Look…It’s not every day that I hang out with a movie star. And even more rare? One that’s Muslim.
Maybe you saw him play Raza in “Iron Man.” Perhaps you caught him as Captain Robau in “Star Trek.” And all you girls out there that are thinking “Eww, I don’t watch action movies?” Well… he’s conquered your world too, as a guest star this past season on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
His name is Faran Tahir, a 47-year-old Pakistani-American who’s been in the acting game for decades (just check out his IMDB) and is proof that you don’t always have to go to the doctor-lawyer-engineer-banker route to be successful.
So how’d he do it? Well, Tahir is a third-generation actor…meaning, his parents were performers. So perhaps it was always in him. Regardless, the passion was left relatively undiscovered until college. Tahir attended UC Berkeley with plans to get a business degree… that is, until the acting bug bit. He created his own major, graduated, and then pursued a graduate degree in theater at Harvard. As he put it, getting all the professional training was his way of “eliminating as many noes as possible.’”
Clearly, the training has paid off.
Q: When we talked about the early days of your career, you mentioned how you wanted to “eliminate as many noes as possible.” Can you elaborate on that idea?
A. We have to be smart about analyzing our challenges in any job. Although, resolve to succeed is commendable and necessary, it needs to be coupled with the essential tools required for putting you in the best position to succeed.
Q. What do you look for when taking on a role?
A. For me, it is never a question of how big or small the role is. I always look for the possibility of finding some depth in the character. If the character is going to end up being a caricature then I shy away from it. Sometimes even small characters are written in a way that you can breathe a believable life into them.
Q. What do you think aspiring Muslim artists should know when getting into the entertainment game?
A. First, this is a tough business and one needs to have unfaltering focus and resolve. Second, the challenges we face might seem insurmountable but they are not. Third and most importantly, take your success and set backs with bravery, humility and grace.
Q. When people recognize you on the street, what are the weirdest, most interesting, funniest things they’ve said to you?
A. “Hey! You are not mean at all……you look so mean in movies.” “You are regular size…..you look so big on screen.”
Q. What do you think is the biggest misconception that Hollywood has about Muslims? Describe the progress you’ve seen in the entertainment business over the last 20 years.
A. I think the biggest misconception has been that we are people with singular vision who will not engage in a logical or reasonable conversation with anyone if it is against our ‘perceived’ belief. But, as more of us have entered this field in the last couple of decades we have been able to offer a more diverse picture of who we are. This has definitely helped in more characters and story lines being written with richer dimensionality.
Q. You were recently recognized by the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Media Awards for your role of “Isaac” in the ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” Can you tell me about what it was like to have an influence over the script? Your Islamic knowledge also influenced Iron Man, yes?
A. I am very honored and humbled by the recognition that MPAC has given my role in Grey’s Anatomy. It was very gratifying to take a role that could have fit many ethnicities and custom design it so that it became about a character who happens to be a Muslim. On the other hand, I was delighted that my suggestions to the director and producers of Iron Man about removing references to Islam from the script were met with such open mindedness.
Q. Finish this sentence… If I weren’t an actor, I would be…
A. REALLY SAD! No, I think if weren’t an actor, I would be working in some developing country as an economist or in education since that was my original major when I entered my undergraduate studies.
Q. If I could work with any actor in the world, it would be…
A. Very hard to answer. There are a lot brilliant actors out there and I can certainly learn from all of them.
Q. When I want to relax, I…
A. Spend time with my family. I am an avid runner. I like long bike rides. I like to read.
Q. If I could only eat one Pakistani dish for the rest of my life, it would be…
Q. My personal mantra is…
A. “Get over yourself”
Follow @Introversed on Twitter
Add Introversed to your news feed!Introversed on Facebook