that they can admire.”
One of her biggest personal struggles as an actress early on was “getting pay equal to my male co-stars.” Yet she yearns for a day where gender “is not an issue anymore and I'm not being asked solely about the women or the men and how I'm being discriminated against, but it's equal.”
Having played Wonder Women, we naturally asked about her real-life mentors and role models. It’s a long list — everyone from her grandma and her mom (a teacher who “raised both me and my sister to be confident and love ourselves and dream and dare”) to Maya Angelou (“I was obsessed with her”), Madonna (“she broke so many glass ceilings”), to political figures Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama
and Angela Merkel.
Asked about whom she’s mentored in her own life, she grows humble: “Well, it's hard to say because, in Hebrew, there's a saying: you can’t say good things about yourself. So I'll be very general. I can tell you that I'm a people lover — I love people. I love human beings. I always assume the best out of people. And I'm such a girl’s girl,” she says with a smile. “So, in my DNA, in my default in my career, whenever I have the opportunity to give a good tip or to give some advice, or to help out or pull someone up with me, I always do that. But I just feel uncomfortable, you know, patting myself on the back.”
That’s okay, Gal. We’ll do it for you.
“National Geographic Presents: Impact with Gal Gadot” premieres Monday, April 26 on National Geographic’s YouTube channel. The documentary short series will first release digitally (weekly) and then culminate in a feature-length documentary special to premiere on National Geographic channel on June 24, before airing globally in 142 countries and 43 languages.