On the heels of the sets of Hawaii Five-0 and Prison Break, Burnt Roti talk family, stereotypes and all things acting with Faran Tahir. Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir has played almost every role imaginable in Hollywood with roles ranging from Iron Man to Dallas.
With a background that scopes four generations of arts and literature, Faran has rather fittingly followed suit and opted for a career in the arts. Surprisingly, through acting wasn’t always the path for Faran, who initially decided to graduate in business and economics before realising his passion for the performing arts. Faran then went on to study theatre at the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University. However Faran adds, “I think looking back I always wanted to be an actor”
Which makes sense considering his parents’ roles as actors, writers and directors. Not to mention his brother, Ali’s position as an actor and director the Pakistani film industry. His family powerhouse doesn’t stop there, with Faran’s maternal great grandparents publishing the first Pakistani magazine for women in the late 1800s.
When asked if he’d ever consider working in Bollywood, he exclaims, "of course! Art has no boundaries until we put them there”, suggesting that his aspirations go beyond what Western media has to offer. Following in the footsteps of his incredible family, Faran openly agrees in the importance for the South Asian community to see themselves represented in Western media through actors like himself.
“It is vitally important that we keep making inroads. The bigger number we have in the media the more opportunities to explore different story lines. That’s how we break down walls.”
Understandably, the best way to attract a diverse audience is to reflect them on screen. Until this happens more often, the side kick or confidant will be a recurring role for actors of ethnic minorities. Luckily for Faran, he has played a wide variety of roles beyond a taxi driver or the owner of a local corner shop.
For many South Asian actors in Hollywood, stereotyping has been an issue, but for Faran this hasn’t been the case, who looks to the variety of roles he’s played throughout career as proof of that.
“Stereotypes are now diminishing from Hollywood in any case. The approach towards sensitive topics is much more balanced because the audience understands that nothing is black and white.”
Faran continues stating that “the audience enjoys watching complex roles”, which can be seen in the success of the growing diversity from North American shores in shows such as the the marvellous Master of None to Issa Rae’s Insecure and Nahnatchka Khan’s sitcom based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir Fresh Off the Boat.
Perhaps the best way to see past the stereotyping faced by the South Asian community in the world of acting is to take a page out Faran’s book and remember: “This is a difficult business no matter where you are but you always remind yourself to stay true to your convictions.” Faran urges aspiring actors not to “get discouraged by the speed bumps” and to “keep a focus on the journey and where we want to get to.” Despite starring alongside Robert Downey Jr. and featuring in award-winning television shows, Faran hopes to work with Meryl Streep someday.
“Any role one can sink their teeth into is a dream role”
Some may argue that starring in the 2008 smash hit Iron Man, would be the ultimate dream role, which was a particularly memorable experience for Faran. Speaking of the role, Faran states “the director, Jon Favreau, kept throwing out new ways of attacking the scene. Robert is a consummate actor so there was never any doubt in my mind that we wouldn't be able to pull it off. We just laughed and kept going.”
Faran’s latest role in the American television series 12 Monkeys, is Mallick, a devout enforcer of the Army of the 12 Monkeys who lives in Titan. The show is a science fiction mystery drama, which Faran is no stranger to, previously playing roles in science fiction Western Land of the Outlaws in 2015. On his character, Faran says “Mallick is mysterious, duplicitous, dangerous and focused. Quite delicious!” He will be seen as a part of the upcoming third season of the show, which is currently being shot in Toronto, Canada and will be airing in 2017.