In Hollywood, you never walk alone. It takes not only talent, training, drive, and a camera-ready smile, but also a boost from friends and family to achieve your dreams.
So when actress Bahar Soomekh wanted a role in Crash, a compelling drama about racism in America, she called her friend Ashley Daneshrad, the only person she knew in the film industry. Ashley helped her land an audition for the part of Dorri, a character who, like Soomekh, fled from Iran as a child for a new life in the United States. "I went in there and gave them my heart and soul," Soomekh told the Iranian Jewish Chronicle. "I felt like I owed it to all the people who came to this country and lovingly took care of their parents." She won the role, and Crash clinched an Oscar for Best Picture in 2005.
Don't mistake Bahar Soomekh for just another photogenic face. Born in Tehran and raised in Los Angeles, she speaks English, Farsi, Spanish, and some Hebrew, which she learned at Sinai Akiba Academy, a Jewish day school. Also, she plays the violin. She earned a degree in environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. With her husband, Clayton, she launched T.O. Productions to make films with environmental and social themes.
We really appreciated catching up with this rising star.
BABA:What do you love about acting?
BAHAR: You have to get into the heart and mind of someone else. When I play characters, I write journals about their lives to help me become them. It's the study of human nature that has always intrigued me about acting.
BABA: How did you break into the film business?
BAHAR: I had a corporate job and was doing phenomenally well. I was a manager, with my own assistant. But I wasn't happy, and I knew I didn't want to look back on my life and say, "I wish I gave it a shot." I'd go to work at my job at 8 every morning, leave the office at 6, and take acting classes from 8 till 2 or 3 in the morning. After three years of acting classes, I quit my job, even though I knew it was a big risk. Two months later, I booked Crash.
BABA: You and your husband founded T.O. Productions after the network cancelled Day Break, a TV show you were in. What does T.O. stand for?
BAHAR: T.O. stands for Tikkun Olam, which means "heal the world." Repairing the world is an important part of my life. One step in that process is creating films that I'm passionate about. I'm a firm believer in being in this world and making an impact-apathy really bothers me.
BABA: How has being Jewish helped develop your appreciation for the good things in life?
BAHAR: A big part of my Jewish upbringing is recognizing and seeing God behind everything. If I see a beautiful sunset, I take the time to say, "Thank You, God." Every night when I say the shema before I go to bed, it's my time to tell God how grateful I am for all the things in my life.
BABA:What do you appreciate most?
BAHAR: I'm very appreciative of my lifeand being able to do the line of work that I love, and follow my dreams in a business that I love. I'm very grateful for the country that we live in and the do-gooders of the world who make an impact. But most of all I'm grateful for my family.
BABA: Do you have a favorite Jewish holiday?
BAHAR: I love Shabbat. When Wednesday or Thursday rolls around, I feel peace in my heart knowing that Shabbat is coming and I can disconnect from the world. Shabbat is time to connect with my family and God, and to appreciate life. I don't take Shabbat for granted.
BABA: Thanks for talking with us, and have a Happy Hollywood Hanukkah!