Broadway and television star Arian Moayed visited Bloomington this past weekend to receive the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences’ Outstanding Young Alumni Award. After the 33-year-old’s curtain call, he talked to us about working with Robin Williams, his role on NBC’s Believe, and the fear that motivates him artistically.
How much has changed since you visited IU last?
I came back in 2010, but only for a few days. Before that, it had been since 2002, when I graduated. The energy is the same—it’s still an exciting place. But the Lee Norvelle Theater and Drama Center is new. I was here when it was being constructed, but this is my first time actually walking through the doors.
What are your favorite memories from your time here?
The shows. We closed the old university theater with Waiting for Godot, which was great. And when I was a freshman, I got cast in The Servant of Two Masters as one of the leads. That’s where I met Tom Ridgely. He was the other lead, and we started our theater company from there.
What’s different about being a theater student now than when you were studying?
The structure of what we do hasn’t changed. You graduate and you have no idea what you’re going to do. You’re just winging it, and that fear and vulnerability is universal. But you gotta live through that fear, baby. It’s important. And in 10 years, you’re going to have new fears. We’re inundated with fear. We love it. It’s part of who we are. It’s how you deal with that fear that defines you, that makes you who you are as an artist.
What do you plan to tell students on your visit?
Do. I always say that. Do a lot of things. Do, do, do. Make, make, make. Don’t wait around for anybody to offer you opportunities. Just do it yourself. You wanna act? You can do that right now in the corner of this room. Take Hamlet and start reading “To be or not to be.” Right now. Or you can wait around for an audition that might not come. I also tell people to be a good person. I tell people to volunteer. It helps the community, which is good, but it also makes you feel better. And when you feel better, you’re more confident, which allows you to take more risks.
You worked with Robin Willams on the cast of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. What is he like?
An incredible human being. Robin is talented, funny, vulnerable, and a great, great mind. And surprisingly serious sometimes, too. But we all are.
How did you prepare for the role of Musa in that play?
Practice. Lots of it. Rajiv Joseph wrote a complex character—not a good guy or a bad guy. He was just a guy in war-torn 2003 Baghdad trying to make ends meet. The part was rare. Few have the balls to write something like that because most people want to put you in a category. But Rajiv just refuses to do that. He doesn’t write two-dimensional characters. They’re three or four or five dimensions.
What’s it like to work with Lost creator J.J. Abrams and Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron on Believe?
I’m on a J.J. Abrams show. Who can beat that? We’ve had creative struggles, obviously, but you always do. Network television is hard, and I’m trying to figure out how best to serve it. But I will say Alfonso is great. I’m so glad that he won the Oscar.
What’s in the future for you?
My short film debuts at Tribeca Film Festival in two weeks. It’s called Day Ten. I’m very excited about that. Then I’m hoping to jump in and do a feature this fall. It’s a screenplay called This Island Made Me, and I’m directing it. I’m also excited about Rajiv’s new play called “Guards at the Taj. I have a bunch of things cooking. I don’t know if any of them are going to taste good, but they’re out there. I just need to make sure that I’m doing the things that I believe are right. If they turn out to be right, then great. If not, well, that happens too.