In person, Israeli actress Niv Sultan is not anything like her character Tamar Rabinyan on the Apple TV+ series Tehran. She’s delightful, a contrast to her tough Mossad computer hacker agent character on the show. Catching up amid Paris’ most recent fashion week, Sultan opened up about breaking into acting, attending her first Paris Fashion Week and her upcoming U.S. press tour.
Born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Jerusalem in 1992, Sultan lived a life far from the glare of scripts, auditions and cameras. After completing her compulsory military service in the Israeli Defense Force, Sultan decided to accompany a friend to a meeting with his agent, but there’s more to the story than many know.
“People usually think that the story with my friend was a coincidence. It wasn’t! It was part of a strategic plan,” she explains. “After my army service, I went with my friend to his agency. I sat there in the lobby, pretending to read one of the magazines, waiting for someone to notice me. Eventually it did in fact happen and I’m actually represented by this agency ’til this day.” Her strategy from that moment changed her life and eventually propelled her onto screens worldwide.
Before Tehran, though, Sultan was mostly known as an actress in her native Israel. She starred in a series called The Stylist, as a woman who moved to Tel Aviv wanting to make it in fashion, something Sultan could relate to, having recently moved to Tel Aviv herself to try and make it in acting.
Sultan calls going to Paris’ autumn/winter 2022 fashion week, where she attended the Chanel show, “a dream come true.”
“The show was incredible,” she continues, “and I didn’t realize how powerful and intense it would be. I was blown away! I also had the opportunity to visit Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment, which was touching and inspiring. What a fascinating woman.”
In Paris, Sultan also got the opportunity to unwind a bit. “I was lucky to have some downtime and enjoyed being a tourist for a few hours during my stay. I got to hit up some of my favorite and obviously iconic Parisian spots such as Île Saint Louis and its beautiful cafes, the Pont Des Arts, the Eiffel Tower and the Palais Ephémère, where the Chanel show took place. Paris will always be one of my favorite cities.”
Now that Tehran’s second season is fast approaching, Sultan says she is proud of her character. “Tamar got in to my heart from the very first time I read the audition’s material. I loved the complexity and humanity of her character,” she says.
“One could immediately tell from the script how driven, motivated and brave she is while being insecure and full of doubts at the same time,” continues Sultan. Tamar also has a strong inner voice and center that guides her, and I really love that about her. I had to work on my physical skills, practice martial arts and learn Farsi for the role as Tamar was born in Tehran.”
Sultan details how she identifies with Tamar: “Tamar’s connection to her family and country really touched me. My family is everything to me and I’d do anything for them and everything to make them proud. I guess this is really a common thing we have. We both have very strong roots and values.”
Season two of the espionage thriller drops May 6, with Glenn Close joining the cast. “All I can say is that you guys can expect a really intense season. Tamar is getting deeply undercover. The danger is way bigger, the stakes are higher and the action is on the edge. And of course, we now have the one and only Glenn Close on board.”
Sultan also is starring in a new series, an AMC+ Western called That Dirty Black Bag, which premiered on March 10 with a cast headed by Travis Fimmel and Dominic Cooper. “This was a dream for me,” she says. “It’s a new, well-made spaghetti Western series that gives a modern spin to the genre. I portray Eve, the madam of the brothel, a very strong and powerful woman who runs the town with her two hands. Doing a spaghetti Western was something I could only dream of as a child. The visuals, the beautiful world we created, the stunning costumes. A dream! The filming took place in Spain, Italy and Morocco and it made the landscape all the richer and more interesting. I feel hugely lucky to have played the role of Eve in this series. She’s a larger-than-life character with an edgy spirit and a huge heart. I will forever carry her in me, I really did get very attached to her. I’m sure everyone will be able to relate to the beautiful story the show tells.”
Sultan is also getting married within the next few weeks and has a U.S. press tour coming up.
“I’m so thankful for Tehran’s global success,” she says. ‘The fact that so many people saw what we worked on so hard is truly overwhelming. As an actor that’s what you want, you want to touch people, and it actually happened. Being famous isn’t really a part of my daily life. My main goal is to continue working hard and attempting to fulfill new and bigger career goals I have. After the last season of Tehran, I had a crazy year. I was away from home for almost a full year working in Spain, Italy, Morocco and Athens. This I found overwhelming and I’m so grateful.”
“I aspire to act in the U.S., in Israel, and everywhere else,” she continues. “But at the end of the day, I just want to land roles I connect to and that will challenge me. I think that the latest changes in the industry were great for us. The market is way more open to new things and audiences are eager for more stories in different languages. It gives us actors more opportunities and options.”
“A year ago, I was sitting in my flat in Tel Aviv making a self-tape for That Dirty Black Bag and literally two weeks later I was on a plane to Italy. All I can ask for is that the next year will look the same, if not better!”