League loyalties

US-Iranian star of ‘Tehran’ was conflicted over US-Iran World Cup match

Shaun Toub says he was unsure who to root for during game, but is hopeful for change amid ongoing protests since ‘the world now sees what this regime is doing’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Actor Shaun Toub attends Apple TV's 'Tehran' season two premiere in New York on May 4, 2022. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Actor Shaun Toub attends Apple TV's 'Tehran' season two premiere in New York on May 4, 2022. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Iranian-American actor Shaun Toub, star of the hit Israeli thriller series “Tehran,” said he didn’t know who to root for when Iran took on the US at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday night.

“Who do I root for? I’m so conflicted. Oh my God — this game is gonna kill me,” Toub said in a video he posted to Instagram during the soccer match that ultimately ended in a 1-0 win for the US. “What shall I do? Hopefully, it’s gonna be a good game anyways.”

In an interview on Wednesday with the Kan public broadcaster — the producer of “Tehran” — Toub said he felt sadness when Iran was ultimately knocked out of the international tournament.

Initially, he said, “Whoever wins, it’s going to be fine — but all of a sudden, at the end of the game, I felt sadness for Iran,” he recounted. “I thought that maybe [a win] would give a little bit of hope [to Iranians], so I got sad.”

Toub is an outspoken critic of the current Iranian regime, and said he supports the widespread protests that have been rocking the nation for several months.

“What is going on in Iran — it’s unbelievable. They are killing the youth of Iran. This regime is just so brutal, but they are not stopping, the youth are not stopping,” he said.

In the series, whose second season aired earlier this year, Toub, who is Jewish and lives in Los Angeles, plays Faraz Kamali, the head of investigations for the notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The show tells the story of a young Mossad agent named Tamar who gets caught up in an operation gone wrong in Iran and must fight for both her safety and her mission.

Toub, who has also starred in the show “Homeland” and the film “Crash,” revealed that the third season of “Tehran” — which is broadcast internationally on Apple TV+ — will begin filming in January.

Asked if the plot will incorporate the mass protests, Toub was noncommittal: “Everything is changing, they keep on changing the script because of what’s going on in Iran.”

This image released by Apple TV+ shows Shaun Toub as Faraz Kamali in a scene from ‘Tehran.’ (Apple TV+ via AP)

The actor said he gets a lot of messages on Instagram from people in Iran — including both those who were happy to see their own country’s team lose at the World Cup and those who mourned the loss.

“It’s a weird situation,” he said. “This regime is brutal.”

Despite the ongoing harsh crackdown on such protests across Iran, Toub said he is “absolutely” optimistic that they can bring about change, and that the conversation will continue beyond the World Cup.

“This is a game changer because the world now sees what this regime is doing,” he said. “I’m optimistic. I always hope for a better day.”

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