You should know the name Medalion Rahimi by now. After discovering her love for theatre and taking slow and steady steps into the industry, she got her first role in the film Fat City, New Orleans in 2011 and her career culminated with her latest role. The curiosity about who she is off-screen has been increasing as Fatima becomes a major character in one of the most-watched TV series, NCIS:LA.
To summarize briefly, she was born in 1992 as an Iranian-American based in Los Angeles. Her career encompasses a wide range of productions including television series, short films, and many more from the beginning of her acting journey. When you want to find out more, her social media gives a lot of hints about Medalion’s life. She spends remarkable time acquainting people with the situation in Iran, which has been all over the news recently, and she actively uses it to underline injustice and inequality. In a nutshell, she is an actress and an activist but it is immediately obvious that these two adjectives are not enough to describe her. Delving into find out who she is, you notice she has a deep connection with art and her style is more than unique.
Schön! chats with Medalion about her journey to the NCIS family, her relationship with her character Fatima Namazi, what keeps her inspired, and her future plans.
Who is Medalion Rahimi outside acting? Can you give us three unknown facts about you?
I’m from Los Angeles, and I grew up in the valley, where my parents still live (Reppin the 818)! I love writing poems and ceramics. Recently, I got into creating some of my own film projects. Me and a fellow Iranian-American filmmaker Yasmine Diba have a short film that has been making the festival rounds, and it was accepted at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, LA Shorts Fest, Montreal, and the next one is Berlin Film Festival. Also, I genuinely like the taste of medicine. I know… I’m a freak.
Let’s talk about NCIS:LA first. You are playing a special agent named Fatima Namazi in Los Angeles. Did you find it easy to relate with Fatima?
Fatima and I are very different, but you always find similarities between yourself and the character. I can absolutely relate to her sense of self, and how important her relationships, and her work are to her. She has unwavering faith. I can also relate to her feeling like an outsider, this sort of third-culture identity that a lot of immigrant’s kids have.
What first attracted you to the role? What’s something that has surprised you while portraying Fatima?
I love how unapologetic she is. She’s constantly had to say to the world “This is who I am! Take it or f***ing leave it.” I admire that about her. I’m constantly surprised by how complex and multi-talented she is.
What has it been like seeing Fatima grow from when you first began portraying her in 2019 to now?
It’s sort of been like my own personal journey, joining such an established show, I think she is way more comfortable now and she takes a little more agency with the team. It can be intimidating working with such hard-hitting professionals, legends like LL Cool J and Gerald McRaney.
What has it meant to you to go from a recurring character to a main role?
It’s the most validating feeling. I feel extremely grateful and lucky for this opportunity. It’s like being on the house hunt for years and finally finding a home.
You were born and raised in the United States as an Iranian. Have you been exposed to any discrimination or prejudice within the industry?
I think discrimination has been most noticeable in the writing and lack of roles for Middle Eastern actors. You know, you have mostly Anglo-American writers, writing parts for brown people, and the only context they have is what they get from the media. It’s no one’s fault really, but it’s our responsibility to be aware of how we write, and what we consume.
You have been in many different productions in your career. How do you think a good working environment can be ensured on a set?
Communication. I’ve been very lucky to work with some of the best crews in tinsel town and the one thing they have in common is clear communication, between departments, and between individuals. It is a collaborative effort, and each person is valuable and needed.
Which kind of production would you prefer to pursue next and why?
I would love to do a thriller. I personally love suspenseful stories, something psychological, maybe a little fantastical….Hey, Guillermo del Toro, call me!
You actively use social media to highlight injustices. How do you think social media platforms can be used effectively to combat discrimination or injustice?
We can see the changes have actually translated into legislation. The Islamic Regime is no longer on the Women’s Rights Commission for the UN. That is a direct result of social media pressure on global leaders to take action. More people have been asking me about Iran than ever. That is so important.
Let’s talk more about Iran! Who are your favourite artists from there?
Yes please, let’s! I love Sima Bina, Googoosh, Heydeh, all our amazing superstar divas of course! The poetry of Hafez, Rumi, and Khaju Khermani to name ONLY a few. Some of my favorite filmmakers include Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami, Mohammad Reza Aslani, Jafar Panahi who is currently in prison for his activism for basic human rights in Iran, and Ali Abassi who directed Holy Spider (the lead from which, Zar Amir Ebrahimi, won the award for best actress at Cannes). There’s also Hushidar Mortezaie who’s my favorite Iranian born visual artist and fashion designer, and whose work is often political and subversive. And of course, someone very important to us Iranians, an artist in her own right, Nasrin Sotoudeh who is a human rights attorney and activist in Iran currently imprisoned and suffering severe medical issues due to her imprisonment.
We love your style! What does fashion mean to you and how do you keep yourself inspired?
Thank you! I do love clothes…I like to try and find a balance between a classic and trendy look. I’m really inspired by new wave cinema and how those characters dressed. I’m most comfortable when I dress more “masculine,” (I guess that’s the word to use), I love pants. But there’s nothing like a femme fatale skirt and blouse look when you’re feeling frisky!
You know what they say; New Year, new beginnings! As 2023 just started, are there any habits you would like to get/change?
Practicing consistency more, you know they say, “half-assing something is better than not doing it all.” Whether it’s a workout or a new class I’m taking, I just try to do a little bit every day and not put too much pressure on myself. And drink more water… that’s always a good one.
NCIS:LA is airing now.
photography. Franz Steiner
fashion. Emily Burnette
talent. Medalion Rahimi
hair. Sophia Porter @ Exclusive Artists Management using T3
make up. Sally Steiner using @ Smashbox Beauty Cosmetics
production. Sally Steiner
studio. Optimist Studios LAX
words. Ceren Ay