'Homeland's' Abu Nazir: Navid Negahban talks playing TV's most-wanted terrorist

navid-negahban-homeland.jpgAlthough we've only briefly glimpsed Abu Nazir ( Navid Negahban) in "Homeland's" second season, the powerful influence he's exerted on Sgt. Nicholas Brody ( Damian Lewis) has driven the terrorist turned politician to the brink of despair.

And as we saw in Sunday's (Oct. 29) game-changing episode, their relationship is about to become even more nerve-wracking and dangerous for Brody.

Zap2it recently had the pleasure and privilege of chatting with Negahban, the actor who plays the fictional counterpart of Osama bin Laden -- but is his polar opposite in all things (except maybe charisma).

After admitting we were a little scared to meet Negahban for the first time, we asked the Iranian actor whether he'd had any unusual experiences with people recognizing him in public. He has plenty, but one anecdote, about going through customs in New York City's La Guardia airport was most surprising (and hilarious).

"After the usual questions, the customs agent asked, very serious, 'What do you do for a living?'" recounts Negahban, who told him he is an actor. "'Anything I might have seen lately?' he asked.

"I was very scruffy -- long beard, long hair -- and I was very tired, and I said, 'Well lately I've been playing the most wanted terrorist.'

"The moment that the word terrorist comes out of my mouth, you should have seen the people around me. All of them, they wake up!

"Then the guy looks at me, and says, 'I just saw the finale. I love the show!' He turns around to the [customs agent] behind him and says, 'Abu Nazir is here!'

"Believe me, having your hand shaken by customs agents? I don't think so. He was very, very ,very pleasant. Nobody knows who Navid Negahban is, but everybody knows who Nazir is!"

Negahban said he was "so taken by" the pilot script for "Homeland" that he approached executive producer Howard Gordon, with whom he worked on "24," and suggested himself for the role of Abu. "In the pilot the character's not even visible," notes the actor. "There were only one or two lines, and I think those two lines were even cut out. But when I read it, this character looked so rich to me and so fascinating, so multilayered, and I fell in love with him."

So what can we expect from Abu Nazir in the episodes to come? "You will go a little deeper into the relationships and how entangled they are with each other, all these characters. You might be seeing how spread his web is."

"If I tell you anything more," he added, "it might get me killed."
Photo/Video credit: Showtime
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