No matter what your taste in television shows is like, you’ve probably seen Arian Moayed grace your screen at least once in the past year. Whether he’s messing with the Roy family as Stewy Hosseini on Succession or knotting up his best friend’s romantic entanglements as Kian Parsa on Love Life, the actor has become one of the most recognizable faces on television, and, as his Twitter fans would say, remains “booked and busy” every month.
The award-winning actor, who has been a longstanding figure in the theater world, co-founded his own company called Waterwell in 2002. Since then, he’s made his way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (he plays Agent Cleary in Spider-Man: No Way Home), and now, he has entered the Shondaland Netflix universe with Inventing Anna, in which he has the distinguished honor of playing disgraced SoHo grifter Anna Delvey’s (née Sorokin) lawyer, Todd Spodek.
Below, Moayed talks about Twitter’s perception of his very busy year, our cultural interest in scammers, and his crossword obsession.
You got your start in the theater, but you seem to be television’s busiest man right now. How did that happen?
I wish there was some grand scheme I could tell you. I’ve been doing theater my whole life, and there were no roles. I started at a very young age saying no to [playing] terrorists or victims in the Middle East—and that takes you out of everything. Then I just stayed in the theater, to tell really cool stories and hang out backstage. A few plays led to Succession: there was Guards at the Taj which led to The Humans, which went on Broadway, and I did a couple plays after that before turning to TV. I’m surrounded by great writers!
I think Desiree Akhavan’s film Appropriate Behavior might have been the first time I saw you in anything. And now you get to work with Rebecca Henderson, who was in that film, again on Inventing Anna! What’s that like?
Rebecca and I have, like, 15 years of knowing each other. So not only is [working with her] like hanging out, it’s an easier way to communicate with one another as actors. A lot of my stuff with Rebecca is at the end of Inventing Anna, but it’s an easy rapport with a fellow actor. Appropriate Behavior is so good—that’s an underrated movie.
I completely agree. It’s a very specific coming-of-age narrative but there’s a lot of universal appeal there, too.
For us Iranians, watching that movie kind of feels like how it is being Iranian in America. Growing together, having families around. I don’t know what people think we do, but we’re not all running around doing whatever it is that other people think we do.
You’re a New Yorker, and Anna Delvey’s story dominated the headlines in the city. Were you familiar with the story before Inventing Anna came your way?
Kind of like the majority of New Yorkers, I only knew the headlines. I knew there was this young, fake German heiress who was a SoHo grifter. And at the time, Theranos and Fyre Festival were coming out and it felt like we were bombarded by scam artists. Major political figures as well, here and abroad, can scam their way to the top.
Succession falls into that category, too. It’s definitely a very political show, and is also very wrapped up in our obsessions with glamour and the drama of the 1 percent. Your character, Stewy, seems very interested in protecting the individual.
Exactly. And I just had this image of Marie Antoinette—I don’t know all of the details of that story outside of a couple movies and plays, but it feels like back in the day, they would go to the public square to handle things. Today, we handle it by skewering [people in the media], and are so obsessed every step of the way. The number-one compliment I feel Succession gets from people is, “I don’t want to be that rich.” As a fan of Succession—what’s cool is that we’re never all in the same scenes together, so we don’t know what’s happening—I want to be like, “When is Tom’s scene happening next?” I want to see them just crumble and get what’s coming to them. I also feel bad for them, too, which is amazing.
A lot of people online seemed to petition for your return to HBO Max’s Love Life, if a third season of the anthology ends up getting the green light. Would you want to return if so?
I would absolutely want to come back! At the premiere, Punkie Johnson said season three should follow her and it could be a Black lesbian story, which I think is amazing. And then all of us can come back in on that world. I don’t know what they’re going to do, but if they want more of [my character] Kian, then the answer is 100 percent, yes.
On Inventing Anna, your character Todd seems to take a Robin Hood approach to his work as Anna’s lawyer—he doesn’t feel like he fits in with the uber-rich, the way his wife does. He seems to begrudgingly take on Anna’s case, but at the same time, do you think he is inspired by her?
[My character] has a real ambition that’s unique. It’s the exact same as Anna’s—that’s what is brilliant about it it. So is [the journalist] Vivian’s ambition. All three of us are trying to reclaim our own identities.
Did you study any real-life lawyers for the part?
Anna’s lawyer, Todd Spodek, is a real person. My company Waterwell did a production called The Courtroom, and it was a reenactment of a deportation case, so I was reading a ton of transcripts. When the research material from Shondaland came over, I watched the videos but the thing I found really fascinating were the transcripts. Reading Todd’s energy was the most informative part. I felt his charm in the courtroom is contagious—he knows how to capture everyone. Some jokes here and there, you can feel it. That was a big thing I latched onto, and his opening speech, which is in the show now—it’s so good. I love complicated characters, and the fact that he could be charming in real life and be a good lawyer and have massive ambitions of not doing shady cases anymore, while also representing this scammer—that’s really complicated, and messy, and fun.
You seem to be very tapped in to pop culture, so I want to ask you some Culture Diet questions. What’s the first thing you read in the morning?
The New York Times app.
Do you also do the Spelling Bee or the Crossword?
I do both of those, and now I do Wordle.
What’s the last thing you Googled?
A vocal teacher! I’m working with this voice teacher for this potential amazing project that I really want to get, which involves numerous accents.
Is it difficult for you, or are you a natural at the accents?
Before Succession, I only played Middle Eastern parts. Stewy is Middle Eastern, but he’s American. Before that I only played Iraqis, Iranis, Afghanis. So all we get to do is accents, and I have a good ear for those things, but sometimes I need help making sure it’s right. This other coach I wanted is now in Los Angeles. They’re booked and busy! Love that. Booked and busy is what everyone says to me on Twitter. “Booked and busy, happy to see it!”
You are, though, and we do love to see it! What other shows have you been binge-watching lately?
I’m a little late, but I’m finishing Ted Lasso. And we just watched Encanto—it’s great! Get on it, because I think people are going to be like, “Iconic!” I’m also watching this British show called Happy Valley. And I just watched the Beatles documentary. I’m a big fan. And the new season of Atlanta is coming out, so I’m going to rewatch all of it before I watch this season. We watched The White Lotus, and everyone is telling me to watch Yellowjackets.
You really do have to watch Yellowjackets. What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?
Spider-Man: No Way Home. I saw it twice, once at the premiere and then we rented out a theater in New Jersey and did a fund-raiser.
Do you listen to any podcasts?
I listen to SmartLess. Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes have been friends for a long time, and every week, they bring in a new surprise guest and have a conversation. Today was David Byrne.
What’s the last song you had on repeat?
This half-Iranian, half-Black rapper by the name of Locksmith. I was introduced to him by another rapper friend of mine. The name of the song I cannot stop listening to is called “Fear.”
Do you remember the last concert you went to?
I saw Dead & Co. [Laughs.] It was outdoors at Bethel Performing Arts Center.
What’s the last piece of art you ogled?
I saw Shirin Neshat’s show at a gallery on the west side. I know her a little bit, she’s seen me in plays. I introduced her to one of her performers in her new film that was just at Venice, Sheila Vand. Sheila was in a picture on the wall. And she had these two movies playing at the same time from different perspectives, it was so gorgeous.
Are you into astrology at all?
My wife would be the first to tell you that she’s not only into astrology, but she’s into all types of energies and healing. I’m an Aries. I do think it’s accurate. I have a funny Aries story: I was born in Iran, and I didn’t realize until about 10 or 11 years ago that my birthday when we came over was the wrong date. So my whole life I thought I was born on April 15, because that’s my U.S. birthday, but I was actually born on April 13. So the charts are messed up. But I am an Aries boy: high energy, fiery.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?
Sadly, it’s probably the crossword.