Interview with Shaun Toub
Shaun Toub was born in Tehran, Iran to a Persian-Jewish family. He was raised in Manchester, England. At the age of 13, he moved to Switzerland and after a two-year stay, he crossed the Atlantic to Nashua, New Hampshire, to finish his last year of high school. After two years of college in Massachusetts, Shaun transferred to USC. His high school yearbook notes: “The Funniest guy in school and the most likely to succeed in the entertainment world.”
Through a chance encounter with an astute talent agent, he broke into the Hollywood scene with hope in his heart and natural talent to entertain.
Toub has received accolades for several of his appearances in over 100 television episodes including Grimm, Scandal, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Castle, NCIS, Chuck, Lost, Charmed, ER, Just Shoot Me, JAG, Married with Children and various movies made for television.
His filmography includes his memorable performance in the Oscar-winning film Crash, The Kite Runner, Iron Man, Charlie Wilson’s War, Bad Boys, and The Last Airbender. His recent work includes playing Majid Javadi in season 3 and season 6 of Homeland, the film Papa (the life story of Ernest Hemingway) in the role of Evan Shipman the poet, and just finished filming The Ghosts of War.
Shaun is very proud of his Persian heritage and is very active in the community. Through various charity events and public speaking engagements, he inspires the community to embrace the arts, as the arts enhance everyday life. Shaun resides in Los Angeles and loves the outdoors, sports, and music.
ZH: Thank you very much Shaun Tube for this interview! Let’s begin by telling us about your story, when did you begin your journey?
Thank you so much for your interests and I hope your readers find it enjoyable.
Well, actually I left Iran when I was about three years old. My mom had gone to school to Manchester England because we owned the Dr. Scholl’s of Iran and that’s why my mom took me there and then I came back to Iran for a few years and then at the age of 13 I left for Switzerland for schooling and then to the US at the age of 16.
ZH: At the age of 13, you left Iran for Switzerland, and from there immigrated to the USA, What made you travel by yourself at such a young age?
My parents thought that it would be good for myself and my siblings to experience different environments outside of Iran.
To this day it surprises me to see how a 15-year-old kid had the guts to go to the US Embassy in Zürich and ask for a visa to go to the United States.
ZH: After a couple of years of college in Massachusetts, you moved to Los Angeles to continue your education at USC. At the same time, you were working as a Real Estate agent. How did you end up in the film industry?
I always wanted to be an actor since I was five years old and as a child, I was always fascinated by the show business. My fascination started when I saw The Oscars in Manchester on black and white TV.
And that’s why I was determined to get to America.
After coming to America I went to New Hampshire for my last year of high school and then to Worcester Massachusetts for college and then transferred to USC hoping that my father would allow me to pursue acting. No such luck.
While I was in USC I started pursuing real estate and I became a real estate broker And started with residential brokerage and then went into commercial brokerage and that’s when I met an agency, looking for office space. After signing the lease we became friendly and I used to tell him that I always wanted to be an actor so one day in his office I brought the subject up again and to get rid of me He said fine, here’s a scene about a kid who just lost his father shows me what you got. So I went outside for 10 minutes and I came in and I did the scene and then he looked at me and he said “you son of a bitch you’ve been yanking my chain”. So I promised them that I’ve never done this before and then he asked me to go get some headshots which I told him that I’m not going to spend $2000 on headshots and he told me that someone owes me a favor and go get some Headshots.
One day he calls me and asked me to go to an audition and not to scare me he didn’t tell me what it was for. So I went. It was for Rambo four and I went all the way to the end but Stallone thought I was too tall.
As life has it, Since I’m an Academy member one day, I actually met Stallone a couple of years ago at a luncheon and I told him the story that he was my first rejection and we had a laugh.
ZH: Which roles have been inspiring you and created an impact on your career?
I’ve been blessed to be part of some amazing projects and Characters. They are like your kids and it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate which one you love most. But of course being in an Oscar-Winning movie such as Crash, Or the Kite Runner, or Iron Man and Homeland has definitely been a blessing.
ZH: What was the first role you ever played and how did you land that incredible role in the movie “Crash”?
My very first job was a role in a series called Hunter which I played a character called Phillip DePaul. It was a two hour special so it was a big deal for me at the time.
I feel honored to have played the character of Farhad In Crash. It was a very difficult process because they felt that I was too young for the role and after two months of auditioning I told the producers that I have nothing more to give and the only way this will work is that they have to allow me to have a makeup person do some aging and also the proper wardrobe. So after they had seen all other actors from LA, England, and New York they agreed that we will do a screen test. So I went to the studio and they bought the make up person and the wardrobe, and within 20 seconds they felt that I will be able to play Farhad.
Before the crash I was playing many different characters especially comedy and I have done many sitcoms such as Seinfeld, just shoot me, soap operas and of course bad boys which made a dent in my career but After the crash, they looked at me as a serious actor.
ZH: you have been playing in so many different roles, however, your roles in both Crash and Kiterunner movies will forever cement your identity. On the other hand, your role in Iron Man is so interesting. We never thought you would be the creator of clothes of Iron Man 🙂 Before that, were you interested in the heroic comic books of Marvel and DC? Who were your heroes in childhood?
Playing Yinsen was an honor because I was able to create the first Iron Man suit and forever I will be known for that.
I was always interested in comic book characters and as a child I loved Batman and I had that little Batman car.
ZH: So you met Stan Lee?
ZH: How is it that you came to be on Homeland, which is one of the most talked-about shows in America?
Homeland was another honor of mine. The character of Majid Javadi became a very complex and interesting character. The auditioning process was quite difficult because a lot of actors were hoping to land the role.
ZH: “Tehran” is one of your upcoming series you are working on at the moment, can you tell us more about it?
My next series is Tehran which is a very complex and interesting scenario. I am glad to say that there is a tremendous amount of interest in the series. The story is about a Mossad agent coming to Tehran and so the story begins. My character Faraz is a Multidimensional character who has a love for his sick wife and the love for his country and he struggles to balance it both.
ZH: Tell us more about your recent and upcoming projects.
Currently, I am on the number one cable series called Snowpiercer which has been airing on TNT on Sundays at 9 PM and also on Netflix outside of the US. The story is that the world is frozen and the entire humanity is on a train with 1000 cars. My character Terence Is the wheeler and dealer on the train Who shows up on the Third episode and thereon.
ZH: Thank you for being with us at ZH.
In collaboration with ZH Media
Special thanks to Sherry Sadati