“It’s important to have gratitude to be able to follow such a great path”

Thrive Global: As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Vida Ghaffari. Multi award-winning Iranian-American actress Vida Ghaffari was born and raised in the Washington DC metropolitan area. The daughter of esteemed NASA scientist, mathematician, and professor Abolghassem Ghaffari and artist and art teacher Mitra Ghaffari, Vida was infused with a diverse artistic and analytical upbringing. Melding the realms of art and science, and hailing from the prominent Qajar dynasty via her mom’s side of the family (Vida has two lines of descent from Fath-Ali Shah) and the aristocratic, artistically and politically powerful Ghaffari clan (who still has a street named after them in Tehran), which pre-dates Islam on her father’s side, Vida — with her royal bearing and Old World formality — often portrays regal, powerful and authoritative women...

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in the DC metropolitan area in a tough but interesting time for an Iranian-American family. It was after the revolution and my family’s life really changed. Many friends and relatives came to stay with us…I remember my parents always going to airports and picking up friends and relatives and seeing how hard life was for these people. It seems like in a way, they were casualties from the political situation in Iran and I really got to see how people experienced life. Seeing this tough reality for many really affected me and how I felt about expressing myself about the human condition led to the arts. My folks were so preoccupied in housing and prepping these people for living in the states and on top of all that, I was bullied a lot in school about being Iranian, so film and television become my own escapes. I studied Theatre and Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park, which is one of the largest universities in the states. These days, I’m a working SAG-AFTRA actress who is always working on improving my craft and growing as an artist.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I got my start as a journalist reporting for some non-religious, non-political Persian satellite TV stations. They liked my voice and the fact that I spoke English with no accent, so I started voicing their promos in Farsi and English. I joke that it was twice the work for half the pay working in two languages. One of the editors graciously offered to put some clips together, which lead to my voiceover demo real and was a good way to find my first vo agent. I also took classes and seminars. My acting career took off soon after that.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I booked the Mindy Project, my character Nasreen was covered in a headscarf. Since I was acting in the pilot and there is a lot of emphasis on that episode, the producers and even the network was very worried that the scarf would loosen up or not look right again, so when they broke us for lunch on the Universal lot, I ate in the commissary with a full on headscarf. Needless to say, I remember how hard it was to chew with such a tight scarf..I have so much respect for women in Iran. They are really subjected to a lot and have handled their situation with grace and dignity.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s not really a big mistake, but I remember I took an acting class out here when I first moved out here and it was probably 4 to 5 hours long. I was shooting a film earlier that day and didn’t get a chance to eat dinner. I took a health bar with me and ate it in class, to which my instructor singled me out in front of 30 others students, “What do you think this is Miss Ghaffari, a dinner theatre?” I probably should have stepped out to eat that bar. For the rest of the time I took the class, other students would joke and call me out on it. Mind you, I was very hungry and it was a bar >>>