Filmed in Athens in Farsi, English and Hebrew, “Tehran” stars the emerging Israeli actor Niv Sultan, as Tamar, along with the “Homeland” alums Shaun Toub and Navid Negahban, both Iranian-American.
It is the latest spy drama to come out of Israel, which despite being a country of only 8.5 million, is the one of world’s most prolific exporters of television to the United States, including adapted shows like “Hatufim” (“Prisoners of War”), the basis for the Showtime hit “Homeland,” and original series like Netflix’s “Fauda.”(Zonder was the head writer for “Fauda.”) Apple TV+ alone has two more Israeli-sourced nail-biters on deck: “Echo 3,” adapted by Mark Boal (“Hurt Locker”) from the combat drama “Bishvila Giborim Afim” (“When Heroes Fly”) which itself is available on Netflix; and “Suspicion,” an adaptation of “Kfulim” (“False Flag”), an award-winning thriller that is streaming on Hulu.
But “Tehran” is in many ways a departure from these programs, which feature ensemble casts anchored by seasoned, psychically tortured male characters. Tamar, on her first military mission, carries no emotional wounds; her primary affliction is her sheer ambition. She is vulnerable, soft, and her femininity informs every action she takes in Iran. (Sultan, 28, enrolled in months of immersive Farsi classes to learn the language for the role.)
“This world of espionage thrillers is usually so manly,” Zonder said. Choosing a female protagonist, and a young one at that, forced him and his co-writer, Omri Shenhar, as two men writing together, to reconsider the options available to Israeli spies in times of crisis.
“When she got into trouble and she had conflicts, she needed to decide and act on what she could do as a woman in order to stay alive,” he said. “It was just as much as an adventure for us, sitting together and writing her, making her decisions.”