Aryan Moayed plays the intimidating man for thoughtful reasons
Politics never departs from the mind of the American-Iranian Arian Moayed in the roles he plays, whether in the series “Caliphate” (Succession) produced by the “HBO” network, or the play “A Doll’s House” on Broadway.
Actor Arian Moayed has an old photo in his passport that he usually keeps in his wallet, a black and white photo of a lovable little boy with big dark eyes, and wearing a strange jacket.
We’d been talking for about 90 minutes when he mentioned it. I asked him if he remembered anything from his early childhood in Iran in the 1980s.
“What I remember most,” he said, “is fear. Everywhere fear.” Then he told me about the picture; He was five or so, shortly before his family immigrated to the US in 1986. He described the look on his face as “genuine anger”, his memories of sitting for the photo, and how his mother’s headscarf was sliding off her head.
Moayad is 43 years old, and he is a million miles away from the perilous reality of that frightened child. He is widely known to fans of the HBO series; Dramatic “Caliphate” for his recurring role as “Stoy Hosseini”, Kendall Roy’s old friend. He is currently starring on Broadway as the overly controlling husband Torvald Helmer in A Doll’s House, opposite Jessica Chastain.
However, Moayad likes to keep the old photo close to his heart. “I always remind myself that that place is the source of everything,” he said.
It was late April, when we spoke at the Hudson Theater, on West 44th Street in Manhattan, and the series’ six TV Tony Award nominations had yet to be announced—and its nomination, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play, was its second. for him. His Broadway debut was as a suave Iraqi artist turned wartime translator opposite Robin Williams in the 2011 play The Bengal Tiger at Baghdad Zoo.
Supporter’s “Torvald” role could not be more different. A lawyer chosen to run a bank, he controls his wife’s life meticulously, watching what she eats and what she spends. At the same time, in a tepid and ironic turn, he speaks to his wife, Nora, in a voice as tender as a cat’s paw; His strength and claws are hidden directly under the soft appearance of his words. He doesn’t take her seriously as a mature person at all, yet he seems completely unaware of his own fragile ego. He is the kind of man it is dangerous to laugh at; Because sarcasm makes him very angry.
It’s a sly and prescient portrayal of one of the great couples on stage, but Moayed, who grew up in suburban Chicago and has spent most of his career in Middle Eastern roles, wasn’t sure he’d ever want to play Torvald.
He said, “I had nothing to do with the play (A Doll’s House). When I moved to the city in 2002, the only roles available to me were being a member of an ensemble in something of a regional Shakespeare play, or playing a terrorist. Both the “Doll’s House” and “Ibsen” roles were like, “Oh, that’s a class of things that would never happen to me.”
British director Jamie Lloyd had other ideas. Having watched Moayad in the play “The Bengal Tiger,” he noticed that over the years he has consistently performed in outstanding performances, such as “Stuy” in “Succession,” of course, but also in “YouTube” clips from “The Guardians of the Crown” off-Broadway, And in the movie “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, as “Agent Cleary”, Peter Parker’s archenemy.
When preparing to stage playwright Amy Herzog’s “A Doll’s House” on Broadway, Lloyd spotted Moayed on a list of potential actors for a different role, but felt he was “more drawn to[Torvald]than to any other role.”
‘My feeling was,’ said Lloyd over the phone, ‘he was obviously someone who didn’t mind being unpopular; Because he knows there is a reason for it. He is very convincing for such unpopular characters.”
When Lloyd asked Amy Herzog what she thought about Moayed’s casting, she said, “I just knew, I knew he could do that role.”
Moayad stopped in London to meet Lloyd and get to know Lloyd, and they went on a long tour through the city.
“If you see that on stage, it’s very easy for a man to say to himself, ‘Well, that’s not me,'” he said.
What piqued his interest was something more subtle: the investigation of what he called the “little wounds” inflicted by men on women—in Torvald’s case, attached to flirting with admiration.
“If you show human qualities to these characters, you will make a lot of people look at them and think, ‘Oh, I wonder if I do that,’” Moayed said.
For the audience, the production can act on multiple levels: as a wake-up call to unwitting misogynists, as a catalyst for break-ups, and as a response to past toxic relationships.
Moayad’s initial interest in acting may have stemmed from observing how much his parents, middle-aged newcomers to a strange country, laughed at the classic “Hollywood” films they showed him, such as Charlie Chaplin’s comedies and “Singing in the Rain.”
Stewie, the character of the very unruly capitalist supporter in the series “Caliphate” — the performance for which he won an Emmy Award last year — is also of Iranian descent. Early on, Moayed and Jesse Armstrong, the show’s creator, talked about which wave of immigrants the Stewie family might belong to. Moayad, whose father was a banker in Iran, preferred his own wave.
Both Stewie and Torvald are centrally concerned with money and getting it. A supporter, on the other hand, is political in essence. Around 2006, he decided he would no longer play terrorists – a decision that hurt him financially.
He believes passionately in the concept of the artist as a citizen, and in using art to “make real, tangible change,” as he likes to say. For him, that applies to teaching and theater work with The Waterwheel Company, the New York City arts nonprofit he co-founded in 2002, but also to acting in shows like “A Doll’s House” and “Succession” — a series that he said illustrates ” How perverse capitalism really is.
The New York Times Service.