Feature > Interview > THE DEFIANT PARISA DEFAIE BY SHABNAM REZAEI
A self-confessed family woman and an acclaimed actress, Parisa Defaie is a talented and dedicated professional. Born in Tehran, this Persian beauty is a real actor’s actor, having starred on TV shows, plays and now even writing her own material. We had a chance to talk to her recently.
PersianMirror: Tell us a little about your background and where you grew up?
Parisa Defaie: I was born in Tehran. I come from a small family. I have a younger brother, and we were both raised in Tehran. I spent most of my teenage years in Dubai, where my family resided a few years after the revolution. Soon after I finished high school, in search of a credible college, we moved to Budapest, Hungary. Meanwhile, my relatives were trying to help us relocated to U.S. In 1990 we became the lucky winners of the U.S residency lottery. With the help of my aunt and uncle we moved to California and started the new bitter/sweet chapter of our lives.
PM: What attracted you to the Arts and how (if at all) did your family influence your decision to make acting your profession?
PD: According to my parents I was always a quiet child, but very observant. For as long as I remember I loved to read and write stories. I received many books for my birthdays and Norooz, besides the ones my parents provided me. Most of the stories I wrote were inspired by the books I read or events that happened in our family circle, with a touch of my own imagination. These elaborated stories eventually turned into adventures and plays. I even wrote monologues and performed it for my parents, whom recognized my potential in Art and creativity. Acting was far from our minds; I was encouraged to write more often. Therefore my creativity was flourishing through my stories, and interesting characters I created. My decision to study film and theatre was directly related to my fascination with this type of art and expression. My family supported me unconditionally. I remember my parents sitting in their car waiting for me to finish editing my projects in the midnight hours. Attending every performance in college and assisting me in any way they could.
PM: Tell us about your first role and how it felt to do it?
PD: My first role in theatre was a young widower, based on Van McBride’s book named Echoes. A series of Monologues and Ensembles. The Play went on for One month, every Thursday through Saturday in San Francisco. The popularity of the play increased as we performed every week, and towards the end of the month, the show was sold out! In theatre you have no room for error, and the feedback of the audience is immediate. We had time to rehearse for a full month, but no matter how prepared I was I would feel the “butterflies” in my stomach before each performance. I still get them to this date. Once I enter the stage, there is no going back!!
It was after one of the performances that I met the director of my first Independent movie “ Unreal”. A story about a schizophrenic man who is framed by his wife. I was offered to play the role of Sera, the twisted and troubled wife which was quite challenging. That was the start of an exciting journey that still continues.
PM: You have had so many different roles. Do you prefer a certain medium and why?
PD: They are both rewarding and challenging in their own way. However, I have more experience in feeling the excitement of going on stage and transform into a role. I tend to connect with the audience more when I am on stage. And as for film, I have always tried to be as truthful as possible, so that my emotional honesty is translated well on to the screen.
PM: Where do you find inspiration?
PD: My family, friends everything and everyone around me. I absorb every encounter and record them mentally. And I do re- visit them occasionally. My memories of the events work like a treasure box. Each time I open it I find something valuable. Acting is not just about memorizing lines, but knowing HOW to deliver them. The script gives us countless information besides the story and dialogue. It’s our job as actors to understand the character and circumstances, analyze every line and access our emotions proper to the situation. That is precisely why I call acting a “mental and emotional Aerobics”.
PM: What is your next project and what other things are you working on?
PD: My next project is called “Diagnosis Determined” a feature based on a true story. I play the supporting role of a Doctor. We will start shooting in February, and meanwhile I am co-writing a stage monologue based on the distorted perception of western world toward Middle Eastern Women. I am expecting a busy and exciting 2007!
PM: You were born in Iran. What is your favorite part about Iran and its rich culture?
PD: I remember everything about Iran, and there is still so much that I have not seen. I vividly remember our trips to “ Veresk”. I used to sit and wait for the train, which crossed the tiny railroad bridge located in between two tall mountains. I remember the beautiful scenery and friendly people of the village. My favorite holiday was Eid e Norooz. Shopping for new clothes and visiting my favorite shoe store “ Kafsheh Bella”. And then of course setting up the “Haft seen”, “saleh Tahvil”, and the smell of brand new bills. Or waiting to get out of school so we could visit the old man and his wooden cart selling “zoghal akhthe”. I loved the winter days in Tehran, particulaty the days school was announced closed due to heavy snow fall and….I could go on forever!!! Sometimes I tell my kids about Iran and my childhood, our rich culture and the importance of keeping our heritage. I am proud to say that they both speak Farsi fluently and as time goes on they will understand more about their culture and its magnificence.
PM: Desert Island. Three things. What will you take?
PD: A good book, my sunscreen and a picture of my family!
Full Name: Parisa Defaie Jolani
Favorite Color: Green
Favorite City: Laguna Beach
Favorite Dish:my mom’s Quince stew “ khoreshteh Beh”
Languages: Farsi, English and conversational Spanish.
Currently Reading: ‘ In the name of honor” a memoir of Moukhtar Mai.