Photo Credit: Halima H
Kian Kavousi, an actor of profound skill and versatility, has carved an illustrious path through the entertainment industry, leaving a lasting mark with his performances on the small screen, silver screen, and theater stages.
Kavousi’s standout portrayal in the celebrated TV series “The Chosen” has earned him widespread recognition. The series, distributed by Lionsgate, is a global hit, accessible on various streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, NBC’s Peacock, and the CW Network. His compelling performance in this series has been lauded by critics and viewers alike.
Beyond his TV success, Kian Kavousi has graced feature films and various projects that have garnered acclaim at prestigious film festivals worldwide. His impactful roles in movies such as “1st Born,” “The Big Apple,” “Sarah Is Not Her Name,” “Miles,” and “The Last Chance” demonstrate his diverse range and talent. Each portrayal brings depth and authenticity to the characters he embodies.
Kian Kavousi’s journey in the acting world was honed through dedicated training and mentorship. Under the guidance of industry luminaries like Larry Moss, Kristof Konrad, Jean-Louis Rodrigue, and Vincent D’Onofrio, he refined his craft, imbibing wisdom and technique that set him on a trajectory toward success.
His artistry extends beyond the screen, shining on Off-Broadway stages in diverse productions like “The Defendant Maurice Chevalier” and “Professionals.” His stage presence and commitment to the characters he portrays captivate audiences, displaying his adaptability and depth as an actor.
With an impressive body of work behind him and a commitment to ongoing growth and development, Kian Kavousi’s future in the entertainment industry seems promising and vibrant. His dedication to his artistry, coupled with an array of powerful performances, has solidified his position as a distinguished actor, both on screen and on stage.
FilmCentral magazine recently engaged with Kian to delve into his industry journey, and here’s a recap of the conversation:
Can you tell us more about yourself?
I grew up in Germany. When I was not in school or with my friends, I spent most of my time playing the piano or sports. My mother always insisted that I see the world, so every vacation she had, she took me with her to different destinations all over the world. Sometimes, I felt uncertain about how to handle all the new impressions because they were so new to me, but they always ended up shaping me and proving useful for my future profession. After graduation, I spent a year volunteering at an institution for the elderly and children in upstate New York. Later, when I finished my Bachelor of Arts in Interpretation and Translation Studies in Germany, I pursued a Master of Science in International Relations and Politics in England. However, I somehow always ended up acting, whether it was in school plays or putting on shows with the money I had saved over the summer. I used my friends in short clips and films we made, imitating game shows and creating music videos with cameras that could only record for about 15 minutes. Years later, it eventually led to Off-Broadway shows in Manhattan and film projects in Los Angeles. There were a lot of signs and indications that this was what I should do. I decided to go all in and moved to New York. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make, but at the same time, one of the easiest. And now I’m here having a conversation with you.
How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
Through the infamous New York snowstorms, I went out to countless auditions. I booked a film here and a commercial there, but I noticed the lack of exposure to industry professionals. I knew I had to open up to different ways of getting on the radar of casting directors and securing representation. Some friends of mine who are writers regularly invited me to table reads. We put our heads together and came up with potential self-written plays to perform. We rented theater spaces and continued to invite professionals to see all our different shows while I pursued auditions on the side. Eventually, some investors noticed our work and believed in our potential. We had several meetings, and they decided to organize and invest in a full-budget Off-Broadway production. Tickets were sold on Broadway, and the reviews started coming in. There was a lot of pressure because we had to deliver in front of hundreds of audience members every night. The production became a success, and an agency signed me. Afterward, I was submitted to feature film productions, TV series, and projects sent to film festivals around the world, bringing home awards. Finally, all the short films, plays, and auditions combined put me on the radar.
Photo Credit: The Chosen
What do you like most about acting?
I enjoy exploring people and their psychology, to understand what motivates them to behave the way they do. How they feel, talk, walk, and express themselves, and then finding ways to bring them to life through myself. It is absolutely exciting to research characters and discover what you have in common with them and what makes them different. You gain perspective and realize the complexities of the human mind and behavior. See, while there are common psychological traits and tendencies that people share, like the pursuit of happiness, the need for social connection, and the capacity to experience emotions at all, there are also significant differences among individuals. These differences come from a combination of genetic factors, personal experiences, cultural backgrounds, and environmental influences. You can feel much more comfortable portraying characters when you come from a place of understanding them. At times, it’s easier and more relatable, but in other instances, you may have to delve deep, and you might never truly relate. Nevertheless, it’s always exciting to play these roles. The other aspect I love about acting is the environment in which you work and act. The people on the set that you see every day, whether it is the lighting or sound crew, the cameraman, makeup, hairstylists, or crafty, become memorable and fun. The cast members and directors with whom you share a significant amount of time become unforgettable moments. You receive support, and you give support. You become a family, and you grow together, even beyond the projects.
How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?
While acting in both mediums shares similarities, there are also a lot of differences. In film, you usually have a fully developed character when you come to the set. This means it requires a lot of preparation in advance, and you discuss it with the directors to make sure it aligns with their visions as well while also leaving space for changes. You know the beginning, middle, and end of your character’s journey, and you map out the characters’ arc accordingly and throughout the shooting schedule, which usually spans between weeks to months. The shorter production time allows actors to explore a wider variety of characters for other projects. In TV, your character has the opportunity to develop and grow over the course of multiple seasons. You can return and revisit a character and experience something new. So, even though you are prepared, the actor’s process and progress are not set in stone because you play the same character over an extended period, which can lead to a more in-depth exploration as the plot progresses and unfolds over months or years. In film, you often find a concentrated storyline; in TV, you have subplots that evolve across episodes. But again, it is important to mention that it all depends on the projects because some of the best content out there is on both film and TV, and I enjoy acting in both.
Photo Credit: Angie Kremer Photography
What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?
I would say uncertainty at times. Yet again, I believe this is a challenge actors generally struggle with. On set, you juggle all these aspects, including immersing yourself in your character’s world and physicality, while also managing technicalities like blocking, hitting marks, and adjusting to camera frames. It can be busy on set, and the pace can be fast, and there is not often time for immediate feedback or approval of your work. So in order to bypass uncertainty and bring my best performance to the table, I work with professional coaches. We focus on different areas, such as character development for consistency throughout filming, and work on voice and accents for proper authenticity. We analyze the scripts and explore different techniques to find the physicality. I try all approaches, whether I work from the inside out or from the outside in. However, I collaborate with coaches to avoid limiting myself and to expand my character range as well as my emotional range.
What are your strong points as an actor?
It is always difficult to evaluate yourself, but I would say that I feel comfortable with creating the characters I play. I prioritize understanding their internal psychology and their external physicality. I approach my characters with empathy and avoid preconceptions and judgments. I also thoroughly analyze scripts and quickly memorize them while staying open to continuously learning more and what is required for the role. I like to be so well prepared that I feel comfortable and at ease to adjust to any directions or changes. It is like a muscle that grows stronger with practice. The more you do it, the better you become.
What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?
Over the years, I have had the privilege to work with some great directors – visionaries who possess the ability to convey and communicate their creative ideas with such precision that they are crystal clear to the actor, and you know exactly what to do. Among them is Dallas Jenkins, the celebrated director of the global hit series The Chosen. Working on set with him for the show is an experience out of this world. We know that actors have to be flexible enough to find more than just one or two ways of approaching a performance. Dallas, however, encourages his actors to explore multiple dimensions of a character; together, you end up creating an entirely new personality on the spot. He asks the right questions and provides vivid descriptions that instantly transport you to the exact emotional environment you need to be in for the scenes. He knows how to bring out the best performance from you. With his guidance and our own preparation, the cast members and I have been able to create magical moments. Director Satrajit Sen gave me the freedom to improvise. He recognized that within the given circumstances, this was the way to find my character’s authenticity. Ali Atshani said, “You listened the right way, so you knew how to answer the right way.” I can say that I have learned valuable lessons from many directors, and I carry each experience with me and use them in other projects.
Photo Credit: Angie Kremer Photography
What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?
I think there are many factors to consider, and the experiences differ from person to person. Some actors don’t like auditions; they feel blocked or uncomfortable, which can affect their performance. They are not sure how to give their best or how to handle rejections. Sometimes, you find yourself with little time to prepare. Other times, you invest long hours in preparation and travel miles and distances to wait behind closed doors in a room full of stressed people, only to be called in and rejected. However, auditioning is an inevitable but invaluable opportunity to stay sharp and continuously explore new characters. There is your chance to act, and if you deliver a good performance, you will be remembered. Also, these are all opportunities; you never know which room you are entering. Others struggle to find the right representation that aligns with their needs and try to find the proper support and guidance. On the other hand, some actors feel emotionally and physically exhausted and drained or feel that they lack control over their careers and perceive the industry as too insecure and struggling to maintain perseverance. Some actors are stuck in guest roles, while others don’t secure those parts. I believe these ups and downs in this industry are part of this profession, and everyone has to go through them at their own pace. On top of that, both aspects have to be taken care of as an actor, the acting part as well as the business part.
What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?
Well, that’s a great question, and it brings a lot of answers to it. One challenge is the extensive preparation required before even stepping into a character’s shoes. This includes a thorough script analysis and the gathering of all necessary information about the character, including their psyche, motivations, fears, and flaws, all without passing judgment. You have to understand intentions, subtext, needs, transitions, your character’s emotional state, and much more. Once you have laid the foundation, the next challenge is integrating these elements into the character. You should avoid playing cliches or stereotypes and instead find unique traits and physicality. In addition, there are technical aspects to consider, such as adapting to the genre, style, and tone of the project and knowing your lines inside out to be free and fresh in your performance. Another significant challenge is listening and reacting to your acting partners in a scene while staying true to your character and incorporating their performances. The list of challenges can be quite long, and it continuously varies from one project to the next.
What do you do when you’re not filming?
Honestly, I love adventures; that’s what truly excites me. I like traveling to new places, trying out new cuisines, meeting new people, exploring new things, and being together with my family and friends, which brings me joy. In my free time, I like to play sports like soccer and basketball, as well as go to the gym. I also enjoy playing the piano, reading, and sometimes dancing.
Photo Credit: Halima H
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
That is probably the hardest question. I have so many memorable experiences and moments that I am grateful for, and they have all been very exciting. If I had to pick one off the top of my head, I would say the audition for the TV series The Chosen. I was going home from a late shoot when my manager called me and said that another audition had come in and that they had requested a tape due the next day. The only problem was that my camera had broken a couple of days earlier, and I also couldn’t find a reader on short notice that late at night. I called a friend who worked at a self-taping service and asked if I could Schedule a one-hour taping session in the morning. He was kind enough to agree and reserve a spot. I opened the sides and found three scenes and 13 pages of script. I pulled an all-nighter and prepared everything. The following day, I rushed to the studio. To my surprise, my friend told me there had been a mix-up in the booking, but if I waited another hour, he could skip his break and give me a 10-minute window for taping. Having only ten minutes for a 13-page script meant I had one try to record all scenes in one single take, and it had to be done quickly. After the taping, we sent the material, and for the next three months, I heard nothing from them. Then, out of the blue, I received a call that the director and casting director wanted to see me. I drove over and noticed I was the only one in the waiting room. The sign-in sheet said one actor per hour. Sitting there, I could hear them playing the entire audition tape. Moments later, they called me in, and we spoke a little and began the audition. They sent me out two or three times to prepare for different roles and then had me come back in. The audition lasted over 30 minutes. Two weeks later, I was packing for a trip to New York when my manager called me and asked, ‘Have you left yet?’ I said, ‘Not yet, why?’ She said, ‘You might want to change your flight to Texas.’ At that moment, I had no idea what she meant until she said, ‘They’ve cast you for the series!’
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
In this profession, you meet a lot of people, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet many fascinating individuals. It is impossible to pick a starting point, but one who stands out is Vincent D’Onofrio. He taught me so much, and we had interesting conversations, but witnessing how he transformed into a character was extraordinary. Another encounter was with Val Kilmer. I could not believe my eyes. We were chatting, and within an instant, when the 1st AD signaled everyone, he effortlessly shifted and transformed into another person. He changed the room’s energy. What is even more stunning is that he did it differently every time, with new creative intentions. Larry Moss blew my mind with his vast knowledge. I could listen to him endlessly, knowing there was still a lot of wisdom I needed to absorb. The same goes for Al Pacino and Adam Driver. The list of people is very long, but it is fascinating how each one leaves a unique impression on you with their personality.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
There are currently some exciting projects on the horizon that I can’t discuss in detail. Also, I could use a proper vacation to recharge again.