Why Arian Moayed Almost Said No to Starring in A Doll’s House on Broadway | Playbill

Special Features Why Arian Moayed Almost Said No to Starring in A Doll’s House on Broadway

Plus, the actor lets us know what to expect on season four of Succession.

Arian Moayed Michaelah Reynolds

When actor Arian Moayed was asked if he would star opposite Jessica Chastain in the Doll’s House revival for Broadway, his first reaction wasn’t an immediate yes. In fact, Moayed was hesitant about it. For one, the character of Torvald, the role being offered, was, as he frankly put it, an “asshole.” As Moayed tells Playbill: “I don't really have that big of a relationship with A Doll's House. All I knew is Torvald is usually aggressive and very testosterone heavy. And sometimes he hits Nora [his wife]. And I basically was like, I don't want to do any of that.”

In Doll’s House, Torvald is loving towards his wife Nora (played in this revival by Oscar-winner Chastain), until he discovers that she had sought a loan behind his back. Then he explodes at her in anger. To Moayed, who was born in Iran, the potential optics of a Middle Eastern man being abusive towards a white woman, was, as Moayed points out, “so loaded!”

But around the same time that Moayed got that offer, he was also in Berlin, where he was part of a 100,000-person protest. They were marching in support of the women in Iran. In September, an Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, was beaten to death by police for not wearing a headscarf. The female journalists who broke that story are now in prison. In reaction, women in Iran (and people around the world) began taking to the streets in protest of the repressive Iranian government—the protests are still ongoing.

While marching on the streets of Berlin, Moayed had a realization: “This story is actually about Iran…Nora is representative of every Iranian woman living in Iran right now. And Torvald is not just the macro-Islamic regime, suppressing women. It's also the micro, the male chauvinistic things that men do on women. And that is not cultural. That's just misogyny. That is a universal thing.”

So, he said yes to Doll’s House. This new revival is quite barebones: there’s no period set or costumes—there’s only a turntable, some chairs, and some strategically placed overhead lights. Chastain wears a black dress, Moayed wears slacks and a black sweater. The only thing that denotes it takes place in 1879 is during the pre-show, where that date is projected on the back wall of the theatre.

READ: Why Jessica Chastain Wanted a Female Playwright to Adapt A Doll's House For Her

Jamie Lloyd is the director and he has the cast on stage the entire time. For Moayed, who shared a stage with Robin Williams in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and waded through a sea of stage blood in the Off-Broadway play Guards at the Taj, Doll’s House is one of the most challenging plays he’s done.

“Day one of first preview, I was like, ‘I'm exhausted! I'm so tired!’ It's so much mental focus, because there's nothing to hide from,” he explains. But Moayed says that the simplicity of the staging keeps the focus of the show on the words and the actors. The actors wear special microphones, so that every whisper and every time Nora’s voice hitches in her throat, the audience hears it. This also means that when the pivotal confrontation between Nora and Torvald occurs, there’s no screaming or physical displays. All it takes is Moayed angrily spitting out the phrase, at half volume, “You stupid bitch!” for the audience to gasp.

Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain Emilio Madrid

“All I can think about is Jessica and the words,” explains Moayed, who admits he prefers doing this modern treatment of Doll’s House to anything traditionally period. “If this were to happen to an actual Nora and Torvald, today, in New York City, and they’re in their bedrooms—there wouldn't be a lot of gesticulation. A lot of it would be sitting. We've been accustomed to going to the theatre and seeing a lot of excess, especially in period pieces.” He then adds, jokingly, “I didn't want to do something where I'm having to do a tobacco workshop and, ‘this is how you hold money in 1879. And this is now you curtsy.’ I have no relationship to that at all, and the audience doesn't, either.”

But what this new treatment of A Doll’s House also allows for is more nuance than what the play has been given over the years. As a proto-feminist piece, it has become easy for audiences to see Nora's tale, and feel comforted that they no longer live in the 1800s. By staging the piece now, when women’s rights are being stripped away in the U.S., and where women in Iran are fighting for their freedom—it takes this story from 1879 and plants it into today’s world, allowing audiences to see parallels their own lives and Nora's.

READ: The Cast of Broadway’s A Doll’s House on Why the Show Has No Set

And that's why Moayed said yes to the play. “Art is the vehicle of change that I can use,” says Moayed, while adding, “It's very easy for people to see Torvald and be like, well, that's not me, that's over there.” But at the stage door, audience members have admitted that they recognized their own experiences while watching the play: of being infantilized or condescended to, or not truly being honest in their own relationships. As Moayed remarks, “Some people say, I was kind of rooting for Torvald to change, rooting for Torvald to realize how wrong he is. And at the same time, someone can be like, ‘I fucking hate him. He sucks.’ And both of those things actually are kind of true."

Moayed also had 36 family members come to the show and note the show’s parallel to what’s happening in Iran—something that the actor encourages supporters to continue talking about on social media. “Keep it in your stories, keep celebrating Iranian culture and Persian culture, keep talking about the injustice,” he says, passionately. “The reality is, this war is actually a war that's being fought right now on social media.”

Arian Moayed and Michael Patrick Thornton in rehearsal for A Doll's House Emilio Madrid

In between acting on Broadway and posting videos on his Instagram about the ongoing Iranian protests, Moayed is also busy promoting season four of the television series Succession on HBO. This season, the question of who in the Roy family is going to come out on top and gain control of the media company Waystar Royco will, hopefully, be answered. For four seasons, Moayed has played the agnostic investor Stewy Hosseini—who is arguably the most honest character in the show, because he admits that he’s only in it to make money (he doesn't care who comes out on top). Moayed was nominated for an Emmy last year for playing Stewy, and he admits he’s feeling sad that the popular show is ending after four seasons.

“It's sad to let go of this thing,” he says, but he also adds that the cast knew since last summer that the show was ending, because show creator Jesse Armstrong had told them. “Jesse wants to leave everyone on a real high, wanting more. And I think it really works. I really do think it's one of the best seasons of the show, if not the best season of the show. And also, we trust the artist. And when the artist says it's done, it's done.”

And what can viewers expect from their favorite chaos agent, Stewy? Moayed laughs loudly before responding, “Stew is gonna come in, cause havoc, cause people to pick sides.” He then teases, “I think you're gonna love the stuff that Stewy does.”

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