'Tehran' on AppleTV+: 'Glenn Close moved far outside her comfort zone' for Season 2

·8 min read

The highly thrilling AppleTV+ series Tehran has closed out Season 2, ending with Glenn Close’s character Marjan being left for dead by Faraz (Shaun Toub) and his wife Nahid (Shila Ommi), and Milad (Shervin Alenabi), Tamar’s (Niv Sultan) boyfriend, caught in flames in a car explosion, and we can't stop thinking about it.

“That was such a fun day, actually,” Shervin Alenabi told Yahoo Canada about shooting the last scene in the season finale. “Everyone was there, it was the middle of the night, although I really felt like a part of me died.”

"At the same time, I felt like the world was opening up as well, as an actor, as a professional. I'm not back for Season 3 so it's really nice to explore the world now. Being in New York right now, it's crazy, I walk down the street and so many people come up to me.”

Niv Sultan and Shervin Alenabi in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Niv Sultan and Shervin Alenabi in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

When co-creator and executive producer Moshe Zonder began writing Season 2 with the Tehran team, all that was known was that Tamar and Milad are lovers, and Faraz has to keep chasing them.

“We wanted the plot to be in Tehran,” he told Yahoo Canada. “We wanted to say something new about life in Iran.”

"Before writing Season 1 we dove into two years of research, during which I wrote the biography and description of the main characters. I wanted to learn, understand, and write about the people and emotions behind the news headlines on the secret war between Israel and Iran."

Glenn Close and Shila Ommi in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Glenn Close and Shila Ommi in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Looking back at Season 2, Shila Ommi was happy to see the show really showcases all the women in the cast.

“I was excited that in Season 2 it's even more female-centred and women are more at the forefront than they were even in Season 1,” Ommi said. “Mossad is headed by a woman, Yulia, played by Sara von Schwarze, my character, I go through a dramatic change as I tried to gain my self confidence back."

“As I was preparing for my role for Season 2, it was quite nerve wracking and exciting, and thrilling, to know what I'm going to be going up against Glenn Close.”

Glenn Close and Shaun Toub in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Glenn Close and Shaun Toub in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

'She’s one of the greatest actresses of our time'

It’s Glenn Close’s character that was particularly fascinating for Moshe Zonder to explore in Season 2 of the show.

“Marjan operates in a space that fascinates me: When do you ‘betray’ your homeland to try to save it from itself? I can relate to it and understand her,” he explained.

“Thanks to the Apple TV+ platform, we now have access to people around the globe. I think many people in the world these days can ask themselves if they should do things that might be seen by others as betrayal. Sometimes racism and nationalism become so extreme that you feel the need to try and rescue your nation from itself.”

I admired her before we knew her and admire her even more now.

Zonder said it was a “great honour” to have Close play Marjan in Season 2 of Tehran.

“She’s one of the greatest actresses of our time. Glenn Close can act as a powerful woman, ruthless and even cruel, but can be vulnerable and weak, or even helpless,” he said. “The texture of her work is so rich and every word she says is believable.”

“She is far beyond what we could have dreamed of for the character of Marjan. Glenn Close moved far outside her comfort zone for the show. She is an American actress playing a British character living in Tehran and speaking Farsi, in a series being shot in Athens with Israeli and Iranian actors and an Israeli and Greek crew. I admired her before we knew her and admire her even more now.”

Arash Marandi and Shaun Toub in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Arash Marandi and Shaun Toub in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

'There's so much going on'

As Tehran ended its second season, the show really solidified itself as must-see entertainment and one of the most thrilling shows you can watch.

“There's so much going on, with all the characters and everything,” Shaun Toub said.

“I get messages [that say], ‘Oh I know what's going to happen, I know what's going on, I know exactly what's going to happen,’ and then the next episode, they go, ‘Oh my God, I was wrong.’”

Mose Zonder recalls viewers telling him that they are “on the edge of [their] seats” and “couldn’t breathe,” with all the tension and suspense on the show.

“It was very important to me, from day one, in the development stage of writing the season, to tell a story that wasn’t good versus bad, but with complex and relatable characters,” Zonder said.

“I wanted to show the complexity of the situation. Young Israelis and Iranians have so much in common. There isn't a good reason for us to be enemies.”

Shila Ommi and Glenn Close in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Shila Ommi and Glenn Close in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

'He wanted to show Iranians to the world as we are'

Extending from Season 1 to Season 2 of Tehran, the show continued to be praised for showing a side of Iranian people that is often missing from the headlines we see in Western news.

“I know for me, it was really important, it was one of the reasons why I chose to do the show,” Shila Ommi said. “I realized how much [Daniel Syrkin] and the creators of the show love Iranians and so I knew that it wasn't going to be a show that's going to be one-sided, to show Iranians in a bad light.”

“He wanted to show Iranians to the world as we are. He was like, there's so many wonderful artists and beautiful people, and people that love to express themselves and are really smart, and really educated and creative… Unfortunately, the media doesn't show that image of Iranians, we see a very negative image of religious fanatics and it's not at all the whole of what the Iranian people are.”

For Moshe Zonder, one of the "most important aims" was to show "the world of Iranian people, both generations, parents and their children, that are behind the headlines in the news."

"We get so much feedback from Iranians, from Iran or exile all over the world, saying ‘you're telling our story,'" he said.

Shaun Toub, who is Jewish-Iranian, said that when speaking to director, co-creator Daniel Syrkin, the actor was adamant that he could not “make the Iranian people look bad.”

“If the show is balanced, I'm OK with that but if it's one-sided, I cannot do that,” he said. “That's why people love this series, because it's a very balanced show. It doesn't take sides.”

Niv Sultan, Shervin Alenabi and Glenn Close in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Niv Sultan, Shervin Alenabi and Glenn Close in “Tehran,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

'No one show or one film can represent an entire country'

For Shervin Alenabi, in Season 1, he felt a responsibility to introduce the culture and the people of Iran in a “completely new, different way.” So for Season 2, the actor was particularly excited to build on that world and the story.

“It became much more of an internal journey and internal process, I had to spend a lot of time just listening to the right music, watching the right shows, and sort of bring that intensity into the character, because…the stage was set,” he said. “It was all about the stakes and the relationships.”

“Season 2, we found that it's even more fast paced and particularly for my character. He goes through so many ups and downs… At first I was scared. I was like, I know how we shoot things, how am I going to hit those notes?”

He added that it was a “privilege” and an “honour” to tell stories about Iranian people in a way that is often neglected.

“I grew up in Iran, I was there until I was 12 and when I came over to the West, let's call it, the images that were reflecting back to that society were very different from the ones that I grew up with,” Alenabi said. “As Iranians, everyone feels like they have to show this other side, ‘I promise we're not this and that way,’ and then for me to have that responsibility, it was amazing.”

“No one show or one film can represent an entire country but to do a show about this Israeli and Iranian conflict, and to really not really make a bad guy out of anyone, is probably one of the best things about this show.”

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