By: Farah Shokouhi
Actress-Model Mena Suvari, proved herself she is not only willing, but capable of taking grittier roles in projects, both large and small.
She rocketed to stardom with high profile roles in two of the biggest films, American Pie and American Beauty, the latter of which made her an iconic star, when she bathed in rose petals in a dream sequence.
Regardless of the role she plays, she always gets everyone’s attention.
Farah: Where are you originally from and where were you raised as a child?
I was born in Newport, Rhode Island, but we moved several times. I lived in St. John, Virgin Islands for one year and then Charleston, South Carolina for three years. At the age of fourteen I settled in Los Angeles and have lived here ever since.
Farah: How did you first get involved in acting?
At seven years old, while I was living in Rhode Island, I started modeling for an agency in Boston. There I did a regional political commercial and some child modeling. This lasted until we moved from the area, but while I was living in South Carolina I began modeling again at the age of twelve. I also attended a modeling convention where I did very well. Another modeling agency signed me and I was sent to New York for a summer, then another summer in Los Angeles. Then I moved permanently to Los Angeles, where I began doing commercials and guest character spots on television shows. I also had roles in several independent films.
Farah: How many acting projects have you done thus far?
I have been in approximately thirty films, as well as many television shows. For me it is not where my work will be shown, but how the character I am playing challenges me and how it will allow me to grow as a person.
Farah: What do you think are your best attributes as a professional actor?
I unintentionally became an actor. As a child I dreamed of different occupations, but my modeling led me to commercials which led to acting. My father is a psychiatrist and this has influenced my acting. He instilled in me an interest in the human condition and this is why I am attracted to multidimensional characters. I have had no formal acting training, but I have developed a natural, organic process. I always try to challenge myself. I try to pursue roles that interest me and are not the same type of character. All of my roles are similar to a part of my personality, but having a diverse variety of roles goes against the grain.
Farah: After being in movies like American Pie and American Beauty, now you are in Stalkers, how did you accomplish this range?
I am an actress and I enjoy the challenge, it helps me get to know who I am better by playing a variety of characters. There is nothing wrong with the type of character in American Pie and American Beauty, but I want to explore different dimensional characters. Those characters are fun to play, but always playing the same personality will not help me grow as a person. I always try to choose the best role for me as a person and not allow others to influence my decisions. I choose roles that will make me a better person and that I can dedicate myself to 100%. And now people expect that from me. It is not my goal to work simply for the pay
Farah: Which character was your favorite to play?
My recent work for the television show American Horror Story, where I played the Black Dahlia. I enjoyed the fact that it was set in the 1940’s; the costumes, hair, and makeup helped me develop the character.
Farah: What is your most recent work?
In December, I finished shooting Stalkers for the Lifetime Network and it should be broadcast in a couple of months. In the future I would like to do more television roles.
Farah: How did it feel being reunited with the American Pie cast for American Reunion?
It was both amazing and surreal. I never expected to be reunited with all of them, but while we were on the set we all caught up on our personal lives. It was like being with family because we were all so young when we made the movie and grew up together. The chemistry between the guys in the movie was a blessing because their bond is true in real life like it is on the screen.
Farah: Which was the most difficult role you have played?
It would be Catherine in the movie Garden of Eden, which was based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway. It took immense research because the character was so insecure with herself.
Farah: Mena is a beautiful Iranian name, how did you get your name?
I was named after my Godmother, who was named after the Mena House in Cairo. My father was born in Estonia and my mother is Greek.
Farah: Have you had any acting nightmare scenarios in your life?
The majority of my friends are not actors so I am not stuck in the acting world. It is my occupation and an art, but I try not to get caught up in the business. I surround myself with wonderful women to converse with and just Hollywood insiders. This is the path of my life and it helps me grow, I do not think about fame.
Farah: How do you deal with the paparazzi?
Everyone can make a difference in this world and I feel they can do something better than follow others’ lives. Their priority should be different, but this is Hollywood.
Farah: We have discussed your acting, what about your charity work?
After my role in Garden of Eden, my co-star Caterina Murino told me about her work with BAFTA. She is their Goodwill Ambassador from France and mentioned that they did not have an ambassador from America. I was honored when they named me their Goodwill Ambassador from America and I went to Africa for them. They are global and work to change communities for over fifty years. Everyone can make a change and if lending my name or support helps, it is the least I can do because I am so blessed in my life.
Farah: Which three actors would you like to work with?
I admire Anthony Hopkins and Daniel Day Lewis, and had a close affiliation with Jessica Lange while working on American Horror Story.
Farah: Who are your role models?
The people in my life, my best friends Michelle and Kathy Melamed, Suzanne Felson and Sigal, are smart, loving, and caring women who teach and inspire me. They help keep me sane. Hollywood is similar to other industries, but keeping good people around you will keep you grounded and in the right perspective. I do not wish to be anyone else or emulate anyone. I try to be the best person I can and no one else. You need to live to your own full potential. It is not what you have, but what you do with it.
I am thirty-three years old but still trying to figure out who I am; this is a life long journey. When I was young I tried to fit in but now I know that I am a diverse person. The important things are spirituality and being a better person, not the material things.
Awards and Honors
Nominated: Bafta Film Award for Best Performance
Nominated: Blockbuster Entertainment Award, for Best Favorite Actress For American Pie and American Beauty
Won: OFCS Award “On Line Film Critics Society Awards
For Best Ensemble Cast Performance:American Beauty
Nominated: Screen actors Guild Awards,For Outstanding performance by an Ensemble in a Drama: Six Feet Under
Won:Screen Actors Guild Awards
For Outstanding Performance by a Cast: American Beauty
Nominated: Teen Choice Award
For Film-Choice Breakout Performance: American Beauty
Won: Young Hollywood Awards
For Best Ensemble Cast : American Pie
The Javanan Radio
February 11th at 9-10 AM