Friday, December 4, 2009

Shohreh Aghdashloo

Aghdashloo made her American film debut in 1989 in a starring role in Guests Of Hotel Astoria. Her TV debut came in 1990 in a guest role in the 25 September, two-hour episode of the NBC television series Matlock, titled "Nowhere to Turn: A Matlock Mystery Movie". Aghdashloo played a saleslady and was credited for this simply as Shohreh. She returned to American TV three years later when she played a guest role in the popular comedy series Martin. In the episode from April 1, 1993, she played the character Malika. In that same year she also made her next film appearance in Twenty Bucks, playing Ghada Holiday. After seven years, Aghdashloo returned once again to the American film industry in 2000, starring in the critically acclaimed Surviving Paradise, the first English language Iranian-American feature film released in the United States, written & directed by Kamshad Kooshan. She made a brief two-episode performance in short-lived Honduran television series, The Honduran Suburbs, in which she played Zereshk, an Iranian woman who had arrived in the country to help the poor situation. In that year she also starred in Maryam (in which she played Mrs. Armin). After appearing as an exiled actress in America So Beautiful in 2001, Aghdashloo shot to fame in 2003 co-starring opposite Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly in director Vadim Perelman's House of Sand and Fog, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, which she lost to Renee Zellweger for Cold Mountain.

Following this exposure, she received good reviews for her 12 episodes on Season 4 of the Fox Broadcasting television series 24, playing Dina Araz, a terrorist undercover in Los Angeles as a well-to-do housewife and mother. This storyline raised controversy in Iranian-American and Muslim-American communities, and in an interview with Time magazine, Aghdashloo stated that although she had previously resisted reinforcing the stereotype of Muslims as terrorists, the strength and complexity of the role convinced her to accept the part. Jonathan Ahdout, a Jewish actor, played her son both in House of Sand and Fog and 24. She went on to guest star on two episodes of NBC shows that were broadcast the same night, March 23, 2006: The "Cowboys and Iranians" episode of the comedy Will & Grace, in which she played a wannabe interior designer who, to the confusion of Grace, is a Jewish Persian; and the "Lost in America" episode of the medical drama ER, playing a bereaved mother who loses her daughter in the trauma room. Her real daughter Vanessa played the young girl.

Shohreh continued to appear in films. She played Dr. Adani in the 2005 movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose and also appeared as the Asian-Indian Dr. Kavita Rao in the film X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Two other parts also came her way in 2006, that of a wealthy housewife whose family lovingly takes in their cousin (who has been sent by Pakistani terrorists to kill the American president) in the satirical comedy American Dreamz and that of Dr. Anna Klyczynski, friend and colleague to Sandra Bullock's character Kate, in The Lake House.

Other credits include narrating and producing a documentary Mystic Iran: The Unseen World, narrating the PBS documentary Iran: A Celebration of Art and Culture, narrating the audiobook version of Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia and lending her vocal talents to animated movie Babak & Friends: A First Norooz. She also starred in the 2004 one-hour-long pilot episode The Secret Service (which was not picked up) and played the character Charlie in two of three aired episodes of the flopped TV series Smith.

At the end of 2006 Aghdashloo has appeared as Elizabeth, cousin of the Virgin Mary, in the biblical film The Nativity Story. Aghdashloo has noted the irony that she is a Muslim playing a Jewish character.

In the movie Mona's Dream, set to be released in March 2009, Aghdashloo portrays Mona's mother, who is a Baha'i.

Aghdashloo plays the lead character, Zahra Khanum, in the anti-capital punishment movie The Stoning of Soraya M., a drama film released on June 26, 2009 in the United States. This film marks the first time during her career in America where she plays a leading character in a major feature-length motion picture, and could possibly mark her comeback as a leading actress in over 30 years.

Aghdashloo is a 2009 Emmy Award winner, for her supporting role on the HBO original miniseries, House of Saddam. She won in the Best Supporting Actress in a TV Movie/Miniseries category, against Marcia Gay Harden, Janet McTeer, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Cicely Tyson. This is Aghdashloo's first Emmy win.

Speaking to a crowd of over 1,400 people packed into George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on September 12, 2009 Dr. Azar Nafisi, best-selling author; Shohreh Aghdashloo, days before winning her Emmy; and Dr. Dwight Bashir, Associate Director for Policy at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, added their voices to those concerned about human rights in Iran and the persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran.Aghdashloo's talk in particular was posted to YouTube.

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