BEHZAD DABU [HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER]
Who is Behzad? How would you describe yourself in a nutshell?
I am a trained actor who cares about changing the way people live, for the better, through the craft. I have a passion for social justice, serving my communities, and being the best brother, son, friend, partner, and citizen I can be. Music and laughing and food and basketball and travel is all great too!
Where are you originally from? Tell us about your hometown?
I was born in Boston, but raised in Syracuse, NY. I had a great childhood and have my family to thank for that. We have never had a lot of money, but I always had a lot of support in any creative endeavor. I took school seriously and always had a good time. I was always busy going from one activity to another, sports, arts, camps, friends houses, etc. I had a busy and fulfilling childhood.
How did acting start for you?
I love stories. I love telling stories. I was always very expressive when listening and telling stories. I also think acting is about empathy and I think I was an overly empathetic child. My parents were always putting me in extracurricular activities that I showed interest in... and acting never left me.
You’re also active in the Theatre scene. How different is it acting on stage than on TV? Do you prefer one over the other?
I am first and foremost a stage actor. I grew up on stage, and became a professional actor on stage and that is still where the highlights of my career have been. From The History Boys, to Blood and Gifts, to the original productions of Samsara and Disgraced, work on the stage is the work I am most proud of. It is very different medium to be on stage and on TV and I can think of dozens of reasons why, but perhaps this is the biggest: On Camera, it is about what is on screen, the camera chooses what to show, who to follow, and when. On Stage, each viewer in the audience could be looking at something else... some the listener, some the speaker, some the space between, and so multiple different stories are being told at all times, requiring total engagement at all times. Also, the audience has a role in any play in the theatre.
Tell us about your character Simon Drake (that fans love to hate) in How To Get Away with Murder?
We have seen the same five students for two years in law school, and not much about all the other kids in class. I think Simon Drake represents the rest of the students in that class to raise questions like: "how do the other students feel about the Keating 5?" "How do the other students feel about their relationship with Annalise? and how do the Keating 5 feel about outsiders?"
How is it working with Viola Davis and the cast of HTGAWM?
The cast is incredibly kind and gracious and talented and I feel so lucky. I have learned a lot from them. Viola is a legend, I cannot fully describe how fortunate I feel to have worked with a woman who I admire so much, not just on screen but off. She is a role model.
Are we gonna see more of Simon Drake?
I hope so!
Tell us about your character in Drive Share?
Drive Share is a fun project I got to do with some really fantastic comedians where everyone actually goes by their own real-life names and it takes place in the back of a ride share (uber/lyft). Basically it is really hilarious compilations of funny scenarios in a car. It was so fun to do because we were all just improvising and riffing off each other.
What’s your take regarding breaking the mold as an actor and the tendencies of being typecasted in Hollywood?
Well, representation is something that matters to me. Entertainment is more than escapism, it is a huge part of the culture. I believe that as artists, we have a responsibility to create the culture we want to live in. So I make sure that before I take any role, that I can play that role with dignity and respect, and I reject any offer that seeks to further marginalize or erase a disenfranchised community.
Any upcoming projects where we can expect you from?
There are a lot of irons in the fire right now...
My dream would be: developing/performing new plays for the stage, a series regular in a fantastic TV show giving voice to important topics, while playing totally different types of characters in feature films. Constantly genre-flipping and medium flipping, from comedies to dramas and from stage to screen.
What keeps you busy aside from acting?
I spend time hiking, traveling, with my friends and family. I love playing and watching basketball, and listening to music. I'm a drummer too and I actually really love going to the theatre and to movies.
Currently binge watching
House of Cards, Game of Thrones, This is Us.
Any advice you can give to any aspiring actors out there?
Acting is a craft, so make sure you get training, and then keep training. Respect everyone. Acting is a service profession. We are in service to the writer, to the audience and to our fellow actors. Remember that our job is not to pretend, or to lie, but rather to tell the truth via imaginary circumstances. Let us live out stories and scenarios so that our audience doesn't have to. Work hard, be supportive, see other artists' work, be persistent, and be open-minded. Thrive.
Book that you are currently reading?
If you’re going to have a book what title would it be?
"How You Made Them Feel"
If you will be given the chance and opportunity to help a specific charity, what would it be and why?
I give a lot to social-justice charities, it is something near and dear to my heart and always on my mind. Personally, My younger brother whom I love more than anything suffers from Type 1 diabetes, and I have watched him struggle with it his whole life, so I also wish and hope that that disease gets the funding it needs to find and develop a cure.