In television and film, Faran Tahir has long been relegated to projects that cast him as "that Middle Eastern guy". Look through his resume and you'll find a laundry list of typecast characters dating back to the early 1990s like "Mr. Halawi", "Dr. Singh" and "Mr. Khan" on select episodes of 7th Heaven, Family Law and Law & Order, among many others. It's a shame, really, because the classically trained stage actor (who comes from a well-known theatre family in Pakistan) is rather extraordinary. Thankfully, the last few years have been kind to the 47-year-old thesp, with appearances in Charlie Wilson's War, Iron Man and Star Trek making him a bit more recognizable to American audiences and opening a few doors.
The next door that Tahir will walk through will be that of Warehouse 13, Syfy's hit series about a secretive South Dakota facility that houses supernatural artifacts that the U.S. Government has collected over the centuries and the pair of U.S Secret Service agents charged with retrieving the missing objects and investigate reports of new ones. Entertainment Weekly reports that Tahir will appear in at least two episodes as Adwin Kosan, one of the mysterious and powerful "Regents" tasked with keeping the Warehouse safe. Adwin, who arrives to handle an escalating crisis, makes a shocking pronouncement that threatens to tear apart the team. Season 2 (which premieres on July 6th) already has a gaggle of genre-saavy guests, including Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner, Firefly‘s Sean Maher and Eureka‘s Neil Graystone; a roster that Tahir rounds out nicely.
I always enjoy seeing more ethnicity on the airwaves, so this news makes me giddy. If a show like Lost can thrive with a multi-national cast, there's no reason that other program's can't make it work, too. A colorful set of characters can go a long way and it's only a matter of time before production companies and distributors realize that they can strengthen the international appeal of their product by simply thinking outside the box in terms of casting.
For pure fun and action Marvel has outdone themselves this time. Created in 1963 by Marvel magician Stan Lee Iron Man became the first superhero whose super powers were of his own invention. Taking all this time to finally get to the big screen the film version focuses on billionaire industrialist and creative genius Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) As a major U.S. weapons contractor his product protects America around the world. All his fame and fortune come crashing down however when his convoy is targeted and he is taken hostage with life threatening injuries. When he is ordered by his main captor (Faran Tahir) to build the ultimate weapon he turns the tables and erects an incredible armored suit that not only saves his life but helps him to escape the terrorists. Once he is back on U.S. ground he changes his business plan and continues to refine his invention that provides him with super powers no one has ever dreamed of. Against the wishes of his ambitious No. 2 with the fun name Obadiah Stane (a bald Jeff Bridges) Stark sets a new agenda aided by his trusted assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and military confidante Rhodey (Terrence Howard). This leads him to uncover a diabolical plot against the world and make full use of his new chrome plated alter-ego. Unlike virtually every other superhero epic of recent years from Spiderman to Superman to Batman et. al. Iron Man has been cast with award-caliber actors well out of their 20s and even 30s and not necessarily known for their box office prowess. It has paid off with acting of a quality rarely seen in these types of popcorn pictures. Whatever it took to bring Downey Jr. aboard--just a few years after the one-time problematic actor was uninsurable--is clearly worth it. His acerbic style command of character and complexity bring more to Tony Stark than could possibly be imagined. He manages to make guys like Tobey Maguire and Brandon Routh just pale by comparison. And that suit is soooo cool. This powerful and IRONic role suits Downey Jr’s multitude of talents perfectly. It’s especially fun catching the subtext as the one-time bad boy delivers loaded lines like “Let’s face it this is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing”. Bridges another fine veteran performer is ideally cast as an oily combatant who oozes corporate greed--a great villain for the post-Enron era in which this cinematic vision of Iron Man exists. Paltrow is lots of fun and given snappy one liners as the salty Pepper and the often understated Howard yet another off-beat casting choice brings stature and gravitas to his military man. Like his actors Jon Favreau doesn’t exactly seem like the obvious choice to direct a mega-millions summertime Marvel blockbuster. Still the man behind the camera on the comedy Elf and kids’ actioner Zathura blends skills he honed on both those family hits to successfully merge a savvy group of actors and some genuine comic wit with all the expected special effects razzle dazzle you could ever ask for. Smartly emphasizing character over cartoon set-ups Favreau uses all the movie toys at his disposal wisely never letting them overwhelm the business at hand. And you have to “marvel” at the singular success of the Iron Man suit itself a flawless creation that works as well as it does because Downey Jr does not ever seem lost in it. Favreau’s main battle and flying sequences are brilliantly executed and thrilling to watch with an army of visual effects and digital artists to thank. Even though it’s only early May Iron Man signals the start of the warm weather movie going season. They just may have saved the best for first.