Thrilling new Apple TV+ spy series Tehran tackles Iran-Israel relations, Danielle de Wolfe chats to actors Shaun Toub and Niv Sultan to find out more

Transplanting the friction of real-world politics into the immersive sphere of a fictional drama is never an easy feat.

It's a delicate balancing act, one that new Apple TV+ series Tehran is attempting to tackle head on.

As the name would suggest, the series is set in the modern-day Iranian capital and depicts the very-real conflict between the nations of Iran and Israel. Filled with intricate nuances and tension-filled dialogue, the script covers ground that very few productions have previously addressed.

"What we really wanted to do on the show is to see if we can bring people together and also change perceptions," notes Tehran actor, Shaun Toub, 57.

"At the end of the day, people are just people and hopefully we have done that."

Iranian-born Toub - who is best known for his roles in Iron Man, The Kite Runner and more recently as part of political thriller Homeland - plays Iranian Revolutionary Guard member Faraz Kamali in the show.

Starring alongside newcomer Niv Sultan who takes the lead as Massad agent and computer hacker Tamar Rabinyan, the show delves into the intricacies of the nations' long-standing tensions.

"We've never worked together before. We really got to know each other on Tehran, which was a pleasure and it has been a wonderful journey," says Toub.

"I think Niv (Sultan) feels the same way... the reason I got involved is because it was an interesting script and an interesting story that nobody has done before. You know?" he remarks.

"It's a very balanced show, thankfully... every role is different for me because it really starts with the script. I'm just crazy like that, because usually If a role doesn't really talk to me, then I'm in trouble."

Shot between Athens and Israel, the adrenaline-fuelled series tells a tale of international espionage, as Sultan's character Tamar attempts to slip undetected into Tehran in order to disable Iranian radar.

Tasked with ensuring Israeli warplanes can take-off unhindered, her role forms part of a wider mission to stop a nuclear reactor and ultimately prevent Iran from obtaining an atomic bomb.

The twisting plotline sees Tamar question her allegiances, faced with the realities of whether she can trust both her Mossad handler in Tehran and her bosses back in Tel Aviv.

And like many Iranians born after the 1979 revolution, despite being born in Tehran, Tamar emigrated to Israel as a young child, adding an additional level of nostalgia to this fast-paced storyline.

"First of all, I think it's a very very important and interesting subject," remarks Israeli-born Sultan, 28, of the series.

"I think the beauty of this show is that there isn't one clear enemy. We're showing both sides without favouring either of them and we focussed on showing the magical Tehran and the magical Iran."

Directed by Daniel Syrkin who also acts as the show's co-writer, the action-packed series was dreamt up by Fauda creator Moshe Zonder, alongside Dana Eden and Maor Kohn.

"The heart of this show is the passion of the young people, the generation that wants Iran to be more," says series director Syrkin, 49.

"Milad brings Tamar into a hidden world in Iran where the young people want a normal life: listen to music, dance, love whomever they want-things they're deprived of now."

A joint project that sees tech giant Apple partner with Cineflix Rights and Israeli network Kan 11 as co-producers, it's a show Toub was initially a little wary of getting involved in.

"When they sent [the script] to me, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do an Israeli production," he notes. "I had never done one before - and also, you know, being a Hollywood actor."

"They sent the script and then I read the first one, and then the second one, and the third and the fourth, and it was amazing. It's all about the words; that's how I got interested. And then I started talking to Danny (Syrkin) the director and we really hit it off and just, magic happened."

It's common practice for actors to go above and beyond in order to hone a role - whether it be in terms of a physical or a psychological transformation.

And with time being of the essence - as is the case with most television production - the biggest challenge facing Sultan was learning Fasi, the language of Persia, in a mere handful of weeks.

"I focussed on getting into the Iranian culture and really immersing myself in it because I like the fact she's a very young Massad agent and she gets into this journey without knowing a lot," says Sultan of her character. "I really focussed on learning the language and learning some physical skills."

"For me, as an actress, Tamar is the type of girl that I dreamt of. She's such a complex character, she carries so many colours and layers in her, it was a huge gift."

"She also learned Farsi in four months which was ridiculous," interjects Toub with a smile.

In many respects, the beauty of Tehran is that the series looks beyond the nations' differences and delves into the humanity behind the tension.

Allowing viewers to relate to the conflicted emotions, fears and anxieties of Toub and Sultan's characters, the series breaks down appearances to reveal the importance of interpersonal connection.

"Faraz was a very interesting and complex character and I loved that," says Toub.

"The complexity of the character is what drives me. I always say that - I don't like one-dimensional characters. Multi-dimensional characters are really fun to watch for the audience as well. It's been wonderful."

"I love the humanity of him, the struggle and the complexity of life. So for me, it's all about the words - and when it connects, it's magic."

  • Tehran is available to stream now on Apple TV+