September 18, 2022
By Iman Sadri
Kourosh Parsapour is one of the bright new breakout actors in Hollywood. Known as a character actor thus far, his on screen persona and talent is creating waves and a high demand for his services. One would not believe that he is also a physician. Dr. Parsapour is a pediatric Emergency Room doctor who has traded his white coat for whatever dress code is required on set. We were most fortunate to catch up with Kourosh Parsapour in L.A.
The Persian Observer : Describe your early life, education and upbringing?
I was born in Tehran and my father and I came to the US a year before the Iranian Revolution. We settled in Sacramento which has a small town, community environment…so in retrospect it was a great place to grow up. My father is a retired colonel, so he’s super strict and very disciplined to this day. Being the only child, there wasn’t much wiggle room for me…so coming home after school meant finishing my homework, followed by being home-schooled in the same subjects but in Farsi. I hated “Mashgh Neveshtan” because I never understood the concept of rewriting something over and over, when it was already printed in a book.
I started at UC Davis at 15 because I wasn’t allowed to go away for college since my father felt I was too young, which again in retrospect was probably another good decision on his part. After college, I left California for medical school and eventually ended up in Detroit, Michigan where I completed my pediatric residency, as well as a fellowship in emergency medicine. I returned to California for a second fellowship in critical care and finally moved back to Sacramento where I got my first real job as an attending at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in 2004.
It was there that I became introduced to telehealth and digital medicine and I fell in love with the idea of using technology to overcome disparities in healthcare. Four years later, I moved to Southern California to start a private practice in pediatric critical care and my first start up (Telepeds), both with my best friend from medical school. Our start up was acquired within two years, at which point I realized I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug …so I went to UC Irvine to get my MBA. By the end of the decade, I had sold my partnership stake in our practice and was dedicated to being a full-time “doctor-preneur” in the digital health technology sector.
What were some of your favorite films growing up?
Hands down, I would say the Star Wars trilogy had the biggest impact on me as a kid. I’m still a total sci-fi and comic book nerd in which I take great pride, especially now with how popular the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become. When we first came to the US, I remember watching Eddie Murphy’s Delirious on HBO over and over when my father wasn’t home. I had that entire routine memorized and would perform it on the playground for the the other kids during recess. That’s when I fell in love with standup comedy.
Red Dawn was the first R-rated movie I snuck into, and I still love that film…the original by the way, not the remake. For better or worse, I also gravitated to movies like Airplane, Porky’s, Bachelor Party, and Police Academy films. Also, I’ve always loved any film by Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorcese.
Who were your favorite actors growing up?
Easy…Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Lee Majors, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Behrooz Voosooghi, Parviz Sayad, Marlon Brando, and Al Pacino.
What were some of your favorite TV shows?
In Iran, my favorite TV shows were The Six Million Dollar Man and Zorro, and any Samad (Parviz Sayad) movie. Here in the US, I was glued to the TV; in fact, I can still probably sing the opening credit theme song to any 80’s TV show. But my favorite shows were Battlestar Galactica, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Love Boat, Dallas, V, Knight Rider, Three’s Company, The Jeffersons, Greatest American Hero, and Fantasy Island. And lots of reruns of MASH, The Brady Bunch, Giligan’s Island and Star Trek.
What were the first steps in getting you in as an actor in Hollywood?
In 2019, I started making TikTok videos purely to have fun. I genuinely enjoyed the process and found it to be an incredible creative outlet and a very rewarding hobby on a personal level. I was creating the visual scenes for standup comedy routines, making lots of duets, and re imagining classic cinematic scenes or monologues. At the time, I had over 30K followers and was very surprised when I was contacted by a talent agent that wanted to represent me. At first, I thought it was a scam but later came to find out that TikTok has democratized Hollywood’s access to talent globally. Historically, moving to LA or New York was what was necessary to get discovered. TikTok has changed the rules for aspiring actors and film makers.
You’re a big Star Wars aficionado. When did you first get introduced to Star Wars?
Star Wars was the first movie I saw in the United States when I was 7 years-old, and it absolutely blew my mind. I instantly fell in love with it and I remain passionate about it to this day.
Human beings as a species are story tellers, and every culture has its mythic tale, like Rostam for Persians. These stories are passed down to teach values to the newer generations, such as good vs evil, honor and loyalty, overcoming adversity, love of family and friends, having strength and protecting others, etc. Star Wars is the modern mythologic tale which has transcended all cultures and continues to deeply impact every generation since 1977.
Its also the perfect film, because its the culmination of artistry at its finest on every level: story telling, acting, directing, cinematography, costume and set design, musical score, and editing.
How did your STAR WARS role come about?
I’m definitely not starring in Obi Wan Kenobi, but I do have a small role in the Mapuzo Mining Colony, which in and of itself was an absolute dream come true! It was my very first role and my prospective agent at the time noticed on TikTok that I’m a huge Star Wars fan, so he booked me as an incentive to sign with him.
Discuss the experience and highlights of the STAR WARS acting experience including costume, makeup and the set.
It was a surreal and magical experience from the very beginning. I can’t speak highly enough about the professionalism and efficiency of the Lucasfilm crew.
When I arrived for my wardrobe fitting, I walked into a warehouse filled with costumes and props from the entirety of the Star Wars universe. I had to use every ounce of strength to contain the 10-year-old in me from exploding and running around to try everything on.
My very first day on set, I took my position next to Ewan McGregor in his full Obi-Wan Kenobi costume…and again, I kept having to remind that 10-year-old to calm down. We were filming in the desert in north LA County during the summer with the blazing heat. After eight hours, everyone was exhausted. We were then informed that filming was extending into a night shoot, but were also told that it would be “worth the wait.” After dinner, the AD pulled me aside and set up my scene, telling me only that I should react to seeing my wife killed. Everyone took their positions and I heard, “ACTION!” Suddenly, over the loudspeakers, the Imperial March started playing and there was Darth Vader in all his ominous glory, walking towards me while randomly executing villagers, one of which was my character’s wife. I was honestly paralyzed with fear, because at that point the 10-year-old in me took over and I gave a genuine performance. It was one the best and most horrifying moments of my life…and its a testament to the brilliance of Deborah Chow as a director.
In total, I was on set for five days and I am so grateful to Disney and Lucasfilm for giving me the privilege of having a small part in the vast Star Wars universe.
Were you able to get your first acting gig without any agent?
No, but I will say that the majority of roles that I’ve landed were done without my agent. Fortunately, we live in a time where an abundance of legitimate online platforms provide access to casting calls across the country for aspiring actors. So just like anything else, its a matter of putting in the daily work of checking what’s available, self-recording your auditions, and submitting the application.
Describe your role in ‘The Offer.’ How was the set experience?
“The Offer” was another wonderful experience! I’m a huge fan of the Godfather trilogy, and I had no idea how much behind-the-scenes drama and controversy had to be overcome to deliver the masterpiece, which was the original film. It was a lot of fun to play a mobster in the Joe Colombo crime family. I love being a part of any “period-piece” production because of the costumes. I’m particularly fond of 1970’s fashion, so it was real treat.
How did that role come about? Highlights / stories / conversations?
I had applied online and been selected for a background role in Westworld Season 4. A week after filming, the casting agency contacted me and asked if I would be interested in The Offer.
I will say that I learned first-hand what it means to be a “generous actor” by working with Miles Teller. I was so impressed by how he was able to set-up and draw out my performance by our off-screen interactions when the cameras weren’t rolling. I’ve always liked his movies, but I now have even more respect for his skills as an artist.
If you could play a Biopic of any historic figure who would you play?
I’d love to play Shaban Jafari as the villain in the story of Operation Ajax: the CIA plot centered on convincing the Shah to issue a decree to dismiss Mosaddegh from office. Jafari was a Tehran strongman (varzesheh bastani) and a political activist that colluded with the Rashidi Brothers to become instrumental in overthrowing Prime Minister Mosaddegh’s government in the 1953 Iranian coup d’etat.
I’d also love to have a role in movie about Rostam & Sohrab.
Congrats on your new booking. How did that come about?
Thank you so much!
I recently finished work on a project that I’m very proud of being a part of. “Under the Burning Sun” is an indie feature film that follows a young woman that wants to get an abortion after she was violently raped, but lives in a dystopian desert town where abortions are outlawed. In light of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, Yun Xie is a brilliant young director that has taken on this very timely topic. She takes the audience on a journey to understand the human cost, feelings and experiences that result from restricting access to safe and regulated abortions, which I believe to be a fundamental right for every woman.
Afterwards, I’ll be flying to Orlando for the month of November. I have a supporting role in a dramedy called “Bad Senator” which tells the story of a narcissistic retired Senator who nears the end stage of his life and realizes he has nothing of value to show for it as he has lost the love of his life and the respect and admiration of his only child. My character’s name is Fred Baghdadi, so I’m going to have fun doing my Persian accent.
In the next couple of weeks, I will begin work on a project that I’m very excited about. Its a short film called “In the Garden of Tulips” written by and starring Ava Lalezarzadeh. Its a beautifully written story that takes place during the height of the Iran-Iraq war, where an Iranian teenager takes a final car ride with her father through the countryside before being smuggled out of the country. I read the script with my father and we both had a deeply emotional, almost visceral reaction to it. I think every Iranian immigrant will find it to be a very compelling and I’m excited to watch the director Julia Elihu, bring this to the screen. I’m also proud to say that I’ll be part of an all-Iranian cast in a movie that will be entirely in Farsi with English subtitles.
Would you consider creating characters who are in Medicine? As it is your background?
In a heart beat! I’d love to play a role as an ER or ICU doctor, for obvious reasons. I’d also love to be a writer or consultant for medical dramas. I have an entire library of anecdotes and experiences to draw from, ranging from hilarious to heart-breaking.
Personally, I’d like to make a film about Dr. Jonas Salk who developed the first successful polio vaccine. Its an amazing story behind the man who raced against time to nearly eradicate a horrible disease. Dr. Salk spent his last years searching for a vaccine against AIDS.
I’d also jump on the opportunity to work on a film about Ibn Sina, a Persian physician and philosopher who is considered to be the father of modern medicine. There was a film in 2013 called “The Physician” starring Sir Ben Kingsley, but Ibn Sina was a peripheral character in the story. I’d like to see a project focused primarily on the life of Ibn Sina who was truly an inspiring human being.
What are some roles that are being created that you would want to be a part of?
I would probably do a backflip if I was cast in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. I’d love to play a mutant with superpowers! I’d also love to be a part of the upcoming Dune movies, or any James Bond film.
Discuss your comedy career / how that came about? Tik Tok vids / plans
I tried my hand at stand-up comedy when I was in college, but I was too young and too emotionally fragile when it came to hecklers. Now that I’m older, I’m more confident when I’m on stage and I don’t hesitate engaging the audience. I’ve found that exposing yourself live and on-stage has been a great exercise in acting and more importantly, writing. A lot of my material comes from my experiences as a doctor, which I think people find really interesting. I also love to make people laugh…honestly its the greatest feeling when you can make a room full of strangers crack-up.
In regards to TikTok, I haven’t been as active as I used to and that’s because I want to change my content to focus on sketch comedy. To do that successfully, I think I need to find and connect with a few people that would be interested in writing, performing and filming sketches. I think it would so much fun to be in a room and brainstorming hilarious scenarios, like the writers of Family Guy or Robot Chicken.
Follow Kourosh Parsapour on TikTok @DocKP2.0 on Instagram @DocKP2.0 and on Twitter @KParsapour