Tehran tells the story of a Mossad agent as she embarks on her very first mission — a death-defying journey through the titular city which also happens to be the agent’s birthplace. As the circumstances of her mission suddenly change, she’s forced into the underground, navigating the back streets of the Iranian capital as she discovers more about the city, Iran’s turbulent political situation, and, by the end, herself.
Leading this trepidatious tale is Niv Sultan, an Israeli actress making her global debut in the Apple TV+ series. Sultan has been a growing star in the world of Israeli film and TV, and with Tehran, she’s getting ready to take the world by storm. Schön! caught up with Sultan to hear more about the role of Tamar and where she sees the series going in the future.
When you first read for Tamar, what did you connect with most?
Well first, she is a real badass — carrying this huge responsibility on her shoulders, believing in herself and having this Israeli “chutzpah” while she is all alone out there under enemy lines. But most of all, I love the fact that she is a real person with so many layers. She is not the Mossad agent cliché; she allows herself to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, to explore her roots and to go through this fascinating journey in the most authentic way.
You had to learn both Farsi and Krav Maga for this role. What was the most memorable moment from both of these experiences?
Learning Farsi was challenging, interesting and frustrating all at the same time. I had an amazing teacher — a very kind, warm and nice woman. But once I had begun the process of learning Farsi, she became a super tough teacher. She did not make my life easy and I would find myself repeating the same word over and over, sometimes 20 times in a row. Then the whole day all I was thinking of was just one, specific word in Farsi.
Did you do any other research to prepare for the role? What was it?
I had to learn not only the language, but really immerse myself in the Persian culture: food, history, customs. I even had some Persian dance lessons.
Kind of on the topic of dancing, what’s the key to making a good fight scene?
That was one of our real challenges. We wanted everything to look authentic without breaking our noses. In every fight scene, we did a little choreography dance, and everyone just knew their sequence of movements. And then, the real responsibility was on the director and the photographer. They were tasked with ultimately choosing the right angles and right positions of the camera.
What was the hardest scene to film from the first series of Tehran?
For me, the hardest scene was the fight between Tamar and Karim. As I said, the fighting scenes were incredibly challenging. I wanted everything to look as authentic as possible. I was nervous about everything. Dani, the director, kept saying to me, ‘Niv, trust me. Everything looks good.’ And when I saw that scene on screen for the first time, I thought, Okay, not bad. Everyone really did an amazing job. That is one of my favourite scenes.
Now that the series is out, what has been the best part about seeing fans react to the series?
I think that the fact that so many people from all over the world get to know this amazing story and to connect with our characters is simply incredible. I am getting responses on my Instagram from all over the world, including Iran. For me, as an Israeli actress, to get love from Iranian people is one of the most exciting things that could’ve happened.
What are your predictions for a second season? How would you like to see Tamar grow?
Well that is an extremely difficult question. I think that this girl is super ambitious and enthusiastic, and I am sure her mission isn’t over yet.
Why do you think you were drawn to acting in the first place?
Ever since I was a child, while watching movies and TV, I felt a huge connection to this profession. I think that the possibility of being someone else every time, with a different story, portraying some extreme characters in extreme situations, which I probably will never get to experience in real life, really attracted me.
Before Tehran, you were on The Stylist. What can you tell us about that experience?
In The Stylist, I was portraying a young stylist who just moved to Tel Aviv to try fulfilling her dream in the fashion industry. For me, this role had come at the perfect time because I had just moved to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem to try fulfill my dream here as an actress. I could really relate to the character’s feelings and experiences, and it was extremely unique.
When you are not on set, what do you like to do in your free time?
Spending time with my family means everything to me. They are my safe place. I also love to travel a lot, in Israel and abroad. I can spend hours reading a book if it is the right book. Having a good meal. And during the pandemic, I’ve also been baking a lot.
What are you looking forward to right now?
I am hoping to get some more challenging and interesting roles. Everything that happened with Tehran really opened my mind to the amazing possibility of working in international productions. I am hoping to refine my skills as an actress — and most importantly, I’m enjoying every day.
‘Tehran’ is currently airing on Apple TV+.
This Schön! online exclusive has been produced by
photography + fashion. Simon Elmalem
talent. Niv Sultan
hair + make up. Nirit Hirschman
photography assistants. Daniel Jackont + Dean Ben Dror
fashion assistant. Noa Nozik
photographed in the house of the Israeli painter Reuven Robin in Caesarea
interview. Braden Bjella