Shaun Toub Bridges Israeli-Iranian Relations as a Spy Chaser in 'Tehran'

In the Apple TV Plus spy thriller, the veteran actor plays an Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer hunting an Israel agent. For CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, he talks about why the show is resonating with viewers in both Israel and Iran.

Connie Guglielmo SVP, AI Edit Strategy
Connie Guglielmo is a senior vice president focused on AI edit strategy for CNET, a Red Ventures company. Previously, she was editor in chief of CNET, overseeing an award-winning team of reporters, editors and photojournalists producing original content about what's new, different and worth your attention. A veteran business-tech journalist, she's worked at MacWeek, Wired, Upside, Interactive Week, Bloomberg News and Forbes covering Apple and the big tech companies. She covets her original nail from the HP garage, a Mac the Knife mug from MacWEEK, her pre-Version 1.0 iPod, a desk chair from Next Computer and a tie-dyed BMUG T-shirt. She believes facts matter.
Expertise I've been fortunate to work my entire career in Silicon Valley, from the early days of the Mac to the boom/bust dot-com era to the current age of the internet, and interviewed notable executives including Steve Jobs. Credentials
  • Member of the board, UCLA Daily Bruin Alumni Network; advisory board, Center for Ethical Leadership in the Media
Connie Guglielmo
2 min read
Actor Shaun Toub walks up a stairway

Shaun Toub stars in the Apple TV Plus spy thriller Tehran.

Apple TV Plus

Shaun Toub said he wasn't sure he wanted to star in an Israeli production when he was pitched the script for Tehran, a fast-paced spy thriller about the machinations between Israeli secret services and his home country of Iran. But the character of Faraz Kamali, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer intent on catching an Israeli computer hacker and Mossad agent named Tamar who's trying to destroy Iran's nuclear reactor, was too good to pass on. 

Season 2 is now streaming on Apple TV Plus. 

The fact we're never sure who the good guys and bad guys are -- Tamar, Kamali, Israel, Iran -- has helped the show appeal to viewers in both countries, Toub said. And though the countries may be at odds, we also learn about how they're oddly intertwined as we discover the Mossad agent (played by Niv Sultan) has family ties to Tehran. Season 1 ended with her aunt and uncle unwittingly caught up in her spy games after her mission fails and she tries to leave the country, while Kamali is pushed out of the guard when he fails to catch her.  

When you learn more about the characters and their complicated personal lives -- Kamali is a family man who loves his ailing wife -- you realize that "people are just people," Toub said in an interview for CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast series. 

"That's why people in Iran, they are loving the series and they are into it now. And also, the Isarelis are loving the series," he said. "Maybe Tehran does something for the two countries to be able to see each other in a different way."

Toub said he likes playing complicated characters, with his list of movie and TV credits including roles in The Kite Runner,  Homeland and Grimm. In Iron Man, he plays Yinsen, the scientist who helps Tony Stark escape from his kidnappers at the beginning of the story. His poignant death helps transform Stark from an arms dealer to a superhero. "We made a big mistake killing Yinsen," he said with a laugh. 

He also laughs when he tells me about how he used to do a lot of comedic roles. One of his most notable: playing a store clerk who thinks he's going to be robbed, in 1995's Bad Boys with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. His ad-libbed twist on a profanity turned him into a meme before we even knew what memes were. "Watch it. You'll like it," he told me. 

You can listen to my entire conversation with Toub via the podcast player above. And subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Patrick Holland or I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.