NOC Interview: Shayan Sobhian of ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’

Since coming onto the Legends team in a revamped timeline in the Season 4 finale, Behrad Tarazi, younger brother of Zari Tarazi, has been a fixture on Legends of Tomorrow. But it was only this season that his actor, the mult-talented Shayan Sobhian, was promoted to a series regular. He’s the chillest member of the Waverider crew, always looking to defuse tension and make sure that he and his friends have a good time.

But the upcoming episode “This is Gus” challenges Behrad in some intersting ways, and gives audiences more insight into how he came to be the way he is, with alien and timeline shennanigans on the way. We were fortunate enough to speak with Shayan Sobhian on The Nerds of Color, where he tells us how he relates to Behrad, the importance of seeing Middle Eastern representation, and where his potential relationship with Astra might go this season.

Mild plot and setup spoilers for the end of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 6, Episode 9 follow.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Thank you so much for talking with The Nerds of Color today. I love you as Behrad along with the rest of the cast of Legends of Tomorrow and I just want to ask for you as an actor what it’s like to play an Iranian and Middle Eastern character alongside Zari played by Tala Ashe, and out of curiosity, what do you have in common with Behrad, besides your amazing talent as a singer and guitarist?

SOBHIAN: Haha, thank you. First of all, it’s incredible to get to play this character. I remember when I got the breakdown for the character description, I read that he’s Middle Eastern American, and I think it might have even said specifically Iranian, grew up Muslim, but is finding his own way, and he’s leading this double life between, you know, his family and the Waverider. And I just thought like what a cool character. I hadn’t seen anything like that before so I was super pumped to audition for it and of course I got the role. Meeting Tala was obviously a little intimidating because she’s incredible and it’s amazing to watch her work, and it’s amazing to work with her.

And do you feel like you’re creating the representation you wanted to see growing up for us MENA folks?

There’s a great scene in this episode that Zari has where she describes how a character on screen doesn’t necessarily need to be like a torchbearer for everyone, but just the mere act of being yourself on camera and being somebody that we don’t see every day, that in and of itself I think is reaching people. I get a lot of DMs from people saying “You’re such an inspiration” and all that kind of stuff, so I definitely feel like it’s an awesome opportunity and it’s being received well.

And how are you like Behrad?

I think he has a lot of heart. He’s very, very aware of everyone’s emotions, and I think that’s my case as well and pretty, you know, well attuned there. And so, I think he just wants everyone to have a good time he wants to, he wants to make sure that everyone’s okay, so I definitely feel a kinship to that.

Awesome. What’s it like working with Tala as your TV sibling?

I mean it’s amazing. She brings so much to the table and I’m always just like all right, like, if I can just match her, then we’re going to be great. The bickering is always fun, but [what] the writers do so well, having all this conflict happen, and then the nice moments of resolution. We had a really nice scene at the end of the Western episode I thought you just get this little window into our lives. There’s all this history that we’re bringing that we’re just kind of barely scratching the surface so just to get to see those little moments. I think it’s super fun to play those.

That’s awesome. So, more generally, what is it like working on a show as wacky random and fun as Legends?

It’s great! It’s super fun, and, you know, truthfully, like this is also my first [major role.] I don’t have much to compare it to right, like this is my baseline, so I’m a little bit nervous to actually go out and to work on something else. This is what I’m used to where anything goes. So, it’s, it’s been fun and it’s really opened me up to the idea that anything is possible.

So, on this specific episode we find out that Behrad was heavily influenced by the representation he found on this show called “Bud-Sty,” which has a Muslim character portrayed by Imran Saeed (Shawn Ahmed) and that without it, he’d be someone completely different. So, I’m curious if we can go more into that representation aspect and talk about how can TV and representation influence people that much, and I was also wondering if you could talk more about why it’s so important for MENA and Muslim folks to be able to see that.

So, I remember I started acting in high school. And I remember kind of a shift when I first thought that maybe I could do this professionally, right around the time it was announced that we were going to be doing Phantom of the Opera for the musical that year. And as I was auditioning for the Phantom, I stumbled upon Ramin Karimloo’s incredible performance as the Phantom. He was the Iranian Canadian actor, who was actually the youngest ever to play the Phantom, and I had no idea, I’d never heard of him before, but I’m like diving into his, you know his history and just, you know all the videos I could find him performing, and I was just like “wow, like, here’s a guy who looks like me and who you know has a similar cultural background to me and he’s doing pretty much what I want to do.”

So, I felt empowered to be like wait, maybe I, I can do this. And so, I think that’s like one very clear example of like just, just even seeing somebody that resembles you, you know, and I think that we don’t often. The MENA community the Muslim community. I’m actually not Muslim, by the way, I’m Bahá’í, but I just know, so deeply what it’s like to grow up as an outsider, and playing this part because, like, almost been like this like karmic release now where it’s like okay like I know what it’s like being outsiders for now let me like, be an outsider, and then help others sort of be okay with that. There’s like a whole community of outsiders, then you start to not feel like an outsider, you know what I mean?

Absolutely, you feel as though like you said, because someone else did this, I can do that I can be in this spot. It’s not, because of the system we’re in, where it’s left so often that, “oh, there can only be one of this checkbox” or whatever, when really it’s that there should be way more of us everywhere.

Yeah, yeah, totally. And I just feel so blessed to be able to be that person for so many people and my prayer every day is that I’m doing right by everyone.

So, in previous episodes this season. We’ve had an attraction teased between Behrad and Astra, and I’m curious what it’s like working with Olivia Swann on those scenes, and maybe what you can tease about their relationship going forward?

Ah, yes, excellent question. Well first of all I love working with Liv. She is a dream and, you know, we’ve gotten quite friendly in our downtime, but she is just a joy to work with, and we’re always kind of, I think she and I are the ones sort of pushing, pushing it in that direction. We’re always encouraging the writers like, “You know we’re game for this!” We ship ourselves as it were. But yeah, I mean I think that we actually have an ongoing bet. I think I was like by episode seven of season seven, you know, we’re going to maybe finally do something I don’t know, and she’s like all “episode five.” So I can’t give you any information because I don’t even know. But I can tell you that it’s both of our hopes that you know, maybe something can be, can be kindled because I really see them together, I see them as like the yin and the yang.

I totally got that same impression where Behrad is the way more laid back one, but she’s the way more straight laced and orderly person. I can see them complementing each other like that.

Totally, totally. I mean it’s very… there’s a lot of polarity there, you know, and I think it could be interesting, it would just be interesting. Romances on the ship are always tricky, always dicey. But that’s what makes them exciting!

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “This is Gus” airs this Sunday, July 11, airing and streaming on The CW.

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