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NPR Arts & Life

Mozhan Marnò: Diaries, Screenplays, And Blacklists

Actor Mozhan Marnò talks to host Ophira Eisenberg and plays a game on Ask Me Another.
Actor Mozhan Marnò talks to host Ophira Eisenberg and plays a game on Ask Me Another.

Actor and writer Mozhan Marnò started writing at a very young age, in a very serious place: her diary. She kept a journal between the ages of 8 and 22, then picked it up again ten years later. Her earliest entries, she told host Ophira Eisenberg, tended to focus on one theme in particular. "It was like, 'why I like John,' and then the next week it was like, 'pros and cons of John,' and then the next week it was like, 'why I hate John.'"

These days, Marnò's catalog of written work is a bit more tonally consistent. She wrote the play "When the Lights Went Out" about her experiences during the 2003 New York City blackout, and she's currently working on another project based in part on her own life. "I've written a screenplay that I'm going to direct," she said, "and it's about an Iranian family splintered after the revolution told in three perspectives." Those three multigenerational, multinational perspectives—Iranian, Swedish, and Iranian-American—reflect Marnò's own family history.

Marnò is open and personal in her writing; Samar Navabi, the Mossad-trained agent she plays on the NBC's The Blacklist, is pretty much the opposite. As an Iranian-Israeli-American with a mysterious backstory, Navabi's evolving characterization has been informed by Marnò's own heritage and her conversations with the showrunners since she joined the series in its second season. Marnò was originally hoping to land a guest role on The Blacklist, but raised her sights higher while following the show's plot developments. "Toward the end of the [first] season, they, like, slit the throat of the ethnic chick and I was like, 'They're gonna be hiring more ethnics! I can slip in there!'" she said. "And then, like, two months later I had an audition."

In addition to her work as an actor, writer, and world traveler, Marnò also narrates audiobooks. We challenged her (and her radio-ready voice) to an audio quiz about celebrity audiobook readers.

HIGHLIGHTS

On what she'd like to see from her Blacklistcharacter, Samar Navabi

We've seen her for many seasons be very tough and very hard to read and I think it would be fun to get to explore more of her vulnerabilities. And also maybe she gets wild. I mean, I'm sure she drinks.

On participating in a youth playwriting program

The girls' plays are so much more sophisticated than the boys' plays. The girls' plays are all about, you know, how do we socially interact with each other, they're about stereotypes and they're so deep and so emotional. And the guys are like dragon fights and swords and stabbing each other.

Heard On Mozhan Marnò: Diaries, Screenplays, And Blacklists

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