His memorable performances include Television shows Homeland, Castle, Just Shoot Me, JAG, and he’s been featured in films such as Kite Runner, Iron Man, Iron Man 3, the upcoming film Papa, and the Oscar-winning film Crash. He’s been recognized in Hollywood as one of the most talented Iranian-American actors and this year he will be the recipient of the Reza Badiyi Achievment Award at the Noor Film Festival.
We interviewed Shaun recently for Javanan Radio, here is excerpt from the Masappeal Show:
Masa Zokaei: It doesn’t seem like you choose just any role.
Shaun Toub: I’ve always been picky about what I do, and I like to be proud of what I do, therefore I don’t say yes to everything. I have been lucky to come across amazing projects that I have been a part of.
MZ: I have two very important questions before we talk more about your roles…What is your favorite Farsi word?
ST: My favorite Farsi word I might not being to say online [laughs].
MZ: Okay your favorite PG Farsi word:
ST: “Mahshar”, like when you say “Yaroo mahshareh” it means it’s amazing, awesome.
MZ: That’s a pretty good one. And how about your favorite Persian food?
ST: That’s a hard one. It depends who’s cooking it. If it’s my mom, Ghromeh Sabzi. But Tahcheen is a favorite I must say. But Ghormeh Sabzi is at the top with the tadig. Of course my wife has learned to cook and she does a mean Ghormeh Sabzi now.
MZ: So you really do leave quite an impression in your roles, when I saw Crash I didn’t realize how I could like and dislike a character so much in a film, and even to this day I can’t hear the word “fereshteh” and not think of that scene when you said it in the film. When you heard that you would be the recipient of the Reza Badiyi Achievement Award, although I know you will have longevity in your career in Hollywood, but what did you think when you heard you would be honored with it?
ST: You know any acknowledgement is nice and anytime anyone acknowledges the work that you have done or honor with an award itself is a meaningful thing and I don’t take it lightly especially this, coming from my community and the Noor Film Festival. I appreciate it, and I’ve received recognition for my performance in Crash but this award in particular, especially that is called Reza Badiyi Award. What a kind, wonderful man and he made us very proud. I was lucky enough to meet him later in life and I’m sorry that he is not here to see that this named after him and upset for myself to have not been able to have the opportunity to get the award from him. It’s humbling, and I appreciate it so much.
MZ: In regards to roles that you play and knowing you don’t take just any role, what is the deciding factor in what you choose to play and not play?
ST: I always feel that characters, as we are as humans, should be multidimensional. Any one-dimensional characters do not excite me. Even the “bad guy roles” or a terrorist you have to show me why, It has to have different colors. I want the audience to make their decision early on and I want them to go on the journey with the character I want them to at the end of it, to have a feeling for the character, a positive feeling. I believe we as humans have good and bad in us now how much good and how much bad determines if we are good people or bad.
In Homeland for instance, the character is a very negative character and my challenge with that was that I told the writers and the producers that I definitely didn’t want this to be a one-dimensional character. I wanted to confuse the audience. It’s interesting that when you read some of the tweets at the end of it, its quite interesting to see that they don’t know if they love the character or hate the character.
I have a lot of respect to the audience and if you don’t really make it real they don’t believe you.
MZ: The security chief Javadi that you played on Homeland, is a very intense character. Is there anything that came up that made you not want to do something to you felt uncomfortable with?
ST: You know right off the bat, the killing scene with the wife and the daughter-in-law it was very uncomfortable for me and I kept on asking, “Where are you going with this? You have to tell me that there will be some redeeming quality to this character.” And the writers are amazing on Homeland and they gave the opportunity to expand this character.
Unfortunately Javadi doesn’t continue after the third season. But the feedback has been great, Even the producer, Alex Gansa, said that I have had more questions about that character than anyone else on the show.
MZ: The Noor Iranian Film Festival was created to shed “Noor” on Iranian culture and cinema, and you have been involved in the festival in other ways?
ST: Yes, I was a judge the first year and have served on the board. You know every festival started from somewhere, even Cannes, and why not an Iranian Festival. There is so much talent out there and there are so many kids making these movies and these shorts and they have to have a platform. Iranian cinema has always been strong and known in the world. It’s a pleasure to be part of this and I encourage people to support it.
MZ: In the years that you have been involved the Noor Film Festival, what kind of advice do you give young filmmakers?
ST: It’s so hard to give advice in this business. It’s a difficult business. And artists are sensitive. The competition is stuff. It takes a lot of work, you really have to be persistent, you got to be able to accept no. You have to believe, you have to believe you have it in you.
I always say being an actor or a filmmaker; you have to be born with it. It’s in your blood. I mean everyone has room to grow you get better. We learn until we die. But this is not an easy business, if you’re coming here because you want to be famous and you want to be rich, you ‘re mistaken.
MZ: I know this a busy time for you, you’re in post production for the film “Papa”, Bobby Yari directed film about Ernest Hemingway featuring Giovanni Ribisi and Joel Richardson. What is your role in the film?
I play Evan Shipman, Hemingway’s best friend, a poet. They know each other form when they were young and this is a very interesting character. This movie definitely has potential. I’m going to see the rough cut of the film and I’m more involved this time.
MZ: Do you do a lot of comedy? Are you open to doing comedy?
ST: I’m actually in a film that’s being released, a comedy that’s a really nutty film. There are a lot of people doing cameos in them, David Hasselhoff, Ray Liotta, Chris Pine. At beginning of my career, I did a lot of work in sitcoms such as Seinfeld. After Crash, they really looked at me like a serious actor.
Shaun Toub will be in attendance at the Noor Film Festival, catch him on October 22 at the Red Carpet Award Ceremony in Los Angeles when he accepts the Reza Badiyi Achievement Award. Keep in touch with Shaun Toub through his Facebook and Twitter pages.
Listen to Javanan Radio for the full interview with Shaun Toub on the Masappeal Show. Visit Javanan.com or download the app.