One of the intriguing twists of “Homeland” this season has been the return of high-ranking Iranian intelligence officer Majid Javadi, the Saul Berenson frenemy that we first met in season three.
Javadi, played by Shaun Toub, did all kinds of heinous things in season three, from savagely killing his estranged wife and daughter-in-law to being revealed as the mastermind of the CIA bombing that was blamed on Nicholas Brody.
Saul and his CIA protege Carrie Mathison wound up turning Javadi into a CIA asset who becomes an advocate for moderation in the Iranian high command. Javadi helped sell the top brass on the agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for the easing of United Nations sanctions. The question of whether Iran is cheating on this Faustian bargain is a central storyline of season six.
In Toub’s hands, Javadi is a compelling psychopath. You can’t trust a word he says, and yet you can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on screen.
When the Iranian-born actor got the call last spring from “Homeland” showrunner Alex Gansa inquiring whether he was game to revive the character, he didn’t hestitate, even though it meant turning down a plum role in the off-Broadway production of “Oslo.”
Toub — who had a cosmopolitan upbringing in Iran, the U.K. and Europe before going to college in the U.S. — has been a journeyman character actor for more than 30 years. Among his best known roles is that of Tony Stark’s confederate Ho Yinson in the “Iron Man” film franchise. But no screen character has stuck with him quite like Javadi.
“He’s very complex,” Toub told Variety. “I wanted to make the audience confused by their feelings for this guy. By the end of (‘Homeland’) season three, I loved Javadi. He was being flirtatious with Carrie, he was maneuvering all over the place in ways that were interesting. At moments you found him charming.”
Toub believes that “Homeland’s” ardent fans played a part in bringing Javadi back. “The fans were always asking me ‘When are you coming back?’ His story wasn’t finished,” Toub said.
The March 5 episode of the Showtime drama, “Imminent Risk,” makes it clear that Javadi is in the thick of the thickening conspiracy driving the action for Carrie and Saul. Toub’s work in the show this season took him to Morocco and New York.
Without giving anything away, Toub said the storyline will shed more light on Javadi’s long association with Saul, played by Mandy Patinkin.
“They have a very strange relationship,” Toub said. “They are all business on both sides; still there is some kind of respect and even love between them. Things happen that are very complicated. It shows how the business they are in is so rough.”
The chance to work opposite Patinkin in such a meaty role is simply “a gift,” Toub added.
Once again, Toub said he has been impressed at how the “Homeland” scripts he received months ago are tracking real-time headlines, as viewers will observe in “Imminent Risk.”
“As we were filming, it truly was life imitating art,” he said.
(Pictured: Shaun Toub and Mandy Patinkin in “Homeland”)