Niv Sultan Previews ‘Tehran’ Season 2: ‘Action Is Much Bigger, Risks Are Higher’

With the second season of “Tehran” about to debut on Apple TV+, Niv Sultan admits she’s balancing being scared with having hope for how the series’ continued exploration of the Iran-Israel conflict can open minds versus further stereotypes.

“Tehran” first aired on Israel’s public channel Kan 11 in June 2020 and began streaming on Apple TV+ a few months later, gaining a global audience and strong reviews. Season 2 of the tense spy thriller picks up where the first left off, with Sultan’s Tamar Rabinyan, a Mossad agent, hiding in Iran after a risky undercover mission. Glenn Close joins the cast in episodes that begin streaming May 6.

What initially drew you to “Tehran”?

You can see so many series about the Israeli conflict between Iranians. But when I read the script for the first time, I felt like the writers made a lot of effort to show there’s no bad side or a good side. They really focus on showing humanity behind the story. I was really, really excited about the fact that this is a completely different point of view of this conflict. And I really love it… It is about the conflict, but I feel that the series is much more about the real people of Tehran and the real people of Israel and that’s a really exciting and interesting angle.

What can fans expect for Tehran’s second season?

I think that with the second season, action is much bigger, the risks are higher. In terms of Tamar, the first season she was a very young Mossad agent who was sent just for a specific mission. Now she’s much more active. She gets deeply undercover in Tehran.

What will be the most challenging for your character Tamar? 

This season, the mission is much more personal for Tamar. She’s not taking a part in a mission. She is the mission. She has so many personal interests in the mission that can confuse her and control her.

Her personal connection to the city, her family that is from there, reconnecting with her roots, all of that seems pretty dangerous for an agent who would need to be pretty detached to do their job successfully. 

It’s a bad thing, getting so emotionally attached or being so emotionally involved. The fact that her interest is so personal, it’s not a good thing. You need to stay very focused and very cold as an agent and you need to keep your emotions and your feelings aside and out of the mission. The fact that she is so involved could be a problem for her.

Something that seems like it could become either a help or a huge distraction is her connection to Milad (played by Shervin Alenabi). What can you tease about their relationship and how things will evolve for them this season?

He is a huge distraction. She needs to run for her own life and to save Milad’s life at the same time. So everything is much more complicated. In an emotional way, she has a lot of things to lose. That’s not a good thing for an agent. You can’t stay very focused and very straight and need to think about someone you love that is in danger.

What was it like getting to work this season with Glenn Close, who plays a British woman named Marjan Montazeri living in Tehran?

I couldn’t believe when they first told me she’s joining the cast. I was like, come on. I was told she was sent a script, she watched the first season and she loved it. And I asked like, she watched the first season — you mean like she literally watched me? I was really excited about it and really nervous. Working with her, I learned every day. I tried to catch every moment, to look at her in every second, to see what she does, to look at her in the second before action, to see how she prepares herself for every scene. It was fascinating to see. She’s so huge, at the same time so professional. She is really a hard worker, and she takes everything super seriously. She takes every moment, every dramatic moment, she takes it to the edge. But at the same time, she’s just having fun on set.

How do you feel the series coming to Apple TV+ has helped gain a larger audience?

It’s an amazing platform. I’m receiving messages on Instagram from all over. You don’t know how it’s going to be. During shooting, you’re just in a bubble for months. And then suddenly this, and the fact that even now they got Glenn Close. It’s only because Apple TV+ bought the show. Otherwise, I don’t think they could have done it. I’m happy. I’m happy for this opportunity. I’m happy that we’ve reached so many audiences, and we’ve touched people’s hearts all over.

Going into a second season, what perspective do you hope this series can offer about Iran and Israel — their relationship to one another and the people who live within those nations?

I’ll start with saying that I really love the fact that I was really surprised by so many things that I didn’t know about Iran. What I knew about Iran or Tehran is only what I read on the news. I found out so many beautiful things about it. I was really happy that we are showing it on screen … that Iran is such a beautiful scene of music, culture, food. I was really happy that we showed it on the first season, and I want to continue to just show the beautiful things of both sides. I would like the audience to ask themselves if wars are worth it. Doesn’t matter if the interests are more personal or is it for your country. At the end of the day, we are all the same. Both countries, people are great, music is amazing, culture is wonderful. So is war worth it?

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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