Faran Tahir may not be considered a household name yet but the Pakistani-American actor has guest starred in the many populist television shows like Warehouse 13, Blued Bloods, Charmed and Lost, to name a few as well as playing the evil sadistic Raza in Iron Man and the heroic Captain Robau in J.J Abram’s reboot of Star Trek in a brief but momentous role.
Faran will now be seen guest starring in the resurrected drama series, Dallas, where he plays Cliff Barnes, driver and right-hand man.
He reveals what it feels like being part of the new series and what it felt like being the Captain of a Federation Starship and getting beaten up by Iron Man.
Did you ever watch the original series of Dallas?
Dallas was a phenomenon in its time. I didn’t get to watch it regularly but I definitely knew who was who on it. The resurrected Dallas has already proved to be a hit in the US and I hope it has the same impact with the British audiences.
What was the first day on the set of Dallas like?
On the first day we were all in the same boat. We were resurrecting an old classic with the old cast alongside a new generation of Barnes and Ewings. Everyone was nervous yet focused.
Were you given any advice by the original cast?
No. They were all praying that we wouldn’t screw it up!
You play the character ‘Smiling’ Frank Ashkani, who is he?
Frank is a mysterious man. Definitely not someone you want to mess or cross paths with. His real name is Raheed Durani and is Cliff’s right hand/driver and designated disposer of dead bodies. Sometimes referred to as ‘Smiling Frank’ but he doesn’t actually smile.
How does it feel working for Cliff Barnes?
It’s great working for Mr Barnes. All in a days work.
Since starring in Dallas, have you felt the urge to shoot JR?
For those that have watched the old series will recall JR as a schemer with cut throat tactics. So, of course! Could you imagine the audience being left with another ‘Who shot JR?’ cliff-hanger.
So when did you first fall in love with acting?
My love affair with acting started when I was a little kid. I would often secretly stand in front of the mirror and act out scenes.
You have done film, television and theatre. What has given you the greatest satisfaction?
I get equal satisfaction from all three. There are stories that need the intimacy of live theatre to have the emotional impact. Then there are other stories that require the expansive canvas of the film screen and the sensitive eye of the camera to give the audience a window into characters and story. And sometimes, the freedom television affords to create a story and character over many hours can be priceless. I always say that a painter can paint in oil or water-colour or do a pencil sketch. It all depends on what story he or she is trying to tell. It is the same idea for me. It just needs to be interesting and challenging.
How did you feel when you landed a role in Star Trek?
I felt like a 10-year old boy. I have always liked Star Trek. I grew up on Star Trek. It was awesome. I have always been big fan of the original series with William Shatner and the Next Generation and respect the philosophy and its message of hope it portrays.
What was the whole experience of working in the film like?
You start off with complete awe but very quickly realize that you have a job to do and you better not screw it up. It was challenging and I wanted to show competence dignity and strength in a short amount of time.
Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you would become Captain of a Federation Starship?
A kid can dream, right? Sometimes even your wildest dreams can come true and the first time I walked on the set and the set of the ship I was like, “wow, I’m captain of a federation ship.”
How did the role of Raza in Iron Man come about?
It wasn’t easy! It involved a lot of readings with the casting director, the director and Robert Downey Jr. It also involved meetings with all the producers, a process which took almost three weeks.
What was your favourite scene in Iron Man?
I would most probably say, when I first encounter Tony Stark in the cave. I play an evil sadistic character of Raza, where it involves me or should I say Raza, putting a piece of burning coal in someone’s mouth, that’s fun right!
How did it feel getting beaten up by Iron Man?
Legendary. Growing up reading Marvel comics, never in my life did I imagine, that one day I would actually be getting beaten by Iron Man on the big screen.
Is it now easier for Asian actors in Hollywood or do you still get offered stereotypical roles?
There will always be stereotypical roles but I think that things are slowly changing. Hollywood is a tough place and not for everyone. Egos can be fragile and the business is tough. People with glass chins won’t survive. You need to be able to take a few punches and still be able to get back up.
What advice would you give young Asian actors?
Never give up on your dreams and work hard to achieve them. Complacency is death. When you find failure, be brave and when you find success show humility.
What else can we look forward to seeing you in?
I have some interesting stuff coming out in the next year. ELYSIUM, a sci-fi thriller with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster directed by the director of DISTRICT 9. JINN, a supernatural thriller and TORN, a drama about two families dealing with the untimely death of their teenage sons in a shopping mall explosion. THE TOMB, a prison break action movie with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Faran Tahir can be seen as ‘Smiling Frank Ashkani’ in the new 10-part series of Dallas to be shown on Channel 5 starting 5th September at 9pm.
– Sohail Anjum