Unveiling the Soul of Apostle Philip: A Conversation with Reza Diako

by | Mar 19, 2024

Explore actor Reza Diako's transformative portrayal of Apostle Philip in "The Chosen" as he delves into the profound depths of art, faith, and the human experience in an exclusive interview with Lewis Magazine's Sofia Deus.

In an exclusive interview with Lewis Magazine’s Talent features editor Sofia Deus, actor Reza Diako offers a glimpse into his journey portraying Apostle Philip in the acclaimed series “The Chosen.” Diako’s portrayal of this revered historical figure has garnered attention not only for his performance but also for the broader conversations it sparks about representation and unity in Hollywood. From his personal connection to the character to his approach to navigating complex themes, Diako shares insights into his craft, his experiences, and his aspirations as an artist committed to authentic storytelling and inclusivity.


Photography @Ryan West Photo


1. Congratulations on your role as ‘Apostle Philip’ in “The Chosen,” Reza! How do you feel about portraying such a pivotal historical figure in a series with such a massive global following?

Thank you! I was a huge fan of The Chosen since it started in Season 1 and was always keen to join and serve the story. It was such an honour the way that the cards unfolded, and serendipitously I am here now in Season 4 as the new Philip. The Chosen Family across the world has been incredibly generous with their love and support since we started filming. I was lucky to meet some of them at The ChosenCon and The Premier and it was surreal.Playing Philip means a great deal to me personally, because I feel that he and I share a lot in common. We both had a bit of a nomadic life. I lived in four different countries, and Philip left his home to be trained by John the Baptist in the wilderness. We are both “old souls”, and he reminds me of one of my most important values, to lead with love and surrender to life’s unknowns with steadfast trust and faith.

2. “The Chosen” has been praised for its diverse representation of characters. How do you think your portrayal of Apostle Philip contributes to the broader conversation about representation in Hollywood?

What I appreciate about Dallas Jenkins is that he leads a set where there is a lot of love amid total respect, truly little ego-based hierarchy, and he also instils a sense of deeper meaning in the work done by all cast and crew which creates a sense of collective unity. The Chosen and Dallas both seem open to all backgrounds, cultures, faiths, and political backgrounds being a part of the show. I think this is wonderful, and is the reason the show is successful, because it connects to anybody from any background. There is an interesting quote The Chosen lives by which goes, “Love Can Disagree”, and I think that is quite a simple but profound message for accepting difference and enquiring creatively about whatever is on the other side of the border of knowns and comfort zones of any individual.

I personally think that art is a very strong tool to unify people through the core human journey that is shared by all, and wherever there is unity and inclusivity in art instead of division based on categories and political influences, a candle of love and hope is lit up and a bridge for dialogue and connection and new possibilities is put in place. I think that is also Philip’s message, to lead with love, to encounter unknowns with curious dialogue, and to dare to be unique and different.

3. You’ve been part of several internationally acclaimed projects, including “Tehran” and “The Diplomat.” How does your experience in these diverse roles inform your approach to portraying characters like Apostle Philip?

I have been extremely lucky to work with some incredibly talented directors and teams in the last four years. Tehran was unique because it was my first project after graduating from drama school, and I got to play the supporting role of Shahin and be involved in a project with a beautiful message of unity between two countries who seem to be enemies, but bleed and love the same. The Diplomat was a vastly different role as the dark antagonist.I often love characters with complexity, traumas and knots. Every project is unique and teaches me more about being flexible and surrendering to the unknown and being a good team player when working on co-creating the experience on set. The real art and magic usually happen collaboratively and in between the souls, I feel.

I also learn as time goes on to do all the relevant extensive research and preparation for each role and work from the ground up. Every character has a story and is affected by life’s pawprints from the moment that the sperm met the egg. I like being a transformative actor and continuing to expand my repertoire of exploring new human experiences. Philip has been another unique avenue to explore a different era, background, culture, and soul journey, and I am grateful that I get to play him.

4. “The Chosen” is known for its unique release strategy, with episodes being shown in theatres. How do you think this format enhances the viewing experience for audiences?

I am very moved by how successful the show is and how loyal and supportive the fans, The Chosen Family, are. I feel that the show has a lot of very moving moments, particularly this season, where things get a whole lot darker and more nuanced. I feel that the theatre gives a chance to the audience to have the private space to get fully emersed in the story and be fully present with their experiential and emotional responses to the paradox-ridden journey of Jesus and The Disciples. I have also loved getting a chance to share the experience with The Chosen Family by Theatre hopping across The States.

5. In the upcoming season of “The Chosen,” viewers can expect to see Jesus facing increasing opposition. How does your character, Apostle Philip, navigate these challenges alongside Jesus and the other disciples?

Philip has a complex journey this season. Normally he is the bringer of lightness, and esoteric wisdom, and is the first to put the hand on the shoulder and encourage and motivate. This season, his father figure, John the Baptist is beheaded. I think Philip faces a big internal battle now, where on one hand, he is deeply mourning his material father figure in John, but on the other, he has Jesus, his divine father, guiding him to a path that feels righteous, but also unknown and dark in a material sense. He is quieter and transforming I feel. Learning to stay steadfast and faithful, and trust in the painful process, knowing that the journey with Jesus is not only material, but one of divinity, and with it, a strong demand for sacrifice, tolerance, and courage.

6. You’re also set to star in “The Astronaut” and “Reading Lolita in Tehran.” Can you tell us about your roles in these projects and what drew you to them?

Of course! Reading Lolita in Tehran was a big honour to be a part of. Eran Riklis is a director that I have been dreaming to work with since I love his repertoire and desire to tackle complex topics. Getting a chance to work with Golshifteh Farahani was also a childhood dream and I am still in awe of the fact that I got to share the screen with her.The story is a book adaptation around the early 1980’s in Iran. The universities were temporarily closed at this time, and the humanities and arts subjects were all reassessed and some cancelled to make them palatable to the new strict regime’s agenda, which was using a fundamentalist caricaturised idea of Islam to control people through a dictatorship.

Meanwhile, my character, Bahri, is a student who is stuck between two sides of him. One is his opportunity to use his position in the university’s Islamic Society to gain personal wealth and status (as was the case with many young students at the time), and the other is his deep love for literature and his professor, Azar Nafisi (Golshifteh Farahani). I am extremely excited for people to see it.

In The Astronaut, I played Ethan Marshall, the director of NASA. I tried to do an astrophysics and engineering PHD in a few weeks! It mattered a lot to me to keep things authentic. So, all I remember is spending days and hours reading about and watching all things physics, space, and NASA for weeks. It was quite eye-opening.

7. “Reading Lolita in Tehran” tackles complex themes about literature and society. How did you prepare for your role as Bahri, and what do you hope audiences will take away from the film?

I cared a lot about this role. I had to do a lot of research. Of course, the book itself was a lovely and rich source to get details about Bahri. I also tried to immerse myself into the world of Islam, reading the whole of the Quran, and practicing the prayers and rules to get a combined visceral and intellectual sense of the character’s quarrels. He felt like a trapped dove in a cage to me. It was also interesting researching into the history and politics of the time, but also getting first-hand stories from my family members who experienced the effects of the early days of post-revolution in Iran at a very feeling level.
I believe that the film’s message is there to touch every audience member differently and individually, but in our current times, where there seems to be too much focus again on categories, separation, and superficial games when it comes to our moral compass, the film might serve as an invitation to look deeper towards a common unity and to remember that all blood is red.

8. As an actor with a diverse background, how important is it for you to take on roles that challenge stereotypes and represent authentic experiences?

I am a big believer that art is designed to transcend politics and categorical differences and focus on the common soul journey that we all share as humans.I love any opportunity that I get given to work as an everyman, or as a person from any culture, religion, orientation, or upbringing different from me and outside of my current repertoire of knowns. I feel that art is the bridge or an extended hand to try and connect to an experience that might feel different or unknown on the surface, but once the core feeling is experienced, the common unifying message is landed. I think the main thing is to take that responsibility as the artist extremely seriously and to do the relevant depth of research that such endeavours require. This hopefully makes it possible to portray the new or different topic one is approaching with as much respect and authenticity as possible.


9. “The Chosen” has garnered a massive following worldwide. How does it feel to be part of a series that resonates with audiences from so many diverse cultures and backgrounds?

As I said, I think good art transcends culture and background differences. I am amazed by The Chosen’s core unifying message, as it seems to be trying to spread the values and lessons embedded in the historical stories of the bible, without trying to preach faith. I think it is hitting the audience at an archetypal level!


10. Looking ahead, what kind of roles or projects are you interested in pursuing in the future, and how do you hope to continue contributing to the conversation around diversity and representation in Hollywood?

Because of my psychology and Jungian background, I would love to work with directors who want to reveal something about the complex layers of humanity, or taboo subjects, or socio-political and historical projects. Directors like Yorgos Lanthimos, Charlie Kaufman, Thomas Vinterberg, Leos Carax, and Paul Thomas Anderson are only some of my favourites. As are Iranian directors like Asghar Farhadi and Saeed Roustayi. My piano and singing background also makes me excited to work on something with music in it. I would feel honoured to get as many opportunities as possible both to play the everyman and explore a range of diverse cultures and backgrounds through my work.



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