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A PERSIAN ROSE BLOOMS: An Interview with actress Shiva Rose McDermott


Interview by Darius KADIVAR and Parisa DEFAIE
First Published in OCPC Magazine April issue 2007





Shiva Rose has recently starred in Kurdish American Jay Jonroy's movie David and Layla (2006), a "Political Romantic Comedy" about the sparks that fly when a Jewish and a Muslim fall in love in New York. Her Performance recently her the Best Breakthrough Performance Award at the Fort Launderdale Intenational Film Festival. The daughter of legendary Iranian television host before the Revolution, Parviz Gharibafshar, Shiva Rose is not only an actress but also active in anti-war protests, human rights and organizations including V-Day, created to end violence against women, and CCFA ( Caring for Children With AIDS), She currently resides in Los Angeles with her two daughters  Collette and Charlotte Rose which she has with her former husband actor Dylan McDermott.


Darius KADIVAR (DK):Were you surprised by the success of Jay Jonroy's David & Layla ?


Shiva Rose McDermott (SRM): I am surprised by how well it's doing in film festivals, I am hoping it gets more audience. Also considering the low budget and how rushed we were getting it done, I am surprised how beautiful it came out and very happy that it is doing so well.


DK: Sexuality is still very taboo in Middle Eastern and Iranian films. Jonroy's film tries to break some ground while keeping it decent and with a lot of humor. What is your view to nudity on film ? Can or should Iranian actors explore this avenue ?


SRM: It is a  big challenge for me as well ! (laughs) I still don't want for my father to see the last couple of scenes because it is of such nature. But at a certain point, I have to remember that I am a grown woman, and an actor, who is portraying a character.


I think it's okay to have such scenes if it is not overly sexual. I think there should be a balance. And in this case, the scenes are filled with humor, which makes the scene less sexual and I think more interesting. But I have to say that compared to American actors, I have more challengers with these scenes.


This particular scene which is Layla and David's wedding night, was an important scene, to the story and characters. There are so many layers to the story that made these scenes necessary.


Parisa Defaie (PD): Mississippi Masala, Bend It like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice are all cross-cultural love stories, what makes David and Layla so different ?


SRM: It is such a perfect timing for this movie, since it addresses two of the greatest religions in a non-threatening way. I have noticed that people recoil when the subject of religion comes up, people just don't want to talk about it, because they don't want to be seen as prejudiced or racist. In a way, this movie touches on those issues in such an easy way. The truth is that we are all humans and I hope this movie touches people to feel for one another. And the success of the movie, shows that it touches on those nerves, that's why I hope it reaches more audience.



Shiva Rose Iranian-American Hollywood Actress is deeply attached to her Persian Roots


PD: What is your favorite line or scene in the movie ?


SRM: "Life is short, and fate is fickle."

That always stayed on my mind. Because Layla is a survivor, she survived a massacre during the Saddam Hussein's attack on the Kurds. I like the fact that she is living her life as a survivor and not a victim.

DK: You grew up in a cosmopolitan family with a famous Iranian father and a beautiful American mother, who also had a popular family TV show on NIRT aimed at both Iranians and non Iranians about understanding one another's culture and life styles. Did you live in Iran and what souvenirs do you have from your childhood there ?


SRM: I believe living in Iran shaped me into who I am today. I would not change it for the world. I feel that I am an Iranian and an American. But the Iranian side seems to be at my core, because the first 10 years of your life shapes who you are. I cherish and embrace it, because it gives me a different perspective on life. As for souvenirs, I don't have any physical ones, since we escaped. My mother said we only had one suitcase that we could take with us, and I brought my stuffed animal, but she filled the rest with photographs. I think what if I had to run away with my family in the middle of the night ? What would I take with me ? And I know I would take the photographs too.


Parviz Gharibafshar's TV show with guests (from left): Giti, Khosro Haritash
(the late filmmaker), Gharibafshar, Soraya Ghasemi, and Sattar. Norooz of 1977 Channel 2


So, I brought with me the memories from Iran which are priceless. I remember I had such love of the mountains. I remember the bazaars. What saddens me though is sometimes I have this haunting, yearning to go back, but I worry because I hear that things have changes so much. I want to have my old memories. I don't want to see the pollution or traffic jams. I know I will go back one day and will visit the country sides ... places like Rasht.



PD: As mother and actor, I know how challenging it is to balance career, and family. How do you manage to be successful in both areas ?


SRM: The fact is that I probably would have been more successful in my career if I did not have a family. BUT my life would not have been so rich. You are as good an actor as you are a human being. You don't want to close off your life experiences, and I am a better actor because of my life experiences. It is definitively challenging juggling both, for example David and Layla is going to show in Belgium next week, and I won't be able to go due to family obligations. I am also busy doing a play.


Hollywood and NY Premiere of David & Layla with Director Jay Jonroy and fellow
stars David Moscow, Shiva Rose, and cast. Thanks to her role as Layla, Shiva has
become, an iconic Sex symbol for Kurdish Cinema Š


So having a family and managing a career is challenging, but it makes you not procrastinate. You have to get things done since time is limited, and you have no choice.


DK: There seems to be a better understanding in Hollywood circles in regards to Middle East Issues. The critical success of films like Syriana, or Sean Penn visiting Iran or greeting Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji in LA or the upcoming film The Kite Runner based on Khaled Hosseini's best-selling novel are a few examples that come to mind. Has being half Persian been an asset or a handicap in your Hollywood career ?  


SRM: Well, there is probably a little bit of both. I know when I go for a casting and they are looking for middle eastern women, I don't really look middle Eastern enough. Or if they are looking for American, I don't look American. So usually most of the parts I get are Kurdish, Russian or European. So that could be frustrating.


PD: You are the only Persian-American actor I know who is so passionately active in the fight against violence and war. How do you think we can effectively demonstrate our opposition to such issues ?


SRM: I am so passionate about my motherland Iran. I have been politically active in the fight against war and violence, since as an American I can say whatever I want to. Sometimes my father worries about me, and I assure him that as an American I have rights. I can protest and stand up for what I believe in, which in a way is a blessing being half American. Few years ago when the war with Iraq started I felt like I was banging my head against the wall. I thought it did not matter to anyone, but now, I really see that all the actions that everyone has been taking as an artist or musician ( like the Dixie Chicks) are coming around. So I am optimistic that if we stay with our opinion and keep marching ahead, eventually things will change.



Shiva Rose in Hollywood Šimdb & & OCPC's cover Ben Bernous



As artists we can use our voices and there are ways to stay firm with your opinion, and find value in what you are doing.


DK: You hope to produce, act and maybe direct the screen adaptation of The Persian Bride. What is the story about and what made you interested in this particular novel ?


SRM: The movie won't be about the entire book, only the first few chapters, which tells a beautiful story about an English man who travels to Iran at the age of 18. He starts teaching English and falls for one of his students, an incredible Iranian woman who is so unlike what the Western people perceive of a veiled Iranian woman. There are so many different and interesting characters. The whole story is about this couple who are in love and the hardship they go through to stay together. They escape and end up living in an old Russian embassy, and that's when this woman's character really shows the strength and wisdom of an Iranian woman. The English man ends up losing his wife and the rest of the novel he is searching for his lost love. The story is so dynamic and beautiful.



Shiva Rose with
OCPC's cover photographer Ben Bernous (


PD: What message do you have for Iranian actors who are struggling at this unpleasant political era ?


SRM: Embrace your Nationality. It is who you are, it is your soul, that is the thing which will make you stand out !




 SHIVA ROSE ! ;0) 


Authors notes:


Trailer of David and Layla


Director Jay Jonroy Official Website and his MySpace Page


Recommended Viewing:


Trailer of David and Layla


Shiva Rose in a smart funny short film Desynchanted with Jim Balushi (youtube)

Recommended Readings:

David & Layla : When Love Transcends Religious Prejudice by Darius KADIVAR

Persian Golden Boys in Hollywood by Darius KADIVAR

Pasdar Fever Hits France by Darius KADIVAR

Sultan of my Heart : Monika Jalili and Noorsaaz's Remembrance of Things Past by Darius KADIVAR


PERSIAN BELLA RAGAZZA: Maya Sansa Set to Conquer European Cinema by Darius KADIVAR


Iranian Pioneers in French Cinema by Darius KADIVAR

Asgar for an Oscar by Darius KADIVAR

Nailing the Script: Screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh by Darius KADIVAR

Other Interviews :

Close Up on Shohreh Aghdashloo by Darius KADIVAR & Parisa Defaie

In The Arena With Omid Djalili by Darius KADIVAR

Tony Nourmand's Golden Eye by Darius KADIVAR  

Darren Shahlavi: The Immortal Stuntsman by Darius KADIVAR


Nazanin Afshin-Jam's Struggle Continues by Darius KADIVAR


About Parisa DEFAIE:

Parisa is an actor/Director who lives and works in L.A. She can be contacted via Her Official website



About the Author:
Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant.

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