Gal Gadot's National Geographic series brings stories of extraordinary women to the small screen
The 'Wonder Woman' actress is using her reach to bring attention to the work being done by and for local communities
Gal Gadot set a long overdue record in 2017, when she became the first actress to star as Wonder Woman in her own film in the constantly battling Marvel/DC cinematic universes. She then became the first woman to receive her own sequel, with last year’s Wonder Woman 1984. And now she is on our small screens with a new documentary, Impact with Gal Gadot, which she executive-produces and hosts.
The film tells the stories of women who have had an extraordinary influence on their local communities – from those in California using surfing as a means of dealing with bereavement, to ice-skating teenage poets helping underprivileged children in Michigan.
But perhaps the biggest wonder of all, that no one would have expected even a year ago, is Gadot herself, and specifically the fact that her TV show is screening in the Middle East.
Gadot is an American-Israeli citizen who has in the past spoken proudly of her time in the Israeli Army. The actress has historically been a polarising symbol in the region, with Wonder Woman even being banned in Lebanon on its release in 2017, owing to the actress’s military past. However, with new diplomatic relations between Israel and some countries in the Gulf, including the UAE, Gadot has high hopes for the future.
The original version of Gadot’s documentary series – which is being broadcast as six 12-minute short documentaries released weekly on National Geographic’s YouTube channel, and as a two-hour feature special on Disney+ in June – featured an Egyptian woman as one of its subjects. But like so many films and shows over the past year, Covid-19 sent things awry, and the show had to be rewritten to feature only women within the Americas, where it was possible to shoot during the pandemic.
“We started working on this project about three years ago,” Gadot says. “The show was entirely global. We had some stories that took place in the United States and the rest of them were on different continents. And then the Covid pandemic hits, and we’ve got to go back to the sketch board and figure out domestic stories that are going to be strong enough to have an effect and inspire people.”
Gadot says the new stories she and her team found closer to home are “mind-blowing.” She says, though, that she’d like to make a second season of her show in order to highlight some of the stories that were cancelled owing to Covid-19, so we shouldn’t rule out a visit to the Middle East for season two.
“The story of the Egyptian woman, that was incredible, and I would love to tell an Arab story for sure,” Gadot says. For now, however, we’ll have to watch her tell stories from the US – though South America and the wider North American continent feature, thanks to a Brazilian ballet dancer who undertakes community work with children from Rio’s favelas, and a team of Puerto Rican students who create a water filtration system in the wake of 2017’s Hurricane Maria after a lack of aid owing to former president Donald Trump being unaware that Puerto Rico was a US territory.
Gadot seems confident her largely domestic, female role models will resonate with audiences, wherever in the world they happen to be. “I think that the best role model you have is the role model that you grew up with, so my mum, she was a teacher, she’s still a teacher. She raised both me and my sister to be confident and to love ourselves and to dream,” she says.
“I had so many women that I was so inspired and affected by. Growing up, Madonna was my idol, as a trailblazer and someone who doesn’t care what others think about [her]. Britney [Spears], Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel. There are just so many women that I’m inspired by."
The whole idea of the show when I started was just that I wanted to use my reach and do something good with it.
For now, however, Gadot is happy to be bringing women with less international acclaim to our screens, and she is confident that every one of her subjects in the series has a story that will resonate with all women.
“The whole idea of the show when I started was just that I wanted to use my reach and do something good with it. To cover areas and stories where the camera won’t necessarily do that normally,” she explains.
“It all started with a ballet dancer from Brazil, and the impact that she has on her community. We said: ‘This is perfect, let’s build an entire concept around it, and let’s tell stories that are female-driven to try and inspire other people to act and do good.’”
Impact with Gal Gadot is being broadcast every Monday on the National Geographic YouTube channel with the last episode on May 31. A documentary special based on the series will run on National Geographic Channel and Disney+ in June.
Updated: May 3, 2021 10:34 AM