Shila Vosough Ommi spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Nahid & Faraz Kamali’s loving yet turbulent relationship in Tehran Season 2.
This interview contains spoilers for Apple TV+’s Tehran Season 2.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): Collateral damage is a prominent issue in Apple TV+’s Tehran. It seems everyone that crosses Faraz (Shaun Toub) and Tamar’s (Niv Sultan) path in this series ends up hurt. Their job indirectly demands for them to inflict emotional damage on those they love the most.
With Nahid Kamali, we see the mental fallout and trauma from her high profile marriage in Tehran Season 2. Despite never intentional by Faraz, a wake of destruction is left just the same. I was wondering how you feel about that?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: Yeah, it’s true… Faraz’ job is certainly very difficult for a wife to have to deal with. But it’s so interesting because I felt like it was Tamar’s character that’s been leaving a wake of destruction everywhere she goes.
Part of the reason why I even took the part was because we had dinner with Daniel Syrkin, who’s the director of Tehran. Shaun Toub and I, Danny took us both to dinner before Season 1.
And he told me about what kind of a character it’s gonna be and how she’s not an ornament like a lot of these Eastern, unfortunately, women that I see are just there for the husband or the children.
And many of them are just not fun to watch but this character was so intricate. The fact that Nahid was so intricately involved in the plot in this wake of destruction, as you put it, that her husband’s job gave her was really fun to play. I don’t know if fun is the right word, but it was good to play!
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you find it interesting that Nahid’s ultimately a counterpart to Milad (Shervin Alenabi)? I mean, Milad’s forced to murder while Nahid’s forced to take on an invader into her home. Actions they would have never done on their own. Instead, it’s for the sake of their respective relationships.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI:That’s so interesting. I never thought of myself as a counterpart to Milad, but now that I think of it, you’re so right. Because Milad & Tamar and Faraz & Nahid, these are the two love stories.
So yes, absolutely! I would be a counterpart. Thank you for that.
I’m gonna think about that more now. It’s the love stories that make it so much more than just a thrilling, you know, car chases and that type of suspense. That’s what really gives it that yumminess for me,
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I thought your best scene this season was when you go outside for the first time again to the park and experience this kind of PTSD.
It’s a multilayered moment because in reality you’re being manipulated by an agent and don’t realize it.
You finally let your guard down and trust a seemingly innocent, professional therapist Marjan Montazeri (Glenn Close). Unaware you’re a chess piece in a larger game… What was it like to play out that scene?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: It was so hot because it was in the middle of summer in Athens and a few weeks earlier, they had these fires.
We were filming indoors for most of the day, you can’t have any air conditioning running, not that there was air conditioning, but they do have these portable coolers. So everything is shut off.
We’re in Hijabs, both Glenn Close and I, and the clothes you’re wearing, aren’t breathing. So the clothes are already really thick.
And then the hijab on top of it that going out with her was like, “Thank God!” Just to be out of that cramped space with 50 people and all the CO2 from everyone breathing out. It was really a lot of fun to be out in that situation.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Did you review something in particular for that walk in the park? I feel that’s when Nahid Kamali looks most vulnerable in the whole series. Even more than in season 1 when she’s about to go through surgery.
Nahid walks like a truly weakened person there, borderline broken. Marjan Montazeri (Glenn Close) just nudges her along to the outside world. It’s as if Nahiid is being pushed to go sky diving off a plane, that’s the evoked emotion.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: I’m really so glad to hear you say that. I haven’t seen it yet. So I’m visualizing it from what you described to me.
From what I remember that day, I worked on it a lot as with every scene. I’m one of those actors who over prepares and prepares and prepares.
I remember with that scene, as I was preparing for it in LA in my own home, what was terrifying to me was the idea that I’m going to be walking next to Glenn Close!
Who during the preparation I hadn’t met yet. And I was so scared. And then now I was actually walking next to Glenn Close.
I wonder if that maybe helped my fear & awe and pinch me of walking next to such an incredible actor. She’s really good! She’s such an icon.
I think that my internal fear of who I was acting with helped the situation to make it read as fear of agoraphobia. Coming out for the first time.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I feel the role of Nahid has really expanded this season. In the first season of Tehran, she was still somewhat of a ‘damsel in distress’ type character to be rescued by Faraz.
But this season we’re seeing different, multi-layered shades of Nahid Kamali. Particularly, her forcefulness in openly expressing unhappiness that Faraz is returning to work as a direct insult to her.
Though she later expresses to Marjan Montazeri (Glenn Close) she knew Faraz had no choice. What are your thoughts on Nahid’s emotions vs logical reasoning on Faraz’ return to work?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: Yeah, I feel so fortunate that they wrote more for the character for season two. As an actor, it’s such a blessing to be able to, just like you said, to be able to play moments where there’s so much going on.
On the one hand, she’s dealing with her love for her husband and the fact that she wants to keep his respect.
I mean, even though this is a therapist and it’s just she and I… She loves Faraz so much. And, Nahid doesn’t feel comfortable putting him down in front of Marjan. Even though she’s a great therapist to her, she’s still not that close.
I love that love story! But yeah, she is torn in that she is a woman who’s completely ignored. She’s like a housewife and he is everything to her. And because of his job, she went through something that has messed her up psychologically, with the PTSD and the agoraphobia.
It is just a lot of fun… Fun, again, is not the word! It was so difficult to do it. But this is why we do the work. To take ourselves through these emotional and many times difficult landscapes and survive.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: You mentioned how Faraz is everything to Nahid. I recall Nahid tells Marjan how she saw Faraz in a fragile state after surgery. How he was pale and she could barely even recognize him.
Was that a moment in which Nahid suddenly no long er saw Faraz as this kind of superhuman hero or role model for her?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: Yeah, it does give another layer that now along with everything that Nahid has to go through, she’s also worried about seeing him age.
Because for us, I feel like especially you notice his limp obviously from season one, the fact that he’s aged and that she’s confronted not only with her own mental state… But she’s also confronted with his mortality and therefore her own mortality.
And it, it just gives another layer of sadness and humanization for what we go through in life.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I surprised Nahid opened up so quickly to her Marjan (Glenn Close).
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: It wasn’t so quickly!
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT:I thought it was, personally.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: No, no. I know it seemed so quickly but we really crafted it. I think if this was a feature film, you would’ve seen that it would be the editing. It would’ve been a little bit different because the way that the scene played out was not so quick.
We took moments, because television needs to move quickly. There were so many different storylines and it is a dramatic, suspense thriller.
So because of the nature of it, the editing had to make it seem more quick than it was. But it wasn’t, it didn’t play out that quick when Glenn and I did the scene.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Are you saying there’s an extended cut somewhere?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: No, unfortunately not. I think, if it was a feature film, there could have been maybe a director’s cut or an actor’s cut. But there isn’t, unfortunately.
I mean, this as actors, you know, we don’t really have agency. And it’s such a collaborative thing that you do your best. If this was theater, you would’ve seen how long it took before Nahid fell for Glenn’s character Marjan.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: When Nahid Kamali makes that elaborate dinner for Faraz, was that more of an attempt to get into his heart rather than an apology? There seemed to be some subtext to the meal that went beyond apologizing.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: Yeah, I think it’s because of the guilt. It’s the guilt of here’s someone that you love so much and Nahid is very aware of how he loves her so much back.
She’s aware, as I said, of his mortality, he’s limping, he’s getting older. He’s not, well, he’s not looking well himself. And that we as women, I have a feeling, we feel guilty.
We feel like that even if we’re going through something that’s horribly traumatic… We have a tendency to feel like we need to nurture as opposed to put our heaviness onto the people that we love. And so she’s been very heavy handed, but she’s not a narcissist. At the same instances, I’m sure that she has been in her depression and anxiety and misery.
Nahid’s also been observing what her husband’s going through, seeing her so miserable that I feel like it was to say ‘Thank You’ and to say, ‘I’m sorry and I love you.’ I want to take some of the weight off of his shoulders.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you think Nahid’s enraged in the Tehran Season 2 Premiere more because Faraz is going back to work or because he’s been pursuing Tamar all this time while suspended, behind her back?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: Yeah. I think she’s enraged because it’s like, ‘Ugh, more of this again!’
I think the fact that, what is more important than you having a brain tumor and going to have surgery?
I mean, I know people who have surgery. Not to scare people of surgeries… But on a tiny, little, minor surgery, you have to sign pieces of paper saying, ‘Yes, I might die under anesthesia’.
So surgery is already a major thing. And then it’s a brain tumor, they’re going into her head. She’s terrified. And to see that, even in such an instance, Faraz chooses his work over her.
I think that’s where from that moment on, it’s no longer okay for her.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you feel Nahid hopes Faraz will change for her at some point or is subconsciously the pull & thrill of the romance is that he’ll never change?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: I have a feeling they’ve been together long enough that those thoughts of, ‘I might change him,’ are gone. Definitely after about 10 years, and this feels like a 20 year type of marriage.
I don’t know if Nahid ever thinks that she’s going to change Faraz. I think she really loves him for what he is. But what’s interesting about Faraz is that the character that he plays there is actually… I’m sure that the writers weren’t thinking of this when they wrote Faraz, but we have a Persian mythological character called Rostam. He’s a warrior, and he’s a warrior that was so loyal to his king, that he ends up killing his own son.
Granted he didn’t know that this was his son. But his son was the general of an enemy army that he ended up killing. But Rostam is such an honorable character because of the fact that his loyalty for his king.
It’s not because his king is some man, but that king represents the happiness, thriving, and wellbeing of the women & children and people of his nation. So that’s why he’s so loyal.
And with Faraz, it’s the same thing. I have a feeling that when Nahid married Faraz it was with that in mind that she respected him so much. That he is that type of a loyal character. That it’s so important to him to protect his Homeland and protect the people of his Homeland.
I think that’s part of the love story for her, this is not just a man that I love and am attracted to. But this is someone who is a protector, not just of me and this household or family, but of the nation that I’m from.
Then when it came time, as with her going off into having her brain surgery for her tumor… She felt like, ‘Oh my goodness! So if I’m dying and I really need you and the nation really needs you, you’re not going to choose me?!’
I feel like that’s, what’s driving some of her internal questions maybe now about her relationship. She still loves him. She’s still crazy about Faraz. And that’s her man.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I was wondering if you prepared much differently than you did in the first season of Tehran? Do you have an acting habit, routine or staple you do each morning to lock into character?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: No, I consider myself so fortunate because I have a creative partner of mine. His name is Hitoshi Inoue and we make films together and he is such a brilliant director, as well as doing visual effects. He does everything!
He does everything with film, but he’s my partner creatively. I’m married, but to have him as a partner to work on scenes together is such a great fortune because not only does he help and coach me. So, that he’s there with me for most of my preparation.
Also, I’m not very good digitally and he’s such an amazing researcher. So he was able to pull up just hundreds of videos about PTSD and agoraphobia. And so I just watched them over and over and over again.
By watching real people going through it, not like actors acting it, but real people going through it and you notice the way people breathe and the way their eyes look.
It really helped to be able to dive into the character for Tehran Season 2. And, and it was very different than season one. The preparation of it was very different because in season one, she didn’t have these problems.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: One of the things I really love about this series is everybody’s such a gray shaded character. I know Tamar Rabinyan (Niv Sultan) is ultimately the hero character of the show, but neither side is ever presented as purely good or purely evil.
It feels more like each side, each country is trying to get one over the other. A constant chess battle. There’s no angels or devils in this story.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: Exactly! I love that about this team. I’ll tell you something, if it was a show where they are making the Mossad look like angels and Iranians look horrible, I never would’ve even taken the part. That was part of the reason why I was so interested in playing this, is that they’re showing everyone’s humanity and their flaws on both sides.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Yeah, do you feel that there’s been a surge of Israeli created thriller shows the last few years with Fauda, Tehran, and Ha Shotrim (The Cops / Line in the Sand). Did Fauda‘s themes and success inspire you to take on Nahid’s role in Tehran?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: No, I actually didn’t know about Fauda until I had to audition for this role. So that’s when I watched Fauda to see the tone of these types of shows that they create, so that I could kind of mold myself and my work into that tone. And thank goodness I got the part!
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What was your audition for Tehran like originally?
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: Oh my God, Nahid was so different! I feel like she was very different than what we ended up doing.
She was very still and very powerful is my feeling of it. And she had a very strong sense of self. Like a very strong sense of heaviness. That is not me, Shila, at all.
And so it, it became a little bit lighter when I actually played Nahid for the show. Nahid was a little more human and light. You know, she had moments where, when she’s happy, she’s singing.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What was it like filming the series during the whole COVID epidemic? I’ve spoken to actors from Better Call Saul who mentioned how hot it was to film in the desert under masks, especially for the crew who had to wear them for seemingly endless hours.
Apple TV+’s Tehran looks like a close quarter kind of series to me. A lot of intimately close one on one speaking scenes, so it doesn’t seem like even marginal social distancing would be practical really.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: I think because of the fact that we got so many COVID tests constantly, it was possible. At least what I know is of the scenes that I was doing with Glenn Close with 50 people in that house, it’s impossible to do six foot apart.
And certainly we weren’t wearing masks. All the crew were wearing masks, but, you know, as actors, we couldn’t be, it was hot. It was so hard.
Yeah, they did want us to wear masks when we weren’t acting. And, oh, I felt like I would faint sometimes because of the clothes and the heat. As I mentioned earlier, no air conditioning and then to have to wear mask on top of it was hard.
However, I am so fortunate to be doing what I do, that I would never complain about weather or, you know, frivolous things like suffocating! (smiles)
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: There’s a moment that really stayed with me from Friday’s episode. You’re pushing Faraz to wake up and it really looks like he’s dead initially.
Particularly, because Marjan Montazeri did the whole pill switcharoo in the cabinet in the prior episode. It ends up being a fake out for the audience but I was wondering what it was like to film that scene? It felt quite real, Nahid’s worried eyes and all.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: It did. Nahid didn’t know if that was real or not real. So for her, the moment was devastating. It was absolutely devastating.
Thank goodness I was able to go into the devastation of that moment!
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you typically watch your own scenes post-filming? Many actors tell me they don’t like to see themselves or that it makes them second guess their actions post-take.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: (laughs) I can’t stand watching myself and I can’t even stand my own voice!
I mean there are times where, maybe I call or somehow just by accident, I hear my voice on someone’s machine… And I’m like, ‘Ugh, how do people not cringe at that?! What is that about?’
It’s very much the same when I see myself on film. I had some cringy moments watching episode two and one and three of myself. It’s hard. I don’t know what it is.
Like I could watch anyone and be so amazed and inspired by their work. ‘Wow, that was so good!’ And I watch my own work and think I should have done that differently.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Your voice is awesome, it’s instantly recognizable! I could hear you say ‘Faraz’ from a mile away and instantly know it’s you.
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: My voice! Oh God, I’m sorry! (laughs)
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks Shila!
SHILA VOSOUGH OMMI: Thank you so much Nir this was so much fun and thank you for the great questions. I love how deeply you were watching the series and now you’re making me think about many aspects of Nahid’s character. I really appreciate it.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks a lot! That’s a big compliment.
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Stream Apple TV+’s Tehran Season 2 right now!
More Tehran Series Coverage
– Be sure to watch & read our interview with Niv Sultan and Shervin Alenabi on Tehran’s biggest scenes in Season 1.
– Check out our Tehran Season 2 Premiere early review
– Catch up on last season and read our Masoud Tabrizi Wiki in The Natural Aristocrat’s exclusive Tehran character database.
– You can also watch the interview with Shila Ommi on YouTube, be sure to like and subscribe to the channel!
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