It used to be big news when a movie star deigned to do television. But as Hollywood studios started prioritising blockbusters and TV took over as the principal medium for grown-up storytelling, stars of the silver screen have increasingly flocked to the small one.

Only a few bonafide legends have yet to make the jump since the rise of streaming, think Toms Cruise and Hanks, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino.

Well, you can cross that last one off the list, because Al Pacino has done a TV show, and it feels like a big deal. One of the most iconic movie stars of all time, Pacino has earned nine Academy Award nominations (winning once, the 1993 best actor award for Scent of a Woman), most recently for best supporting actor in Martin Scorsese's The Irishman.

READ MORE:
The Irishman star Al Pacino falls over on BAFTAs red carpet
Al Pacino was nearly fired from The Godfather, the rest is history
Premium - Premium summer big reads: De Niro and Pacino reconnect on screen
Trailer released for Martin Scorsese's The Irishman

Advertisement

Now he's starring in the new Amazon Prime Video series Hunters, a high-concept thriller about a secret group in 1977 New York who track down Nazis hiding in America and bring them to bloody justice.

"There's a kind of an originality in this show and it's somewhat eccentric," Pacino tells TimeOut in Los Angeles. "All of a sudden you'll see it from certain angles. It isn't just that dead dry thing. There are a lot of elements in it that catch you off guard [and you] can't believe it really.

"It holds your interest because you never know when a joke is going to come. And sometimes there's a joke. And that was what really appealed to me when I read it, that there was this element of things are not what they seem. It was a wonderful experience. And I can't say that about all the things I've done."

Pacino says he sees Hunters as a 10-hour movie, but concedes some adjustment from big-screen film-making was required.

Fellow members of the Nazi hunters. Photo / Supplied
Fellow members of the Nazi hunters. Photo / Supplied

"It's just a different environment for one thing. Every two to three weeks, you get a new director."

He credits the cast with making the transition smooth.

"We liked the atmosphere that we were in. Everyone was creating this kind of ease in which we went into things and talked about the scenes themselves, because you don't have the luxury of rehearsal."

Pacino plays Meyer Offerman, an ageing Jewish concentration camp survivor who leads a diverse cabal of Nazi hunters who discover a conspiracy to take power in America.

Advertisement

We get to know his character through the eyes of Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), a comic book-loving teenager brought into the group when his grandmother, who was in the camps with Offerman, is murdered.

"He's so great in the show," Pacino says of Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). "He really carries it. It was, in a lot of ways, easier for me, because it's mainly, I would say, Logan's story."

Lerman says he was thrilled to work with the screen legend.

"Al's my favourite actor and going to meet him for the first time I realised that he's an extremely humble, generous, kind, loving individual who works really hard," says Lerman.

"There's a certain electricity in the room that's different than any group of actors I'd been with when I'm with [Pacino]. [He] makes it really easy for everybody."

Hunters leans in to the aesthetic of its period setting with enthusiasm, but the show very much much speaks to current times.

Al Pacino with his sole Oscar, for best actor for Scent of a Woman, in 2003. Photo / Getty Images
Al Pacino with his sole Oscar, for best actor for Scent of a Woman, in 2003. Photo / Getty Images

"We're facing an epidemic of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, the likes of which we haven't seen in decades," says creator David Weil. "So this show is really a question: what do you do? It's about a group of vigilantes who try and reclaim the power. If you hunt monsters, do you risk becoming a monster yourself? "

Weil said he was inspired by real-life Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal and Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, as well as his own grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor.

"It was also a desire to create a sense of catharsis and wish fulfilment for a young Jewish kid growing up on Long Island who wanted to see superheroes who looked like him on screen, [superheroes] who engaged with the perpetration against the Jewish people in a way that felt unique and special, in a way that we reclaimed power."

• The full season of Hunters is available through Amazon Prime Video tomorrow.