Introducing Rina Mousavi: The Rising Star of ‘Shayda’ Shines Bright at Sundance and Beyond

FilmCentral Magazine is proud to present an exclusive feature on the amazing journey of actress Rina Mousavi, whose unwavering dedication to her craft has propelled her to the forefront of the entertainment industry.

Rina Mousavi’s passion for acting burned brightly from a young age, igniting a lifelong commitment to the art form. In 2018, she embarked on a transformative journey, undergoing an intensive 10-month mixed martial arts (MMA) training regimen for her lead role in the short film The Society. This immersive experience not only honed her physical abilities but also opened doors to new opportunities.

Mousavi showcased her newfound MMA skills in the ABC/BBC TV series “Itch” Season 2, captivating audiences with her dynamic performance. Her seamless integration of martial arts prowess into her acting repertoire showcased her versatility and marked her as a talent to watch.

The following year marked a significant milestone in Mousavi’s career with the completion of her first feature film, “Alexander.” The film’s acceptance into nine festivals, including Fringe World Perth, served as a testament to Mousavi’s talent.

In early 2021, Mousavi once again proved her mettle with her lead role in the short film “The Gunslinger,” directed by Rachel Fitzgerald. Her captivating portrayal earned her a nomination for the prestigious Best Actress Award at the Atlanta Comedy Film Festival and secured acceptance into 28 festivals worldwide, further solidifying her reputation as a rising star on the global stage.

Continuing her upward trajectory, Mousavi’s journey reached new heights with her involvement in the critically acclaimed film “Shayda,” directed by Noora Niasari and executive produced by the legendary Cate Blanchett. Premiering at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, “Shayda” captured the hearts of audiences, earning the coveted Audience Choice Award and emerging as Australia’s entry at the 96th Academy Awards. The film’s exceptional quality was recognized with nine nominations at the 2024 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, including a win for the Best Casting In Film. In an exclusive interview with FilmCentral Magazine, we caught up with Rina to gain insight into her extraordinary journey. Here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m an actor with a dancing background, and I love pretty much every outdoor activity. I also have a Fashion Design background, and after doing 10 months of mixed martial arts training for a TV series, I find myself back in the dojo every now and then. I’m a huge animal lover! I can also do a pretty good impression of Britney Spears.

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

I’ve wanted to be a performer for as long as I can remember and was involved in drama classes throughout school. However, I was worried about disappointing my parents and felt like there wasn’t room for me in the industry. After working full-time as a garment technician in the fashion industry for five years, I decided to take an acting class and pursue my passion. It’s been the best decision.

What do you like most about acting?

I love so many things about my job, so it’s hard to pick just one… I get to be someone else. I create this new character and give them life. Actors have the ability to empower and move the viewer. As a kid, characters inspired me, and I used their strengths to do better. I don’t even want to talk about the magic of being on set and in costume with your scene partner.

How different is acting in a movie from acting in a TV series? Which one do you prefer?

They are both very special to me, and I don’t really have a preference. You have more time on a film set vs a faster pace approach on a TV series, but both processes are rewarding.

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

I also need to remember to pursue other interests and hobbies and to allow myself just to be. I’ve recently started learning to speak Spanish, which I’ve wanted to do for so long! I’ve purchased my first set of roller skates and hope not to break any bones while learning roller skating. It’s hard to find the time to fit everything in, but it’s important to take care of myself in order to be a better actor.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

I’ve been fortunate to work with incredibly talented directors who are passionate about the production’s vision. They’ve taught me to let go and stay present. With every redirection, I’ve explored different emotions, allowing me to remain free and focused on my given circumstance. To me, having a good relationship with my director is crucial. If our visions align, then we create something beautiful that reads so loud and clear on screen.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

I have a fashion background, so I’ve been through the rejections and long hours since I was 16, but if you are not used to that, then it can be a little hard to navigate. I’ve learned to remember why I love what I do every time it gets hard. There are also not enough roles out there for the number of actors, so it can get very challenging when you’re trying to make a career out of just acting. It’s important to remember that nothing good comes easy.

Photo Credit. Sezgin Aygun

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

This part isn’t so hard when you have the role because you are given the opportunity to ask all the questions you need to bring the script to life. You have rehearsals with the writer and director, so you have lots of opportunities to figure out how to approach the character. The real challenge is when you are auditioning and you are given very little information. I do as much research as possible on the subject, script, and period, and I focus on giving it my own take on what I think it should be. I think of the “challenge” as investigating – I feel like a detective sometimes!

What do you do when you’re not filming?

I mainly work on honing my craft and watch as many films and TV shows as I can. I have Spanish to learn, and hopefully, I will become fluent soon! I also train with my acting coach as much as I can. My first acting coach once told me, “Athletes don’t stop training when they have made it. They train even harder to become even better.”

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

Attending The Sundance Film Festival 2023 with the film I was in was such a surreal experience. It all sunk in after I got home, though, and I couldn’t believe how incredible it was. I met some amazing filmmakers and learned so much about the industry while I was there.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

Honestly, I find everyone I meet interesting, and I know this is a cliché answer. We all have such incredible stories and backgrounds that I find myself drawn to meeting new people. I also like to analyse and utilise the characteristics and behaviours of people for my next role so that my character is more relatable and authentic. Pretty much every role I’ve booked has had a portion of its personality drawn from someone I’ve met.

Photo Credit. Sezgin Aygun

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I want to be involved in productions that inspire and empower and that tell a compelling story that resonates with the audience for years to come. I want others who have doubts about having a place in the industry to take a chance and believe in themselves. However, it will also be so much fun to be in an action movie where my tomboy side can really come out and play!

If there is anything else interesting, you can tell us?

Once I overcome my fear of being eaten by a shark, I’ll take another surf lesson. I did a lesson last year, and I walked away with the most euphoric feeling! I speak fluent Farsi, but I can’t read or write, so that’s on my bucket list – learning a new alphabet is so hard though!