Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shohreh Aghdashloo and Neal Baer Discuss Law & Order: SVU

Photo by Will Hart/NBC 

Law & Order: SVU is known for attracting incredible guest stars like Robin Williams and Sharon Stone. This week’s visiting actress, Shohreh Aghdashloo, may not be a household name but she’s an Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning talent. Born in Tehran, Iran, she moved to England and then the U.S., building a career in films like House of Sand and Fog and TV series like 24 and FlashForward. In a recent conference call interview, Aghdashloo and series Executive Producer Neal Baer discussed her turn on SVU.

Shoreh said that she enjoyed her experience working on Law & Order. “It is great. It is fantastic. I can't even tell you what a great time I had with this wonderful crew, brilliant crew and brilliant cast. The fact is that for shows like this that have been around for a while the members of the cast and also the crew turn into a family. And when you walk into the cast and crew… they let you feel like you're a member of the family. Apart from being a friend of Mariska Hargitay, who's not only a great actor but also a humanitarian, I loved working with all of them.”

She continued, “They didn't allow me to feel like a stranger. Day one I was there, we were all there they took me and in and we started and it was like I've been working with them for quite a long time.”

A long-time fan of Law & Order, Aghdashloo was excited to work on SVU for several reasons. “This is a multilayered complex character, a brilliant plot which takes lots of turns and twists and the opportunity to work with all these good actors that I usually don't get to work with.”

She was also drawn to the content in the episode entitled “Dirty.” She explained, “The plot is just incredible and it's very complicated. And by now I love to be a part of complicated plots that would carry the audience with itself, would not necessarily entertain the audience but would educate, illuminate the audience. This is what Law & Order gives me.”

Shohreh went on to describe what she enjoyed most about playing Detective Sanaa "Sunny" Qadri. “The best part is how to separate her private life from her social life. Private dreams from her collective consciousness about what she's doing and who she's working with and where she is at. The duality in other words I should say. That gives the actor, like myself, the chance to portray all the faces.”

Baer defined what makes this particular episode special. “Well this is a show that really explores what it is to be a woman detective and through the eyes of Shohreh's character and Mariska's character. Because… this is a unique episode, which really only has Mariska and Shohreh in it. Ice-T is in it a bit but it's really about women who've been working for a while in their positions and what pressures, stresses and strains confront them.”

He went on to explain that Aghdashloo was perfect for the episode. “You can imagine… the talent that Shohreh brings to this… And also Gloria Ruben is in the show as well, so it's really the three of them, the three women. Gloria plays the U.S. Attorney, so it's the three of them kind of confronting what it means to be a woman in the top of their field with many pressures from men.”

Baer added, “I do think that it's a very interesting one that we haven't explored in great depth, which is when a woman has been in her field for, say, 20 years or so, what pressures does she see and feel that men might not?

She summed it up, “All I can say at this point is to add to what you just said and this is what my character says in the episode. She says, ‘Few women make it that far without stabbing each other in the back.’”

In this case life doesn’t imitate art. Shohreh expressed her true delight about working with her female SVU co-stars. “It was a pure joy, unbelievable. I've been looking forward to work with Mariska for a while, was hoping. And I had the chance of actually doing it and also Gloria. The three of us had an amazing time together… Mariska is already there, she's been doing this for a while and brilliantly… and so is Gloria. All I had to do is to speed up, get to where they are and try to form this circle that tells the story and it was just incredible working with these brilliant actresses.”

Baer also pointed out that the episode was fueled by girl-power behind the scenes as well. “What's interesting about this show is it's directed by a woman too. Helen Shaver, who's an actor, who was of course opposite Paul Newman and Tom Cruise in The Color of Money… She's directing the episode as well. So it's really quite amazing.”

Shohreh Aghdashloo will appear tonight on Law & Order: SVU at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on NBC.

For more pop culture stories read:

Jeremy Irons Guest Stars on Law & Order: SVU

Saffron Burrows Talks About Her First Season on Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Random Thoughts with Jeff Goldblum

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