Who Is Armin Amiri? Meet The Leading Man Spicing Up Seema’s Single Life

by Freya Drohan
armin amiri

And Just Like That, Seema has met her smoking hot match. And from what we’ve been made privy to, sparks are about to fly in some seriously fire-emoji-worthy bedroom scenes. We might be nearing the end of season two, but the doors have just been opened for newcomer Ravi to waltz right in and ruffle some feathers and gain some new fans—and not just amongst his female co-stars, either. Even Aidan has taken a shine to Armin Amiri, the Iranian American actor playing the Marvel movie director and Seema’s love interest. We heard a whisper back in the spring about his casting, so we called up the Renaissance man to get the lowdown on his backstory. Lo-and-behold, it’s worthy of a TV show all of its own…

What have you been up to lately? What made you decide to do the show? 
My mom was a huge Sex & the City fan. I lost her about two years ago. The movie that I just made, which was my first time directing, is about a guy who lives with his mom. We escaped Iran when I was 13 and I had so much trauma from saying goodbye to my mom when we got to Turkey. I didn’t see her for about 20 years after that. This film I made recently, Dear Albert, is about a guy and his mom, but it’s all in his imagination. I’m really proud of it. As for the show, I’m also a New Yorker at heart—I used to live on Perry Street, so it’s a full-circle moment!

Tell us more about the film and what else you’ve been up to in LA recently.
It was my first time directing. My mom actually passed the night before we were going to start shooting. We shot it at Chateau Marmont in a 1950s-type, Fellini-style. Shooting at the Chateau during COVID was unbelievable. There’s always a lot of magical stuff happening there. They’ve been eating the film up in Europe, which is great. I just worked on Julie Delphy’s TV series, On The Verge, which is on Netflix, plus I produced and starred in a film which was the first Iranian film shot in the US, called The Night. I’m also a lead in this film called The Last Act, which was a Cannes winner.

You’ve been busy! Let’s go back. Where did it all begin?
Factory Girl was my breakthrough. After that, I did The Wrestler, then Reservation Road. I started acting back in the 1990s, and I was playing a lot of different characters. But after the war, all the roles I was getting set up with were stereotypical terrorists! I didn’t become an actor to do things like that. So, I sat back and designed bars and restaurants. Now, with [more representation and inclusivity], it’s opening up more. I wouldn’t have been considered by the American mainstream [audience] before. A Middle Eastern guy in a romantic lead? America wouldn’t have been interested!

Armin Amiri (Courtesy)

How did you make your way to the US?
We left Iran in 1985, when I was 13, and I went to Turkey with my parents. They got me a fake passport, and that’s when I went with a con-man who took me to Bulgaria. [Officials] found out my passport was fake, and I was thrown in jail for three days. When I got out, I went to Yugoslavia, which was still Communist at the time, where another man picked me up and brought me to Vienna. I lived in a refugee camp for about a year and a half until they found out I was underage. I was in a room with about 21 other Iranians. I came to America in 1989, by myself, and studied in San Francisco. I’ve been on my own since I was 14…the universe had been so kind taking care of me!

Wow. Did you always know you wanted to be a performer?
I remember when Michael Jackson had just released Thriller when I was a teenager in Iran. I was mesmerized. Going back to when I was in Vienna, I was in quarantine for about three months. The second day after that ended, I met a Hungarian family who were talking about Michael Jackson and saying he was going to come to Vienna for a concert. I jumped from train to train to get there, until I ended up in front of the stadium. Kim Wilde was opening for him. It was 50 shillings to go in, but of course I had no money! I was happy to just be breathing the same air, but suddenly one door stayed half open while the security were smoking, so I ran in and ended up right in the front row. There was Michael Jackson, who spun around wearing a wolf mask and pointed at the crowd as he started to sing Thriller. My imagination had been created in that living room as a kid watching him. I knew how to manifest, even at that early age. I have only been back to Iran once, 30 years later from those memories, and to now see myself on the TV…if you put it out there, the universe puts you in certain positions to do certain things.

Let’s chat about how you made your way to New York. I know you were very ‘on the scene’ there during the OG Sex and the City days.
I was teaching improv process in New York. This is going way, way, way back—but I also became ‘the guy’ at Bungalow 8. Everyone had to get through me. It was such a great mix of everyone…it was like I was ‘casting’ the room every single night [laughs]. It was getting crazier and crazier, and then I did Factory Girl and I was getting some stalkers! So I pulled back from that, and designed a place called Socialista. Sting and Trudy and a bunch of people came and put money behind it. I was juggling the two things—acting and hospitality—and at one point you have to make a decision. That’s when I moved to LA. I actually wrote a book, which I haven’t published yet.

LA and New York are obviously so different….what was the transition like?
LA is so opposite! But what it gave me was the space to go and start creating. I did a movie with Christian Bale, Armenian Genocide, and a TV series, Deep State, in Morocco.

What’s the experience been like working on And Just Like That?
It was a hoot and a dream! I understand why it’s been such a success. Michael Patrick King is unbelievable. Working as an actor, sometimes you don’t fully trust directors. But with him, nothing goes without him seeing it. You’d be out of your mind not to listen to his directions! The costumes, the restaurants; it’s just top notch. The cast, from Sarah Jessica Parker to everyone else involved, were so welcoming. I feel very privileged.

Like you said, it’s an incredible platform to show a different type of romantic lead for a newer audience too.
Western media has not really been covering what’s happening in Iran. Iran is a very special place, with lovely people. Being Iranian, it was tough not being able to go back [for so long].

armin amiri

Armin Amiri (Courtesy)

Your parents returned?
They went back. My dad was a makeup artist and a hairdresser, and my mom was an actress. Life got a hold of my mom and made her old really quickly; there was a harshness of life there. From this side—I got to New York in 1992—I was just trying to financially be there for them when the country was going through turmoil. We didn’t see each other for 18 years and communication was so limited back then. Over recent years—I was so happy to be able to FaceTime them. When I was in the [refugee] camp, I was allowed to take one call a week. I’d lie to them, tell them everything is great. I didn’t want them to know.

With your parents having those jobs, it’s like movies were always written in the stars for you. What does fame mean to you?
For me, it’s just all about being able to do what it is I love when I wake up in the morning. I’ve done everything in my power to stay true to that.

How did your casting on the show come about?
They came to ask me to read for a part. Their stuff is very hush, hush! Next day, I got a call. Since COVID, there’s no more room meetings. You tape everything and send it off. It feels like you sent it into a dark hole and you don’t know if anyone even sees it. But they put in an offer….three hours later, they pulled it! I thought, ‘This is just my luck.’ But they came back and said no, the character is getting bigger. HBO [now Max] needs a bigger approval process and I would need to do a screen test with the actress. A few minutes after I got home, another offer came back in, and they said, ‘You’re going out to NYC!’

What are you most excited for about your storyline? What can you tease about the role?
I’m a newcomer, with a very strong storyline. It’s a very well-rounded storyline, especially for a male Middle Eastern actor. There is nudity, which is groundbreaking. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that, personally, especially not on prime time TV. It was the most comfortable set I’ve ever been on. The scene was handled with so much class and care.

Ok we’re gathering that you’re a love interest for someone…can you give us a clue as to who your character reminds you of?
The writers and the creator have created an amazing character. He’s very stylish and worldly. Like a Rhett Butler type! He has pride and passion. Going from where I come from and looking at the character from afar, right away I identified with him as he’s different. He’s from a different part of the world. The reason he is who he is is because of how strong he had to be to become who he is. I was able to use a lot of my own story for the role.

Given what you said about Bungalow 8, I feel it’s pretty surprising you were never on the original show!
I know! In the heyday of the show, they were shooting an episode at Bungalow, and they asked me to do the door. I said, ‘No! I’m a serious actor.’ And here I am 23 years later on it [laughs].

Fate! I’ve so many questions about Bungalow 8. Seeing that whole era on Sex & The City as a kid was definitely what made me want to move to New York when I got older.
It was so of the time. After Studio 54, there was Bungalow. It was Paris Hilton, with Kim Kardashian behind her on two BlackBerries working for her. All these cats…the real beginning of celebrity! We had everyone. What I did, which helped the whole status, was help to pick the right mix: Trans people, Bill Clinton, Mick Jagger, someone who could have been homeless for all you knew. The good thing about the door was that it was a small space, it only fit about 170 people. If we had 200, we were packed. That helped to filter, but people would get so mad. When Bungalow opened, there was nothing around there. It was a garage and then that whole area…people would just block off all of 27th Street. So many people! I learned so much, and met so many interesting people. It definitely gave me a taste for what Hollywood could be like.

What happened with [nightclub] Socialista? People always tell me it was the best time.
I opened Socialista in 2007. I designed it myself with my own hands…and feet! [Laughs] I put together the concept, it was really lovely and the design was inspired by Europe in the ’50s and ’60s; a more glamorous time like when my grandparents had traveled there. The partners that came in, who backed me, were great. But I was never interested in it longtime. It was taking care of me when there was no open ethnicity in Hollywood though.

God, nightlife in New York is so terrible now.
It’s so bad! Awful. The Box is awesome. But [Redacted Manhattan member’s club]…? It’s like a nail polish joint over there!

Member’s clubs are kind of the antithesis to what you said about the mix being essential.
Another reason they don’t work is that usually you get the first tiers, and then are forced to sell second or third tiers. I’m remembering this one time when I was at the door at Bungalow and 50 Cent was there. I didn’t know who he was. He had just one song out, this was probably in 2002. He kept saying, ‘Yo! Fiddy!’—and I thought he was trying to buy his way in with a fifty. [Laughs]

That’s hilarious. You mentioned groundbreaking. What does it mean to you to be breaking that ground?
Even right now looking at it, it’s a dream role for any actor. The character is so well rounded that I think I would have seen anyone playing it: white, or other. Had I seen someone playing him 20 years ago, I would have thought, ‘Good for him! That’s a great role.’ This is the kind of opportunity I held on hoping for—all these years, everything on my resume—they have now connected to one another with this. It’s great taste, great cast, great care. I’ve been at this game for 25 years; this is what I’ve been imagining and manifesting!

[Editor’s Note: This interview took place in April 2023 before the SAG-AFTRA strike.]

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