Interview: Actor Faran Tahir On Being The President Of ‘Elysium’

Faran Tahir is a name genre fans know quite well. He was Tony Stark’s captor in Iron Man, Osiris on Supernatural, and he’s about to add another genre feather in his cap, playing the President in Elysium. We got a chance to talk to Faran last week over the phone, and he was simultaneously relaxed and intense, and very detailed about his role.

Gamma Squad: When you first got a look at the script, what were your thoughts?

Faran Tahir: What popped out to me was, aside from being the spectacular science fiction movie that it is, was that it touched on a hot button issue, but took it slightly into the fictional zone. You can examine yourself and the issue. And that was what was attractive to me. The movie deals with elitism, immigration, the haves and the have-nots, and the conflict between them. And to me, that was the thing that really drew me to it. How you present that argument in a way where you can choose a side but also see the other is a great challenge!

Gamma Squad: How do you prepare for the role of “president of a space satellite?” Obviously there’s not a lot of research!

Tahir: I think you root it in your own reality. I watched a lot of CNN and MSNBC to see how politicians deal with issues, to try and find how they handled themselves. Sometimes they were evasive, sometimes they were honest about it, but they all showed a… nuanced way of dealing with issues. You had a balance of getting the work that you want done, yet finding some sensitivity to all people. I didn’t care whether my character was in the future, or the past, or the present. I needed to find that connectability. I know people like that, I’ve met people like that.

Gamma Squad: It’s obviously an effects-heavy film, something you have a little experience with. What does that require from actors, working off of something that doesn’t exist yet?

Tahir: (laughs) It’s a great exercise in imagination. If you can create that role for yourself, if it almost seems tangible to you, then you can take that and the audience will come on the journey with you. If you’re skeptical of it, the audience is smarter than you, they can feel it. I have a theater background, and this type of work actually translates really well. I was working on The Tempest, having to show the audience the storm, and if you make it real enough for yourself, the audience will buy it. (laughs) That’s the challenge, how do you make it so real to you? I love that!

Gamma Squad: What specific challenges does your character find himself in that you found interesting?

Tahir: I think the dynamic you have is one you see with any politician: They have to keep their base. I think my character is very aware of that. You have to show some sensitivity; his strength is only going to be effective if he has the support of both sides. He finds himself walking a tightrope trying to find that solution.

You can see Tahir in Elysium tomorrow, but keep an eye out: He also has a major role in Sylvester Stallone’s upcoming film Escape Plan