To have a conversation with Shohreh Aghdashloo is to feel like you’re talking with your best friend. Her voice, with its trademark rasp, carries an enveloping warmth, but she doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind. (Pro tip: Do not ask her what she thinks of an outfit if you don’t really want to know.) So it’s no surprise that a spirit-raising chat with Aghdashloo is the perfect antidote to a gloomy Monday. “Even in the rain, just dance and sing, ‘I’m singing in the rain,’” the Iranian actress, who you’ll recognize from shows like The Expanse and 24, singsongs. “Happiness comes from within.”
Aghdashloo’s latest project is The Cuban. The made-in-Canada film, which is currently playing at select drive-ins and theatres across the country before hitting on-demand this fall, follows Mina (Degrassi‘s Ana Golja), a pre-med student who befriends an elderly Cuban musician struggling with Alzeheimer’s (Louis Gossett Jr.) and discovers that music can trigger his memories and create moments of lucidity. Aghdashloo plays Bano, Mina’s aunt, an immigrant from Afghanistan looking after her niece. We hopped on the phone with the star to talk about the movie, life during a pandemic and how quarantine has changed her outlook on skincare.
How have you been managing while self-isolating in Los Angeles?
I am discovering things about my own home. There are corners I have not paid attention to, places I was not aware of. I discovered the attic after 17 years of living here. There was a lot of stuff up there that doesn’t belong to me. It must all belong to the owner of the house before us. [Self-isolation] has given me time to just sit down and think about who I am, where I am, what I’ve done and what I want to do next. I’ve never had the luxury of being able to sit down and think.
It must be kind of a strange experience because you’ve been working basically non-stop for so long.
It’s unbelievable. I miss hugs and kisses and social gatherings, but I have come to the realization that, because I have been working so much, I had lost the zest for “normal” life. Now I am practicing having a normal life and I am in love with it. I think it’s so beautiful and so human.
Is that something, in particular, you’ve come to love or have realized you were taking for granted?
I have started to pay more attention to myself. Before, if I need to wear an outfit, I would just go to my closet and choose something. I wasn’t concentrating or thinking about putting colours together. I never paid attention to my skin thoroughly, either. I cleansed every day, because it’s the most important thing, and obviously used moisturizer, but skincare wasn’t one of my priorities. I did it then jumped into a car to get to the next place, do the next thing, do the next job, go from one place to another. I didn’t have the courage to just sit and think, which is what I really appreciate now.
Do you think this will change how you spend your time every day once you’re able to get back to work safely?
Absolutely. We are entering a new world. Everything changed overnight. In Buddhism they say “Before every construction, we need to go through a deconstruction.” We’ve already deconstructed, so now it is time to construct. And I’m not going to take my mask off [until it is safe].
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Oscar-nominated, Emmy awards winning actress, the brilliant Shohreh Aghdashloo @saghdashloo Behind the scenes of my new movie @thecubanmovie. Teaching how to dance on set. Those who know her know how much she loooove to dance! 💃💃💃 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼 Watch @thecubanmovie at the Canadian Virtual Film Festival on May 21st at 9pm EST: https://bit.ly/3dYbYVa در پشت صحنه فیلم سینمایی جدیدم “ یک کوبایی “که نمایش آن بزودی آغاز خواهد شد. در میان ۲ صحنه سعی میکنم تا به دستیار کارگردان درس رقص سامبا بدهم. آنهاییکه من را میشناسد میدانند که چقدر رقصیدن را دوست دارم.💃🏻💃🏻💃🏻
It does seem like many people have taken the past few months to deconstruct. What do you hope to rebuild now?
When quarantine started, I started writing the sequel to my memoir, which was published in 2013. That book went up to when I was nominated for an Oscar [for House of Sand and Fog]. Now, I’m writing about 17 years of working in Hollywood. I’m hoping to finish that. And I am desperately looking for a good, meaningful screenplay that I can direct myself. I have been acting for 45 years and producing for almost two, but I think it’s time for me to direct.
Let’s talk about The Cuban. Why did you want to be a part of this film?
I had met [director] Sergio Navarretta at the Toronto Film Festival. The next time I saw him, he told me he had a screenplay and that he wanted me to play a role in it. We were at brunch and he started telling me the story, and I was speechless. I couldn’t wait for him to finish talking so I could say, “I’m on board” because I went through something similar with my own father.
Ten years ago, I was about to go and visit my parents and my mother called and said, “Please try to understand, do not get upset and do not cry. But your father is showing signs of Alzheimer’s. He may not recognize you.” And it happened. One day, he turned around and looked at me and said, “Who are you?” And I said, “Sir, I am your daughter, Shohreh,” but I knew he didn’t recognize me, not even when I introduced myself. A couple of hours later, my brother, who is a doctor, put on some music and said, “Let’s dance, Shohreh. Let’s dance for Baba.” My brother started dancing and singing and, all of the sudden, my father came to life. He was calling us by our names, he was even singing and dancing with us. My mother was so shocked and was almost in tears. She told me, “That’s all I wanted, for your father to come back so I could tell him how much I love him.” They were very young when they got married and lived together for 60 years. They were in love forever.
So I saw what music did for my father, but I did not talk about it. I don’t know why. Perhaps I thought it was just a personal thing, something that happened only to us. But when Sergio told me this story, I was like, “Oh my god, of course. We have to bring this to people’s attention. I love this character and I want to do whatever I can for this film to be made.” And I hope that people who are taking care of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia [can explore] what music can do for their patients.
You’re an ambassador for L’Oréal Paris’ Age Perfect Line. Has your approach to skincare and beauty changed during the pandemic?
I am almost doing the same thing I was before. But [what has changed] is that before, I would sometimes do it every other day, or I would forget to do it and then remember like, “Oh, god, I haven’t put moisturizer on my face.” Now, I have learned to think of it as “me time.” I kept hearing about [this idea], but I couldn’t understand it. It’s like the slogan, “Because you’re worth it.” I’m doing this because I am worth it. It’s about my self-worth. I can take the time, even when I’m busy, to [take care of myself]. It’s interesting that it took until now for me to learn this, and learn how to take care of myself. I rarely looked at myself in the mirror before. But I am happy that I’ve finally become wise in this way because it is important.
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