Shohreh Aghdashloo, the Oscar-nominated Iranian-American actress, plays the small but pivotal role of Commodore Paris in Star Trek Beyond; pivotal because it’s Paris who helps Captain Kirk see the light regarding his future with the Federation. Aghdashloo joined the project very late in the game. Actually, the actress -- whose film and TV credits include House of Sand and Fog, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 24, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Stoning of Soraya M., Flash Forward, Grimm, Elementary and The Expanse – came on board during the additional photography phase, with her character bookending the proceedings. StarTrek.com recently spoke to the energetic, thoughtful actress about her Trek experience, and here’s what she had to say:
You grew up watching Star Trek: The Original Series in Iran, in Farsi, right?
That's right. What we loved about it, my brothers and I, was not only that it was futuristic, but also that we could understand it. It wasn't beyond our education or above our heads. We could totally understand it. And that basically started with Flash Gordon when we were kids. And then after Flash Gordon came this one, Star Trek. So that's why we were fans. Like I say, it wasn't complicated for us. And also, when you're kids, your imagination is huge. It made you look to the sky and wonder, “What if one day we're going to go to space? What if one day they're going to create a spaceship, how would it look?” And you know how your imagination flies when you're young, right? It boosted our imagination.
How excited is your family about you being in Beyond?
They’re so excited. My daughter kept asking me about working with Chris Pine. And everyone wanted to come with me to the premiere. One of my brothers, Seon, is a genius. He's an Oxford-educated architect now, and he lives in London. And he's truly a genius. He used to tell us that what they meant by saying, "Now we're doing this," because we couldn't understand the technical terms. But my brother who is two years younger than me, he would explain to us what was going on and what we should be expecting. So, now, to be in a Star Trek movie? It’s amazing.
You came in on Beyond when they shot additional scenes, and you worked just a couple of days in California, whereas most of the film was shot in Canada. Give us a sense of your experience on Beyond…
One has to be meticulous with these films because, literally speaking, they’re so big. And, for most of my scenes, it was only gentle, amazing, lovely Chris Pine and I, just the two of us in a 2,000-square-foot, huge space. And all I could see were green curtains all around the walls. I'm talking about hundreds of meters of green curtains all around and hundreds of lights, if not thousands of lights, which were points of references. “This light will take us to a certain background. And that's where we have to land, right on the spot. Hit the mark, otherwise we're going to have to do it over and over and over again until we hit the mark because in normal films a little bit of difference, we can bear with it, but not in futuristic films or ones with a lot of CGI.” You have to land on the mark because they're going to take your picture and put it in a virtual reality, as we call it.
So it was very hard to film, or it could have been. But they made it so easy for me. Justin Lin, what an amazing director he is. I told him, “You're an actor’s director and I love that. You get involved.” He said, “Of course, I do. What did you expect?” I said, “Well, some directors, you know, just sit back and they call cut or action,” and that’s it. That’s not how Justin works.
Star Trek is all about embracing other cultures and peoples and species. How satisfying was it to play a part for which your ethnicity is a non-factor?
It's not only a privilege, it's an honor, to be honest with you, to do that and to be a part of this, to be a part of an entity that wants and aims to bring peace to the world. Remember at the end (SPOILER AHEAD), I tell him, “We thought Balthazar Edison (a/k/a Krall) was a hero. And then we found out that he was not a hero, but he was a traitor. I guess time will judge us all.” That is my favorite line in this movie. I love it. I think it's so true, that time will judge us all. We do what is right. We open our arms. We ask for friendship. We ask for relationships. We ask for intellectual relationships. We ask for friendship and to make the world a better place. When I was young I always thought that at the end of the world it's going to be happy and people are going to live happily ever after because they're going to find out about the secret of peace, how to live a peaceful coexistence. I always thought that the world was going that way, but unfortunately, it is not.
And it's getting worse every day…
Exactly. We're hearing all of this bad news, day after day after day. So what this film assured us, like the notion of Plato, where war becomes an exercise of the mind rather than an actual action on the Earth, is that if you can get to that point, if you can become friends and then just leave war for the video game players, the whole world would be a paradise. If you feel like you want to get involved with a war, instead play video games and we can exorcise it that way. There’s something to that.
When people meet you on the street, what are the projects of yours that they most often want to talk about?
First off, I have to admit that they're so polite. Each and every one of them usually says, “I usually don't do this, but I just wanted to tell you that I love your work.” And I say, “No worries.” I enjoy it. I'm not one of those annoying actors who don't like to be praised. I love this. This is my reward. You know, reward and punishment… This is my reward when people tell me that they enjoy my work. You are not going to believe this, but 24 is still number one. I swear to God. The moment I open my mouth they're like, “Oh, you're the woman on 24.” I'm like, “Did I scare you?” “Yes, you did.” And then it’s House of Sand and Fog, and, believe it or not, The Stoning of Soraya M, which I am so proud of. In New York, I was having lunch with a couple of friends in a beautiful, posh restaurant. This mid-20s girl she says, “Oh my God, I know you.” I thought she was going to say 24. I said, “Which one?” She said, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” I said, “I thank you for watching that.”
I have to thank anyone who watched that, because it's not an easy movie to watch. But I was wondering how come a 25-year old American girl watched The Stoning of Soraya M. I was so pleased that she was interested enough, educated enough or aware enough to know what's going on and she wanted to know more about what’s happening in the world. It is amazing for me. People also know me now from The Expanse, which I’m very pleased about. And, hopefully, by the next time we talk, I’ll be telling you how people are recognizing me from Star Trek Beyond as well.