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Exclusive Interview with Faran Tahir on 'Star Trek' and Playing Captain Robau

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Faran Tahir

Faran Tahir at the LA premiere of 'Iron Man.'

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Updated February 15, 2014
Faran Tahir played the villain Raza in 2008's Iron Man but he's switching sides and playing one of the good guys in Star Trek, one of the most anticipated films of 2009. Not only is Tahir tackling the role of a Federation Captain in this latest addition to the Star Trek franchise, he's also stepping into Star Trek record books as the first Federation Captain of Middle Eastern descent.

In our exclusive interview, Tahir spoke about his character and what it was like on the set of Paramount Pictures' Star Trek.

Have you seen the film yet?
Yes, I have."

And?
"I love it. It is awesome, it is awesome. And I'm not saying that because I'm in it. You know, the best test of a movie like that is does it make you feel like a little kid again or not, you know? That's the way I look at it because it’s something that I grew up with, and does it take me back there or does it not? And it did. The cast got together and for a while I totally forgot that I was an actor or in it. I was kind of swept away in the story of it and the action of it. And it was great, it was just awesome."

Do you have to be a fan of everything Star Trek in order to get it?
"You know, that credit goes to JJ because he’s such a smart man and he totally understands that there's a huge Trek following. He also understands that there is a generation that has not grown up with Star Trek, because there hasn’t been a movie out for a while and the TV franchise has now gone. So there's a good chunk of young people who don’t know this first-hand. I mean they know it from their uncles or aunts or fathers or mothers or brothers or whatever, but they don’t know it directly. And I think what he has succeeded in doing is creating that bridge, that it keeps the original Star Trek spirit alive and yet it updates it enough that the new audience can own it for their own. They can feel like they're part of this new, or this old/new saga. I think it's very well done."

Did you agree it was a good idea to go back and do this Star Trek film as an origin story?
"I think it was because, look, Star Trek is a pop culture icon, and as time goes on I think this story’s going to live on. It has gone through many mutations and many versions and many ways of telling the same story, but the spirit of it is actually, it is of hope, you know, that we can transcend our personal or racial or whatever differences and maybe come to some kind of consensus where we can all live together. So given that, I think it was good to kind of go back and start the story again and kind of fill in the blanks a little bit to give people a deeper understanding of who these people are."

So we learn who these people really are while they're surrounded by these massive effects. How do you make sure your character doesn't get lost in the special effects?
"Well, the great thing was that JJ from the beginning, his whole thing was, 'You know what? Whatever the effects are, let’s make it about the acting. Let’s make it tangible for the audience and for you.' Everything was made actor-friendly so when I arrived on the set, to me it wasn’t as if I was trying to fit myself on the set. What it felt to me was that the set was there to help me, rather than me trying to create a pretty picture. So anything that didn’t work or seemed like a hindrance, he just said, 'Just get rid of it. We don’t need it. The story will stand on its own.' Yes, the effects are grand and they do take your breath away. But part of it is that because you were given that freedom to just act it out and not try to kind of be pawns, I think it makes a really great combination of the two. You feel like these people are really, say, in the battle, and you feel like you're in a battle then."

And your character, Captain Robau, is new to the franchise?
"Yes. You see, that’s a great thing. It’s a character that they created and this ship... You know, all this means a lot, that the ship hasn’t been seen before and this captain hasn’t been seen before. The set up is that James Kirk’s father is my First Officer. So we're going back to that point in the Star Trek history or future or whatever you want to call it. So that's the base of it, and there are time zones that kind of collide with each other so you see a clash of all that."

"This character hasn’t been seen before. The thing that a lot of people are kind of like having a lot of discussion over is also that they have not seen a captain who was of a Middle Eastern origin which is, you know, in the blog world it’s creating a lot of frenzy. But I asked JJ about it and I said, 'Was that one of the things that you were looking for?' He said, which was really music to my ears, 'You know, I was not looking for any, or trying to fit any, particular race in there. I wanted a certain effect, I wanted a certain kind of an actor, I wanted him to kind of convey this message.' And when I look back, I know the other people who had been considered for it and none of them were of the same background. ...It was refreshing to hear that, you know?"

On that subject, have you seen casting options change where it has gotten more to the point now where your ethnic background doesn't matter as much?
"It’s getting there, yes, it’s getting there. I am who I am and sometimes it works in my favor and sometimes it doesn’t and that's fine, which I think any actor and every actor can say that. But I think there are roles opening up which are not kind of ethnicity-specific. There's movement towards, 'Let’s kind of dig this open a little bit and see what we can find,' and sometimes I've gotten things which were surely not written for me and I've gotten them because I was able to bring something different that they hadn’t seen. And then by the same token there are times when, you know, when you don’t get it so that's just life."

Page 2: Faran Tahir on Captain Robau's Ship

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