'Tehran' Producers Talk AppleTV+ Debut for Israeli Spy Drama: "Know Your Enemy"

Tehran - Publicity still 2 - H 2020
Cineflix Rights/Paper Plane Productions/Donna Productions/Shula Spiegel Productions

'Fauda' scribe Moshe Zonder's Hebrew and Farsi-language thriller about Israel's shadow war with Iran stars 'Homeland' alum Shaun Toub and Navid Negahban.

Tehran executive producer Dana Eden says on-going U.S.-Iranian diplomatic tensions bode well for global audiences embracing the Israeli, but Iran-set espionage TV thriller from Netflix's Fauda writer Moshe Zonder as it premieres today on AppleTV+.

"What's going on with Iran and the U.S. is good for us. You always want to know your enemy," Eden tells The Hollywood Reporter. The eight-parter sees Israeli actress Niv Sultan play Mossad computer hacker Tamar Rabinyan who sneaks into Tehran, only to be hunted in her hometown of Tehran and forced to find refuge among dancing and drug-taking secular Iranians as her mission quickly goes wrong.

The Israeli agent, amid wild plot lurches, is pursued by Iranian security head Faraz Mehmet, played by Hollywood veteran Shaun Toub (Crash, Snowpiercer). And fellow Homeland alum Navid Negahban plays Tamar's Mossad field commander.

Eden recalls the Cold War-era spy thriller, with its disguises, double-crosses and intrigue, used by Hollywood to represent Russia as the enemy in countless movies and TV dramas. "For the Americans, Iran is the new villain," she adds.

The AppleTV+ drama originates from Israeli broadcaster Kan before Cineflix Rights secured the streaming distribution deal. Kan 11 is the commissioning broadcaster and key funder for the series.

Eden insists that, just as drug cartel dramas like Narcos, Loving Pablo and El Chapo put immigration at the heart of their drama plots, Tehran should appeal to Europeans whose families came from elsewhere or who are interested in refugees arriving in crisis at their borders from the Middle East and North Africa.

Julien Leroux, a consultant to Cineflix Rights and also a Tehran exec producer, sees the AppleTV+ thriller about a Mossad agent going rogue in Iran as a way to turn a Middle East hot spot into must-see TV.

"We're trying to do with Tehran what Fauda did (for the Israeli-Palestine conflict), but with a Mossad agent in Iran. Since Iran is hot in the news, I was looking for a way to tell a story around that conflict," he tells THR.

The Israeli political thriller Fauda revolved around an undercover Israeli unit behind Palestinian lines as its members fight to stop terrorists in the West Bank. Fauda first debuted on Israel's Yes network in 2015, before it streamed worldwide on Netflix.

Leroux argues Tehran as similarly-conceived edge-of-your-seat TV drama makes the simmering Israeli-Iran conflict instantly accessible to a broad global audience. "It's not just those who read the New York Times that will get this show," he says.

And Leroux sees the Hebrew and Farsi dialogue in Tehran as an advantage in reaching U.S. TV audiences. "Its no barrier now. Languages are if anything providing another experience. We've seen with Narcos, in Spanish. People have an appetite for dramas that aren't just cookie cutter TV," he explains.