'The Expanse' Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo Is On A Mission

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Shohreh Aghdashloo. (Courtesy Nancy Seltzer & Associates)
Shohreh Aghdashloo. (Courtesy Nancy Seltzer & Associates)

Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (@SAghdashloo) is an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated actress who currently stars as a powerful politician in the Syfy channel show "The Expanse."

As she tells Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti, the role allows her to continue the mission that she set for herself when she left Iran shortly after the 1979 revolution: to participate in storytelling that is both meaningful and enlightening.

Interview Highlights

On the above clip from 'The Expanse' and her character, Chrisjen Avasarala

"This monologue reminds me a lot of my favorite hero, Elizabeth Warren. And I love the fact that Chrisjen Avasarala is saying that she is a public servant, and she's so loyal to her people and to the public.

"Although it takes place a couple of hundred years from now, it speaks about today, in a metaphorical way or in a symbolical way. You know, with science fictions and animations, we can be free in what we're talking about without being worried about offending people. We can talk about stories that we are dealing with now. If we're not careful today, if we're not worried about losing water on this beautiful Earth, then we're gonna lose it. We have to import ice from Mars. So, it's an amazing platform of the future for us to see what is going to happen if we're not careful with the Earth's resources."

On political considerations in the kinds of acting roles she's taken

"The day I left Iran, right at the time of the turmoil [the last days of the fall of the shah during the 1979 revolution], I turned myself into an actress with a mission. I always wanted to be a part of a meaningful, substantial storytelling that would be enlightening, educational and helpful to the people.

"It was in those days that I decided that it was no place for an outspoken actress like myself under an Islamic republic in Iran. Therefore, I jumped into my car, Feb. 29, 1979, 4 a.m., and left Iran, driving to the U.K. I did drive to the U.K., yes. From Tehran to Istanbul, Yugoslavia, and then I went to Venice. From Venice to south of France, south of France, Paris, Calais, to London. I sold my car, I sold my jewelries and I started studying politics, one thing that I had no knowledge of, and I wanted to get myself educated."

"I like to be a part of a story that will bring light into people’s life, that will help us to understand one another, and hopefully love each other more than we do right now."

Shohreh Aghdashloo

On her role as a terrorist on the Fox series '24'

"It was the first role of a terrorist that I accepted to portray for its versatility and also for its dimensions. She was a woman, she was a mother, she was a lover, she was a terrorist, she was a believer. It was layer after — just like an onion. And I thought, 'I could be so useful here, nobody has ever paid any attention to these mothers who are raising these terrorists. Who are they? What kind of a frame of mind do they have?' And it gave me a lot of courage and strength and stamina to be able to portray this woman. I'm very proud of this character."

On the origins of her acting career

"I guess it was my mother who was an avid reader and was in love with the Western literature. It was my mother who made me watch Western films, especially American classics. That's why, when I told my mother, after watching 'Gone with the Wind,' that this is it, I want to be an actor. And my mother said 'forget it.' And I said, 'Why? Why are you so afraid of me becoming an actress? You go to cinema every day. You read books every night. Why don't you want me to be a part of it?' And now I understand. Now that I have a young daughter — she's only 27 — now I understand why they were so afraid. Acting was frowned upon, especially for women back in Iran, and we're talking about 40 years ago."

On 'House of Sand and Fog' and her Oscar nomination-worthy performance in the film

"It's unbelievable, absolutely. It's a timeless classic. And it was so close to my heart and so close to home. And I think that tragic end has been put there purposefully for the fact that we're doing it again without thinking of the consequences of what is going to happen to us in the future. If we get on each other's nerves or if you start fighting with one another, this is how the end is going to look like. It's going to be a tragedy. If you're not taking the right path here, I'm afraid we're going to end there."

On the diversity of 'The Expanse' cast

"In terms of diversity, this is one of the most diversified shows of all. We enjoy this so much. We are of different backgrounds, nationalities, color of skin, accents. We're living peacefully, working peacefully, lovingly, next to one another. You see, this what's been happening in our society for at least a couple of decades. My neighbors here are from Nigeria to the left, Canada to the right, France right in front of me. We've been living, breathing the same air, for the last 20 years. We don't see a lot of reflection of it on the silver screen. The reason is because of the fact that executive producers, studios cannot trust in us enough to put it on the silver screen. Those who are doing it are now seeing how beneficial it is to our society, to understand that this is not the future, it's now. We're living next to each other and we're working with each other. We're all working for the benefit of the world."

On what about acting brings her the most joy

"I think it's the story that brings us all together, be it a theater, cinema or television. And I like to be a part of a story that will bring light into people’s life, that will help us to understand one another, and hopefully love each other more than we do right now."

This article was originally published on March 20, 2017.

This segment aired on March 20, 2017.



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