PHOTOGRAPHY AND MAKEUP BY TINA TURNBOW
HAIR BY FALLON TONI CHAVEZ
INTERVIEW BY KATINA GOULAKOS
Imagista fires off a few quick but poignent questions to rising talent Sepideh Moafi.
Imagista: You play Loretta on “The Deuce,” can you tell us a little bit about what playing this role was like for you?
Sepideh Moafi: It’s been a huge education which has spanned more than four years of my life. It feels like I started off as a baby and now I’m a woman in this industry. In terms of the context of the show, six years passes between each of the three seasons and to be honest, each year did feel like a six year leap for me personally. It’s been amazing to see how Loretta has grown over the years and even outgrown me. It’s pretty remarkable where she ends up in season three—from unimaginable adversity and circumstance to the gentle yet bold and confident feminist she ultimately embodies. It’s not just the political/social stance she takes but there’s an internal level of wisdom she cultivates by the end of the show that I aspire to personally in my own life.
Imagista:What have you learned from playing Loretta? Has she taught you anything? What will you miss about her?
Sepideh Moafi: I’ve learned to zoom out. Before shooting the pilot, I had coffee with David Simon to discuss Loretta’s arc. After we shot the pilot, I ended up booking a series regular gig in LA, which meant I could only do a couple more episodes on “The Deuce” and then they would either have to get rid of Loretta or change her story altogether. Seeing the difference of where Loretta was initially supposed to end up as opposed to where she ends up in season three helps me see how important each step we take really is and how malleable the end result is depending on what we focus on. If it had gone the way I wanted it to go the outcome wouldn’t have been nearly as rich. This is a huge life lesson for me—to learn to always trust that the outcome will always be better than I could have planned.
Loretta’s taught me to live in the now. Everyone has reasons to look back on their lives and be miserable and full of regret if they so choose. Loretta is always able to find such appreciation and delight in the simplicity of living. She’s truly satisfied by taking care of people – whether it be helping people find relief from their lives with a quick drink and a laugh at the Hi-Hat bar, or fighting for the rights of her community with her advocacy work.
The thing I’ll miss most about her is her heart — she has every reason in the world to have a heavy, guarded heart, and yet it remains open, light, generous and loving.
Imagista: You have been incredibly busy lately, you also will next be seen as Gigi on “The L Word: Generation Q.” How did you prepare for this role?
Sepideh Moafi: Prepping for every role is so different. For Loretta, I read a lot of books set in and about New York in the 70’s and memoirs of pimps and sex-workers. I watched a lot of 70’s porn, etc. etc. I had a different approach with Gigi. She’s a successful, queer real estate agent who is navigating raising two kids with an ex-wife she’s still in love with who’s moved on. Luckily, I’m kind of obsessed with real estate ever since I bought my Brooklyn apartment in 2018, so I just used research for Gigi as a means to justify spending way too much time on Zillow.
Aside from getting into her headspace, I spent a lot of time in my imagination getting into her heart space with the current state of her life. I used my own knowledge and experience as an immigrant Iranian woman juggling the expectations of heritage and culture with the free-thinking, wild-feeling independent soul of a driven, successful, passionate woman.
A big reason I was drawn to Gigi was that I rarely see Middle Easterners, let alone Iranian women represented on film and TV. In my early conversations with our showrunner, Marja Lewis Ryan, she told me that the only reason why she wanted Gigi to be Iranian was because there’s a massive community here in LA that’s rarely (if ever) represented in film and TV. The fact that she’s queer andIranian inspired a rich, complicated backstory, since we’re unfortunately still fighting to remove the stigma around homosexuality in Iran and in Iranian communities.
Imagista: What has this experience been like for you so far?
Sepideh Moafi: Tonally, it’s been a huge leap from “The Deuce.” Loretta is a Puerto Rican sex worker turned activist tending bar in the heart of Times Square when a dangerous New York is on the brink of fairy-dust transformation, and Gigi is a modern-day successful lesbian Iranian real estate agent selling multimillion dollar bungalows on the east side of a glitzy, glamorous Los Angeles while juggling her complicated family dynamic. The two worlds couldn’t be more different. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to tap into unexplored territory.
Imagista:You are also part of a new project called “The Killing of Two Lovers”, can you tell us anything about it?
Sepideh Moafi: It’s a gorgeous indie film written and directed by the masterful Robert Machoian, who just won the Special Jury Prize for Directing at Sundance this year for his film, The Minors. I feel so lucky to have been involved with this film. Honestly, if I could just make movies with Robert all the time I would. I mean, his storyboards alone are works of art. He was so clear, so specific about what he wanted and yet he was so curious about the actors experience and input, and trusted us to do whatever we wanted. I play Nikki, a small town woman whose dreams and goal expand as her marriage deteriorates. It’s a film about the complexities of love, marriage and family. Working with Clayne Crawford (who plays my husband) and Chris Coy (who plays the man I am dating while my husband and I are separated) was a dream. I did all this prep work with a coach on Nikki and as soon as I got on set, most of that work became irrelevant and we just played like unleashed animals. It was fucking divine.
Imagista: What advice do you have for young women looking to break into acting?
Sepideh Moafi: Get super cozy with rejection. All that icky shit you wanna run from is your artistic treasure trove. Obsess over the work, not the outcome. Live in the sensuality of process. And let go. Just let go. In your work, in your life. And just be unconditionally, unapologetically you.
Imagista: What has been the biggest lesson you have learned as an actress?
Sepideh Moafi: When shit gets hard, it’s because life is forcing growth upon you, so find the lesson in it, not the excuse to stay where you’re at. I spent a lot of time wondering why things were happening the way they were and making excuses for myself and for other people. I’ve learned to just let go of all of that and always just look for the lesson. If you actually look, it’s there. You know what’s also there? The opportunity to be a victim, but man, what a waste of time and energy and life! If you just stay super curious about what life is trying to teach you, you always win. I try to use every rejection, heartbreak, disappointment, fall, dip as an opportunity to grow. I love what I do fiercely, I stay curious, hard-working, intuitive and open and then I try to let the rest of it go. Anything I try to control just stresses me out. I think I’ve gotten better at just chilling the fuck out and just trusting. I think?
Imagista: What is something you can tell our readers that they wouldn’t be able to find out about you on google?
Sepideh Moafi: I was an undefeated league champion wrestler in Junior High. Oh, and I am an Argentinian Tango Dancer. Bam.
Imagista: In addition to acting, you’re passionate about your advocacy work. Can you talk to us about why it is so important to you to use your influence to make a difference in the world right now?
Sepideh Moafi: I feel that a big part of my purpose is to give back as much as I can, and it’s an honor to use my growing platform to give a voice to the people and organizations that need the attention. I work with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the severity of global displacement is unprecedented. I was born in a refugee camp and here I am, living my dream, hopping from one artistically satisfying gig to the next, jumping from coast to coast, taking cool photos, giving this interview. I was afforded this opportunity because as complicated as it was (and still is) my family was (mostly) welcomed into this country. We’re now dealing with a racist administration that’s turning America into an isolationist country, parading xenophobia and attacking the most vulnerable human beings on the planet. The refugee admission numbers are at a historic low, down 75% since Trump took office and now he and his administration are trying to eliminate the Refugee Admissions Program altogether. It’s all so disturbing but because it doesn’t affect the day to day reality for most of us, it’s easy to just swipe it out of our periphery. If I can use my gift as an artist to make people see and feel into the complex layers of a woman who they may have otherwise dismissed as a “prostitute” in a semi-fictional world, then I want to use the same gift to help people see and feel for our brothers and sisters across the globe who risk their lives to flee fatal circumstances. I want to be the influence that I never had. I didn’t grow up seeing people let alone women in the public eye who looked like me or who came from a refugee background like I did. I know what it’s like to be displaced, to feel like you don’t belong in a place you’ve learned make home. I hope the devotion to authenticity that drives me in everything I do emboldens Iranian and other underrepresented groups in everything they do, too.