“So you saw the heckler!” Arian Moayed says with a laugh while sitting in the Ambassador’s Lounge of the Hudson Theatre, where, two nights before, a woman interrupted a performance of the now-Tony-nominated A Doll’s House to tell the actor to take off his costume. “There’s a debate among the production about whether she was yelling at the character — like, take off your proverbial costume — or just catcalling me,” he says. Moayed is accustomed to the extreme intimacy of the theater; his Broadway debut was opposite Robin Williams in 2011’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (he got a Tony nom for that, too), and he’s now performing this stripped-down, set-less Henrik Ibsen adaptation with Jessica Chastain eight times a week, an experience he describes as “spiritual.”
He’s also unfazed by a certain level of fan interaction — his role as Stewy on Succession has made him something of a god to New York viewers. “Hedge fund-y bros will stop me. They think they’re my friend,” he says. “They’re like, ‘Let’s go to the bathroom, Stewy.’ That kind of vibe. I just have to be like, ‘Hold on, I have children and a nonprofit theater company [Waterwell]! That’s not me.’ ”
He’s come to this interview straight from rerecording dialogue for Succession‘s series finale. He describes himself as in a state of denial about the whole thing. The cast group text is still firing every week when episodes go live, and many of the actors have come to see A Doll’s House. “The reality is that we’re never all going to be in the same room together again,” he says. “So now is the time to tell everyone how fucking amazing they are.”
Two days before Succession airs for the last time (on May 28), Moayed’s next project will debut. In You Hurt My Feelings, Nicole Holofcener’s long-awaited second collaboration with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, he plays an actor with chronically low confidence — a spiritual opposite to Stewy’s blustering power player. The film’s central conflict kicks off when Louis-Dreyfus’ character, a novelist, overhears her husband telling Moayed that he doesn’t like her new book. “If you have three hours to spare, you should call my wife,” Moayed jokes when asked about his own need for approval from his loved ones. “I take everything the wrong way. But at the end of the day, if something [I’m in] is bad, she will sit me down and hold my hand and look me in the eyes and say it’s not working.”
At 43, Moayed — who was born in Tehran, Iran, and immigrated with his family to the Chicago suburbs when he was 5 — still vividly remembers his early acting days, when his agents sent him out for specifically Iranian castings. “I said I wouldn’t do terrorist roles because it doesn’t represent who I am and I didn’t want my parents to see me in that shit,” says the actor. He adds that he likes scripts with strong opinions: A Doll’s House‘s exposure of sneaky misogyny, Succession‘s takedown of hedonistic capitalism. “I genuinely believe art is a tool we can use to move the needle of progress and humanity forward,” he says. And there’s no arguing — or, rather, heckling — with that.
This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of magazine. Click here to subscribe.