Sam Asghari on Wanting to Be the Next Tom Cruise, Not Playing Terrorists and Those Pro-Vaccine Instagram Posts
Sam Asghari — actor, Instagram star and Britney Spears’ boyfriend — has of late been getting conspicuous attention on television. He was featured prominently in the premiere of HBO Max’s “Hacks,” and now has a recurring role on Season 3 of Showtime’s comedy “Black Monday,” which makes its debut on Sunday. “Black Monday,” created by David Caspe and Jordan Cahan, stars Don Cheadle, Regina Hall and Andrew Rannells; on the show, Asghari, 27, plays Giancarlo, a plaything for Tiffany (Casey Wilson), and a model for her label, Pfaffashions.
“Black Monday” will feature Asghari in four of its 10 episodes this season, and in an eye-catching first scene, Giancarlo and Tiff have sex as she bickers with her gay husband, Blair (Rannells), a freshman Congressman she keeps on a tight financial leash.
You make quite an entrance in your “Black Monday” role. How did you get that part?
It was such a quick audition — a couple of lines. And then a couple of weeks later, they booked me. I was in Italy on a project, and I heard they needed me to fly back. The cast was so brilliant when it comes to comedy: Casey Wilson, Andrew, Paul [Scheer], Yassir [Lester] and Don Cheadle; they’re all heavy hitters. I watched a couple of episodes when I auditioned, and then when I really got the job, I started really watching it and, I found it extremely funny.
Action is something that I want to do — action, drama, thriller — that’s a genre that I want to really get into. But if you can do comedy, you can do anything.
Did you know from the start that you were going to be on more than one episode?
We knew from the start we were going to be on a couple of episodes. From the producers, I got great feedback that I had great comedic timing, and great improvisation. I said, “Why don’t you guys do my hair curly?” The hair was just so funny — that late ’80s, ’90s curl. Like an Afro, but not really.
I noticed you right away in “Hacks.” What was it like to work with Jean Smart as — I guess you’re credited as “Sexy Santa”?
Everybody that looks like a model or a good-looking person is usually not a good actor. That’s just the perception. But the truth is, I’ve been acting since back in high school — I was doing theater and arts. I was doing Shakespeare, you know, “Macbeth,” “Hamlet.” And right now, I’m getting the opportunity to finally do it as a profession, rather than a hobby. I never wanted to do something that was sexy, but at the same time, but you can’t help it when it’s the guys from “Broad City” — the production team are so phenomenal, and they’re so talented.
And after the pandemic, I feel like we need comedy, you know? It’s only a few seconds, but it’s such a strong few seconds. And ever since it came out, there’ve been a lot of tweets are about it, and it made a big noise on social media, which is always a great thing. Working with Jean Smart — I’m flattered to work with such amazing talents that have been around the craft for such a long time. She was so professional. We had a great time.
Do people know who you are when you audition now?
Usually casting directors don’t. I’m just an actor. I’d rather they don’t, because then they don’t misjudge: this person is this, this person is attached to the other person — or whatever the case may be. I’d rather them not know who I am, so that way they can actually see the character. So they don’t see Sam Asghari, they see whatever I’m auditioning for. So that way they can actually judge my acting abilities rather than my fame, or my presence on social media.
What’s your ultimate acting goal?
I want to get into blockbusters, I want to get into TV shows that get on Netflix and become fan favorites. My ultimate goal is to really become a well-rounded actor. I’m doing a lot of MMA training, I’m doing a lot of gun and stunt training to be a well-rounded actor such as Tom Cruise, such as Jason Statham. Like I said, I want to do action, but I want to be able to do drama as well. This is my craft, and I want to accomplish it 100%.
Is there anything else you’re doing that I haven’t asked about?
We have another project called “The Family Business.” I haven’t really talked about Season 3: It’s on BET and BET Plus. I was supposed to only be recurring in Season 2, and then the character came out to be amazing. I play this assassin on the show, which is phenomenal because it’s a Mafia and very gangster family-like show, but also very family-oriented in a way. They’re really building that character for Season 3 coming up. I had a lot of camera time again with a lot of experienced actors on that show.
As a Middle Eastern man, have you ever felt like you’ve been stereotyped in Hollywood?
I’m blessed to be from my region, because where I come from is the complete opposite of the United States. I come from Iran; I migrated here when I was 12 years old, and I speak two different languages perfectly. But now, I’m not really being stereotyped. There are a few jobs that I booked that were terrorist roles, and I turned around to Brandon [Cohen, Asghari’s manager], and I told him I don’t want to do it. We decided we don’t want to do certain things that set up a stereotype.
I think times are changing a little bit. “United States of Al” is a great example. I made a post about it, because a lot of people were judging that show, and saying, “Why are people making fun of Middle Easterners?” I said on the post, “This is a great thing, because this is a comedy show. And it gives a platform for Middle Easterners to be able to make fun of themselves. Which is a great thing, rather than being on a show like ‘SWAT’ or ‘Homeland’ that has a lot of Middle Easterners playing terrorists.” Which I never wanted to do.
My ultimate goal is to be the first Middle Easterner that plays a superhero. Marvel or anybody — they should give me a call.
What was it like for you when you first came to the U.S.?
My father was already here, and he was working very hard for us to migrate. I remember I got on the plane, and I had a bag that had nothing in it. It was an empty bag. My dad was a very hard-working man, he sacrificed a comfortable living where he was doing really well financially back in our country. But in order for him to live here, he had to sacrifice those things, and he had to work a few jobs for us to come here.
When I came here, me and him, we had this room rented out with this other older gentleman in Southern California. And from then, we kind of built this life and we got an apartment and one by one, my sisters were migrating here. So it took a few years. And it really gave me that humble emigration story. I’m so grateful for everything that happened.
You’ve said you got into fitness after college. Tell me about that.
After college, I stopped playing sports, but my eating habits were the same, so I gained a lot of weight, because I wasn’t exercising as much. So I started really getting into the nutrition aspect of it, the physical training of it. And I really applied it to myself, and I lost a good hundred pounds at the time, and I had this transformation. Which led me to believe I could do leading characters, and I can do things on TV and film. I was doing theater and arts, but as a hobby — it was never as a profession. But once I started seeing a certain physical change, and with a few friends that pointed me in the right direction, I started really actually getting into acting on TV and film.
My editor is Persian, and he told me to tell you that he loves seeing you and Britney dancing to Persian music. Is it fun to share your culture on Instagram?
I don’t think much about it. My culture is my culture, and a lot of people are afraid of sharing their culture. They’re saying there’s a lot of racism in America. Yes, of course, people are going to judge, and we have racism issues in America. But also what’s beautiful about America is it’s such a diverse country.
If somebody judges, or somebody is racist, it’s because they’re uneducated. And I often feel bad for them, because they’re missing so much. When I first moved here, when I was speaking English in my classes, I was reading out loud or whatever, the kids would laugh. I would laugh with them, because I was learning. And the truth was, I was bilingual and they weren’t. So they can laugh all they want. I was the winner at the end, because I was the person that that spoke two different languages.
You have more than 1.6 million followers on Instagram. Do you consider yourself to be an influencer?
I don’t. But here’s the thing: Times are changing, and the biggest superstar right now in the acting industry is Dwayne Johnson, and he has a social media where he’s able to promote his movies. You can reach out to anyone you want. But I don’t consider myself an influencer. I consider myself an actor: My finances come from acting and from my fitness program. And, yes, I do deals here and there, but I try to not do the deals that are cheesy or influencer type things.
It’s science! My family is pretty much a medical family, and I’m not. Two of my sisters are working on the frontlines, the whole time, with COVID. My sister Maddie, she’s a nurse that works between 50 to 60 hours a week at Dodger Stadium. The information that came from there, the information that came from the medical team, just kind of helped us in a way to understand what was happening. Science in general just beats everything. It was a no-brainer when it came to the vaccine. I just wanted to get back to normal, get back to work, and wanted to be as safe as possible.
What TV shows and movies have you been watching?
I watch everything. When I do cardio for 45 minutes or up to an hour when I’m on the treadmill, I’m studying watching. I consider it as my craft. I no longer watch a story of the film: I watch performances, I watch certain actors. I watched “Queen’s Gambit” — I really liked that show.
I watch “Narcos.” What I liked about “Narcos” is because there was a lot of Spanish in it, I was really able to turn off the subtitles and really understand what the actors were trying to say without understanding what they were saying. My favorite show right now, coming up, is “Friends.” I loved “Friends” from the beginning. But the reunion, I can’t wait for.
Same. You said in an interview that you almost turned down being in the Britney Spears “Slumber Party” video, where you two first met, because you didn’t want to be in another music video. How do you how do you look back on that experience?
I believe in the universe, and everything happens for a reason. Music videos are kind of dead and they’re not considered as an acting job. I did this thing with Fifth Harmony, and then that was supposed to be it: No more music videos, just move on to TV and film.
Then a good friend of mine called me and said, “Listen, I’m working on this job as a makeup artist and the director was looking for this person for this lead. Can you be in it?” I said, “You’re the one that told me I shouldn’t do more music videos, why are you calling me?” He said, “No, trust me, you want to be in it — the artist wants, they chose you specifically out of 10 different pictures. Please, please, if you can make it.” That was at midnight, and the shoot was the next day, so I said, “Yes, let’s do it.”
Everything happens for a reason. Even when I migrated here, I’m we migrated by chance, my dad went through so much. And little things happen here and there that form a life.
This interview has been edited and condensed.