Salomé Azizi has been slaying the guest star role in hit shows such as Black-ish, Transparent, Jane The Virgin and NCIS. A native of Iran, Salomé grew up in London and graduated from the University of Westminster where she studied law.
Fresh off her big screen debut in American Wrestler: The Wizard starring Jon Voight, Salomé tells JossBecause about breaking into the industry, diversity in television and her first film experience.
What was your experience working on your first feature film?
I was very nervous and excited to do it. It’s about this young man who has to escape from Iran and was smuggled out by his parents. I played the role of his mother. It was a really intense and emotional scene that I did. It was a brilliant experience, I was obviously really nervous but everyone was really friendly. I remember when I first walked on the set everyone was so friendly. It was a pleasant experience for my first time!
You said it was a very emotional scene that you were in, where did you draw from, not being a mother yourself?
This story was quite personal to me because my mom and I had a very similar experience. It wasn’t as intense as portrayed in the movie but we also left Iran after the Revolution and we immigrated to England. I have that experience of being separated from my family. My mom literally left her work, family, everything she knew at a drop of a hat over night.
I really drew from that day when I said goodbye to my family, and you just don’t know when you’re going to see them again. You have no idea where you’re going. You’re going to a new country and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Given your history, and uncertainty it isn’t necessarily ideal to go into the entertainment industry that holds a lot of uncertainty as well. What made you want to become an actress?
I secretly always wanted to become an actress. I felt like I should have a responsible role and have money come in to support my family and be a good daughter. That was the reason I went to study law; I didn’t think about it. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Studying law was great, I loved it. But once I started practicing it I realized this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This is not who I am. I’m not happy.
So I took year off and went travelling to figure out what I wanted to do. When I came back I went into journalism and started working for the BBC which was a great experience. Then I started getting into acting classes in the evening. When I moved to Los Angeles I knew it was now or never.
As someone with a professional background, do you think it’s important to have a backup? Would you give that advice to someone trying to get into the industry?
Here’s the thing. A lot of people look at Hollywood and acting and think “Oh wow, I can do that…I’m pretty enough…it looks so easy”. The people on-screen who make it look so easy are professionals. They’ve been doing it for years before they ever hit the big screen and that’s the back story a lot of people aren’t aware of. A lot of people who come to Los Angeles, they don’t study, they audition and they’re met with failure.
Yes you must have thick skin and you have to audition, but you also have to study; it’s like any other profession. Develop your skill and put the time in.
Back to your question, yes it’s good to have a backup. A lot of people have the finances to see this profession through until they make it. If you don’t have money you won’t be able to do it. I don’t practice my profession but I have a side business because this industry is so unpredictable that I have to financially sustain myself.
You did guest spots on Jane The Virgin and Black-ish – what are these shows doing now that we didn’t see 10, 20 years ago?
They’re opening up conversation. Whether you’re gay, black, Hispanic, they’re bringing people to the main stream that were sidelined before. For example with Black-ish they deal with a lot of social issues in a comedic way that are relevant to a lot of people of color or not of color.
These shows are opening doors for future generations.
This interview has been edited and condensed.