Yali Topol Margalith On The Tattooist Of Auschwitz & A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder

By Olivia Emily

5 days ago

One star, two very different TV shows

Newcomer Yali Topol Margalith has two very different breakout roles to talk about: one is the heartrending Sky series The Tattooist of Auschwitz, based on the novel of the same name; and the other is the coming of age mystery/crime series A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, also based on the novel of the same name. We sat down with Yali to hear all about both.

Interview: Yali Topol Margalith

Close up of Yali

Photographer: David Reiss
Hair: Chad Maxwell
Make-up: Amanda Grossman
Stylist: Freya Monro Morrison

Hi Yali, how’s life going at the moment?

It’s all relative isn’t it? Everything that comes to mind sounds cliché but true. I was reminded over the past year how dark the world can be – it’s not always rainbows and flowers. I feel lucky and very grateful.

You can currently be seen in The Tattooist of Auschwitz – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

Of course! Heather Morris, the incredible writer (and incredible woman) wrote, naturally, an incredible novel. It’s based on the true story of Lali and Gita – how they met, how they survived, how they fell in love in a horrific, life threatening situation. The series shows Heather’s meetings with Lali with the intention of writing a book about his life, and his stories play out on the screen, shown from his point of view.

You play Cilka – can you describe her?

Cilka is a fighter. She arrived at the concentration camp at a very young age and quickly found the opportunity to survive. She is totally committed to surviving with every decision that she makes.

What was it like playing her?

It was difficult, to be honest. It’s quite the challenge wearing the striped clothes and having a number on my forearm as a Jewish woman and considering my family history. I think that’s fair. The camp being brought to life right in front of my eyes was unbelievable. I can’t describe that feeling to you. I can’t put words to it. And Cilka is a character with a strong, solid facade, so fighting against my very real emotions in response to the camp seeming so real – that was a challenge no drama school could’ve prepared me for! But Cilka’s survivalist nature, and the significance and importance of this story, made it an absolute honour to play and, somehow, a joy to film.

How did you get into character/prepare for the role?

My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. I grew up hearing stories and studied it deeply in school. I did a lot of my own research. I also like text work. I come from theatre so they teach us to treat the text like a Bible! So I read the script and noted down all my little notes – I won’t bore you with actor stuff. But it was only once I got to Bratislava, where we filmed, that I really began to understand her. The way that I saw her in the script: Cilka was a kid when she arrived at the concentration camp. She was overwhelmed very fast and needed somebody to hold her hand. When she realised nobody will and she’s utterly on her own, she created a persona for herself. This person who is unfazed by the horrors surrounding her. In this way, she holds her own hand. She’s almost playing a character that she believes can survive such a place.

Any memorable moments from rehearsals or filming?

I remember my first day on set, in my first TV job, in a concentration camp. It’s fair to say I was terrified and horrified. I got to meet the amazing Jonah Hauer King, playing Lali, and he is the coolest guy – seriously. If I was as talented and as good looking as him, I’d be a nightmare, but he’s just so humble. He saw me terrified and just gave me the most comforting look from across the room with a little wave. I immediately felt myself breathe again. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I want to be this kind of actor on set’ – the actor that actively puts people at ease. I’m so grateful for him.

What was the cast dynamic like? Who was your favourite person to work with?

I was lucky to get to work with a fantastic group of actors from all over the world. This is the easiest question to answer. My favourite actor to work with on set was Maja Wolska from Poland who plays Bella. She has that amazing actor ability, that not many actors have, to portray a person who has a history and is filled with complexities and layers – with just one look. She also had the challenge of acting in a second language. She just blew me away. On top of the talent, she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and kind and beautiful and all the good things. I’m a big fan – you should be too!

Yali Topol Margalith as Cilka in The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Yali Topol Margalith as Cilka in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. © Sky UK Limited.

You’re also about to appear in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, which sounds very different. How would you describe the series?

Also based on a book! Very different! Holly Jackson has written a best selling murder mystery adapted into a TV series by the BBC! It’s the story of a 17 year old kid called Pip who starts digging into an old murder case. In doing so, she uncovers some details that change her life forever.

You play Lauren – what is she like?

Lauren Gibson is Pip’s best friend and… Worst influence? She strives to live her teenage years like she has seen in the movies, which, as we know, is not realistic. So she lives in constant fear of missing out on life. She was also born to be the ‘embarrassing aunt’. She is absolutely always unapologetically herself. Now, in college, others might judge her for it, so she might not be the most popular. But in her 20s, she’s going to be the coolest.

What was it like to play her?

I had too much fun. I got to hang out with the funniest, sweetest, most ridiculous people all day: the cast, the crew, the creative team, the producers, makeup and hair, the medic, locations, everyone. I felt very trusted and was given a lot of freedom to play and improvise on set. I loved playing Lauren, and sometimes I wish I was a little more like her.

How did your experience on A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder differ to The Tattooist of Auschwitz?

In every way! I guess a less obvious difference is that I’ve really only ever done the comedic relief, or I’ve managed to lean my characters more into the comedic side, so playing Lauren was within my comfort zone. Filming The Tattooist was one huge challenge in every way.

(L-R) Cara Ward (ASHA BANKS), Pip Fitz-Amobi (EMMA MYERS), Lauren (YALI TOPOL MARGALITH), Zach Chen (RAIKO GAHARA), Connor Reynolds (JUDE MORGAN-COLLIE).

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder. (L-R) Cara Ward (ASHA BANKS), Pip Fitz-Amobi (EMMA MYERS), Lauren (YALI TOPOL MARGALITH), Zach Chen (RAIKO GAHARA), Connor Reynolds (JUDE MORGAN-COLLIE). (© Moonage Pictures/Joss Barratt/BBC)

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

I can’t say yet – but I am starting something new this summer…

Who has been your favourite actor to work with?

Ooh, Matthew Baynton. The first time we met, I messed up so bad, I thought it was the end. But he forgave me. That’s a long story for another time.

Which co-star did you learn the most from? 

Truthfully, it’s hard to pick one. I feel like I learn something new from every actor that I work with. A miss universe answer.

What’s your dream role?

I don’t have one. I want to do everything. Every job that comes my way feels like a dream and a miracle, honestly.

What’s a genre you’d like to do more of?

Anything I haven’t tried yet. Which is a lot! But if I had to choose one… I’m a sucker for sketch comedy, have been since I was a kiddo. That would be cool.

Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?

I grew up living in town and was sure I moved to the country when I ended up in the outskirts of London. But once I travelled, I realised there’s country and there’s country. I’m a city girl.

What’s your interior design style?

My partner is a lot more interested in interior design so luckily I don’t have to think about it too much. His is grandma chic for sure.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

My grandpa probably. I still want to be him when I grow up.

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be? 

Don’t trust that funky smelling cigarette in Camden. Just walk away. And learn to relax sometimes. If you want to be the best at what you do, you have to make mistakes. Excluding the funky smelling cigarette.

How can we all live a little bit better?

To do lists. For sure. Aaaand I think we have to find a way to stop dehumanising people. Somehow. Keeping it light!

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

Nothing has been announced yet so I can’t tell you anything professionally, I’ll just wink at you. And personal life? What personal life?

Yali in a sweater and a skirt

Photographer: David Reiss
Hair: Chad Maxwell
Make-up: Amanda Grossman
Stylist: Freya Monro Morrison

Yali Topol Margalith Recommends…

I’m currently watching… The Bear

What I’m reading… Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

The last thing I watched (and loved) was… Yannick by Quentin Dupieux. I love pressure cooker plays – although this is a film, it feels like a piece of theatre. I find they focus more on the characters’ journeys, which is my favourite part of any story. In this case, it really lends itself into the farcical comedy of the film, which wins you over. By the time the drama and horror begins, you’re won over and you’re hooked.

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… I still haven’t seen Wicked Little Letters. I’m just too excited for it and don’t want to never be able to watch it for the first time again.

Favourite film of all time… I’m changing all the time, so it changes all the time! Right now The Lobster is the film I think about the most.

Favourite song of all time… Constantly changing… again… But I always go back to ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles. It feels very nostalgic for me. I also love ‘The Way I Feel Inside’ by The Zombies. My partner Timo often sends it to me so…. Yes, it’s become one of my favourite songs.

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Barbara Streisand. Chet Baker. Aaron Taylor’s old stuff.

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Watch The Ocean at the End of the Lane whenever it’s on in London!

Cultural guilty pleasure… The Bald and the Beautiful podcast. And I don’t feel guilty about it.


Yali Topol Margalith stars in The Tattooist of Auschwitz, with all episodes streaming now on NOW.

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder will air on the BBC later this year.