Being on the screen comes naturally to Niousha Noor. The Iranian-American actress and writer grew up visiting her father, the award winning cinematographer Hossein Jafarian, on film sets. Although she didn’t come into acting until later in life, Noor has firmly carved her own path over the years as an emerging star. From starring in an historic boundary-breaking film to finishing her first feature film screenplay, there seems to be nothing standing in her way. Here, she speaks with Elle on the challenges of working in Hollywood, the need for more multifaceted characters and who her dream co-star would be.
Niousha: As a woman in the industry, there's a lot of deadlines that I gave myself and it gave me a lot of anxiety. I have to make it by 28. I have to make it by 30. Women have a shorter shelf life in the industry. It was very destructive. I removed the deadlines and once I did, I just realized that I could make it, whatever my definition of that is, even at 60. Once I had peace with that answer, I feel like the universe started to respond that way. I had this age phobia from my early 20s, then I hit 30 and it kind of went away. I don't have a deadline for myself now so I'm not really disappointing myself. Before I was constantly setting myself up to be disappointed because things wouldn't happen and I would feel like a failure. I said no, f--- that. I'm going to remove all that for myself and I'm just going to keep going and put everything I have into it. That’s opened me up to being more creative.Elle: What is it like emotionally to go through this?
Niousha: After so many years, you develop thick skin. I don't care anymore. I don't know where I pulled this confidence from because you would think that you're wrong and after all these years, you're not where you want to be. You could easily equate it to maybe you don't have what it takes. But if you want to be in this industry, you have to have that perseverance and that fire that keeps thinking no, they just don't know yet.Elle: Do you think diversity in Hollywood is changing at all?
Niousha: It really is changing. We have a long way to go but nothing compared to what it was ten years ago. Most of my auditions had something to do with national security or me being the wife of the terrorist. It was this distance I would feel between me and the casting directors. I'd enter a room and I'd talk to them. We would chat, we would laugh. Then the audition starts and I have to put on this accent. I always felt such a distance between me and them but because I felt like they thought because I'm from this part of the world, I understand this ideology. I had to overcompensate by trying to show them that I'm just like you. I decided a few years ago that I just don't want to do those roles anymore. I'm a big advocate of taking on projects and creating projects that just focus on the human, however flawed, but not the nationality. I want to tell stories that focus on the commonality of us. I feel like once you can empathize with a character and you're rooting for them, that's the way to turn the page on prejudice.
Niousha: My group of actor friends, we constantly have these discussions. We get an audition and go through it. If the negatives outweigh the positives, we pass because we don't want to contribute to that narrative anymore. One thing that I'm really proud of and hope to be able to make, is a screenplay that I wrote called Blue Flower. It's a feature film about a true story based on my love story. What I really appreciated is that I sent it to many people from different ages and nationalities. It overwhelmed me because it resonated with them. They cried. They understood it. I thought to myself, “That's what we need more of.” I want characters that are likable. That's so important in breaking these fear-rooted prejudices.Elle: What's your wildest dream for "Blue Flower"?
Niousha: My wildest dream is for me to make it, to star in it. I would love Riz Ahmed to star in it with me. Everyone knows that. I would love for him to be in it. It's my story but I've dramatized it but there's truth to it. I think that's why it resonated with so many people. And stylistically, it's similar to Richard Linklater's trilogy. It's the trilogy filmed nine years apart, each of them but in real time. You're witnessing a relationship spanning about 27 years. It starts in ’96, they meet on a train in Vienna but then they meet nine years later, but real time. You see them nine years later meeting in Paris. And then you see them in 2012 with two kids in Greece. It's the most raw and real and candid portrayal of love to me and they're my favorite movies. It's stylistically inspired by that but it's my version of it. It's my story. I don't think we have a lot of stories like that. I'm hoping after the Netflix show I am currently filming I'm going to put everything I can into it. It's very hard to make a film, especially a small indie film but if it's meant to happen, it'll happen.Elle: The film you were recently in, The Night, was the first American-made film that was allowed to play in Iranian cinema since the Iranian Revolution. What does it feel like being part of that?
Niousha: They were able to because they had a producer from Iran and they had a producer here. It was unfortunate, the timing of it, because it was at the height of COVID-19. However, seeing my face on the marquees in the different theatres in Iran, especially the ones that I used to go to when I was a kid in Tehran, that got me very emotional. I made my cousin go and take pictures of it. It wasn't as viewed as much because of COVID but I loved the experience. I loved being a part of that story. Working with Shahab Hosseini, he was amazing. I'm so fascinated by his acting and I've looked up to his work so working with him side-by-side was truly phenomenal. It had a lot of positive reviews, especially because that genre doesn't really exist in Iranian cinema, the horror genre.Elle: If you could interview anyone for Zvelle In Conversation, who would it be?
Niousha: Sadly, he no longer is with us but absolutely Anthony Bourdain. I was such a fan and I had a list of questions written out. One of my biggest dreams was to co-host an episode with him. He could connect to so many cultures and people. He had such smart commentary about everything. As far as my own industry, Meryl Streep because she so beautifully steals from everyone. I want to steal how she steals. It's interesting because the arts are very subjective and everyone has a different opinion but Meryl Streep is one of the very few actresses that nobody can say she's not a good actress. She has just mastered the craft. She's a living legend. Hopefully I get to work with her one day.Elle: What does Walk How You Want mean to you?
Watch the video to hear Niousha's inspiring words.
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