March 18, 2012 2:27pm PT by Jethro Nededog
'Shahs of Sunset' Star Reza Farahan on the Critics: 'You Can't Make Everyone Happy'
Being openly gay, Reza Farahan appears as if he was totally ready for the backlash to his new series, Shahs of Sunset. Even before its premiere, there were rumblings. After it premiered last week, angry Iranian-Americans created petitions to have the show pulled from Bravo complaining that it perpetuated stereotypes.
“The Persians that are complaining now, they would be complaining no matter what,” Farahan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “If we were all tall, they’d say, ‘You’re too tall.’ If we were all short, they’d say, ‘Oh, they’re all short, they don’t represent us.’ You can’t make everyone happy, and I’m not trying to.”
THR spoke to Farahan recently about his relationships with his fellow cast members, his family, and what may and may not appear on the series.
Do you really hang out with the group of friends on the show regularly?
Farahan:Very regularly. If you watch the show, I think you’re going to see pictures and things from 20 years ago, just stuff I’ve seen online from the old trailers and stuff, you know, it’s very unique, in that we’re all actual friends. We’ve known each other. We have years of history together. So it’s going to be fun to get that kind of group on TV, not just a group of people that meet, because of the show.
Asa [Soltan Rahmati] seems to stick out like a sore thumb. Do you worry about the way you’ve treated her on-camera?
Farahan: Well, you know, Asa and I have been friends for awhile, and you guys don’t get 365 days of my life and my relationship with Asa. You guys got a chunk of a summer of my life with Asa. And that was how I felt about Asa, because of things that were going on with us. So all I can say is things aren’t always stagnant. So things change, relationships, there’s ebbs and flows, and peaks and valleys, and you’ll have to tune in, because the beauty of it is, it’s real, it’s happening, and you may feel a certain way at one point, and as time progresses, things may change.
Did you find shooting a reality series difficult?
Farahan: No, not at all. For me, it was really easy. I maintain a tight ship. Everything’s great at home at all times. So, if the cameras were in my house, everything would always look great anyway. I didn’t have to change anything, because they were around, it was just my life. I was just living, and it just kind of faded into the background, and I always had a message that I wanted to get out, so for me, it was always a joy to be there.
What is that message?
Farahan: That Persian homosexuals do exist and they can actually have successful lives with loving families and deep friendships in the community.
Did your family have reservations about you joining a show like this?
Farahan: Yes, my mom definitely had reservations, just because she was worried about nasty comments or people that might not be as open minded as she is, or as loving and accepting as my family is. But, I basically drove the point home that I’m not doing this for any other reason than to bring about awareness. And if that involves me taking some heat, and our family taking some heat, I feel like it’s worth it. Even though they’re like, “Listen, you are who you are. We love you. You don’t necessarily need to go on TV, and announce it to the world.” But if everyone thought that way, things wouldn’t change. Someone does need to get on TV. Someone does need to announce it to the world. If everyone lives in the closet, or if everyone lived in their little bubble, things wouldn’t change.
Being gay, you may have expected some controversy. But, do you think your cast members were ready for the attention?
Farahan: I feel like there’s been little things here and there that I’ve seen along the way that makes me feel as a group we’re all very grounded, and we have a solid foundation, and we have the support of our friends and family. You know, the larger broader community, we’re not going to be able to make everyone happy. It’s just the fact of the fact. The people that are unhappy just happen to be speaking louder than the people that are happy right now.
The Persians that are complaining don’t see the comments that I get, or the direct Facebook messages that I get. One of which I got the other day that I was reading to my mom that almost brought me to tears. It was from a Persian girl who thanked me and told me that she hopes that I open doors, because she watched her brother’s painful life living in the closet, and being afraid of his family, and that’s why I’m on here.
What’s the biggest storyline for you this season?
Farahan: I feel like one of the biggest for me, just because of the time that we were filming, was a very emotional reunion with my father. It’s an overdue conversation that I have with my dad, and it was really powerful, and it was life-altering for me. And it just so happens that the cameras were there to catch it, and I broke out into the ugly cry. And I don’t know how I’m going to feel like when I watch myself on television, but I elected to be on the show, and it was happening, it was a part of my life, and I share it with my friends, and the world. It’s going to be out there and it was really powerful for me. It was one of the most important conversations I’ve had in my life, with any other person, and it happened to be with my dad while we were filming the show.
If the series gets renewed, will viewers see a very different version of you from the one that shot that summer?
Farahan: I would say absolutely. If and when there is a Season 2, do I feel like people will have more in their repertoire when it comes to me and my friends? Absolutely. People aren’t going to see that I’ve been volunteering at Project Angel Food for six years and delivering meals to people that are homebound because of HIV and AIDS. They don’t’ see that. Is that a part of my life? Absolutely, but it may not make it on television. But, it doesn’t mean that I’m not involved in a lot of philanthropic endeavors. They may not see me interacting with every single one of my relatives. The cameras may not catch every single moment of my life. So, I feel like the more that cameras are there, the more Reza you’ll get. The more facets of my life you’ll be exposed to.
Shahs of Sunset airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Bravo.
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro