Pezh Maan did not choose to become an actor. For the British native, it was instinctual, similar to waking up each day and going to bed every night. There was never anything else he imagined himself doing, and as a child, he never wondered what his future would hold, he knew. He has always listened to his heart and believes that when one lives by such a rule, success will always follow. It definitely has for Maan, who has become a sought-after actor in the United Kingdom’s film and television industry.
Audiences around the world quickly became enamoured with Maan when he played the Chief Analyst and right-hand man to Christoph Waltz’ Blofeld in the 2015 James Bond movie Spectre. He is also recognized for his outstanding work in the television shows Eastenders and Tyrant. His film Unattended Item went on to critical acclaim, and there is a lot of buzz around his upcoming television series, Deep State, starring Kingsmen’s Mark Strong and Game of Thrones’ Joe Dempsie, which premieres on FOX this Spring.
“I think what I do as an actor is interpret the words of the writer and turn them into all the facets of the living breathing human being that I am being asked to play. I get into the skin of the character whilst still being myself with all my own emotional responses. When the character is somewhat at odds with my own experiences, imagination can come to one’s aid in creating a way to relate to the character. Imagination is the lifeblood of actors’ work and interpreting the text is an imaginative endeavour, and an extremely rewarding one for me,” he said.
Maan’s versatility is endless, and as a multilingual actor, his work in other languages has led to success in countries outside of his home of the United Kingdom. In 2016, he starred in the French television series Le Bureau des Legendes, translated to The Bureau in English. The series went on to become a hit with not only audiences, but French critics as well. At the COLCOA French Film Festival, it took home the TV Series Jury Special Prize and the TV Series Audience Award. At the French TV Critics Association Awards (A.C.S.), it won Best Production. It also won Best French Series at Le Parisien, Best French Series at the Globes de Cristal Award, and was in the Top 10 Series at Télérama: Top 10 Series.
“I think knowing that the season was such a success gave everyone confidence that their ideas could only build on the quality that had already been established. I’m very proud of the work that we did, and it is a great feeling to be part of a universally lauded show. Despite what people say, good reviews and accolades are validation of a standard that you hope to achieve, the excellence that your hard work is aiming for. And it is satisfying that audiences and critics alike have responded to the elements that we worked to create for them. As an actor who is always learning, it gave me some very valuable feedback, especially as the performances were singled out for praise. It validated some of the bolder creative choices I made and that the Director had the bravery to include in the final cut,” said Maan.
The show, now in its third season, is a spy thriller directed by Eric Rochant for Studio Canal +. The Bureau is based upon real accounts by former spies and inspired by contemporary events, and centres on the daily life and missions of agents within France’s Directorate-General for External Security, its principal external security service. It focuses on the “Bureau of Legends”, responsible for training and handling deep-cover agents (operating ‘under legend’) on long-term missions in areas with French interests, especially in North Africa and the Middle East. Living under false identities for years, these agents’ missions are to identify and recruit good intelligence sources.
Maan played Houtan Vosoughi, an Intelligence officer charged with investigating and arresting foreign agents who have penetrated Iran. He has a wife and family who were oblivious to the danger and risk he was facing in his everyday role. As such, he was capable of leading multiple lives successfully without disturbing any of the delicate balances of each, all while still maintaining his sanity. He was a man capable of extreme violence, which was kept very deeply hidden behind an impassive exterior and a sense of decorum. He was a skilled communicator and could use words as weapons to disarm his opponents and reveal information without needing to resort to violence. He was also very self-confident in being able to handle people who were not trustworthy but had vital intelligence. Maan’s character was pivotal to the success of the second season of the show. He was the man who put all the pieces of the puzzle together that had been accumulating as the episodes progressed and discovered double agents that had infiltrated security. Through a series of cleverly crafted scenes and after interviewing a number of suspects he was able to make the arrests that lead to the series climax.
The arrest of Sara Giradeau’s character, Marina, was a pivotal moment in the story that created a climate of fear about the severe consequences that awaited her and her colleagues. Houtan’s arrival in the story as a dark horse and sinister figure was timed to escalate the tension that had been mounting and his quiet probing into the activities of the protagonists, aided by a wonderfully nuanced script, served as the catalyst for the exciting climax.
Maan has been a fan of French Cinema for quite a while, and when the opportunity to audition for the show came about, he eager to partake. After reading for multiple roles, Maan was chosen by the producer for the essential role of Houtan Vosoughi. The producers knew of the actor’s work in Spectre and they wanted to imbue the character of Houtan Vosoughi with a similar kind of cutting edge mentality.
“I watched the first season of The Bureau and was very impressed with the economy of style and the cinematic pace that gave the show a very unique atmosphere akin to some of the great cinematic thrillers. It was brilliantly acted, and I wanted this show to be my first French language production,” he said.
To prepare for his role on the series, Maan studied the first season, making sure to pick up on the details and nuances of the atmosphere, characters, and style of the show. From there, Maan created his character off the pages of the script. He decided Houtan’s actions would be expressed through stillness and facial expression as much as possible, keeping in line with the intelligence operatives holding multiple cards close to their chests. Maan also wanted to generate a lot of tension in the investigation and interrogation scenes, with the idea that he was leading the audience closer to the danger and intrigue of the plot. He executed this to perfection.
Maan also studied similar American shows, such as 24, stylizing his character similar to Jack Bauer. By doing this, he noted the subtlety of the acting and Keifer Sutherland’s ability to portray level-headedness in high stakes scenarios. Maan used this as a reference to find the right tone for his character. He also watched a lot of old crime thrillers in the French language and worked with a dialogue coach to bring out the nuances of the language.
One of the highlight of the experience for Maan was shooting in Morocco, where most of the scenes take place. Not only did it feel authentic, he says it is one of the most beautiful locations he has working in throughout his career. The other highlight, of course, was working with such a tremendous team.
“Working with so many experienced and talented artists was an exciting challenge that definitely motivated me to produce better work. It was such a collaborative experience on set with cast and crew which brought out the best in all of us and the atmosphere was a really lovely one to work in. The level of detail that concerned the Director, Camera team and fellow actors brought a high degree of excellence to the ambition of the project and one that was artistically very satisfying to be part of,” said Maan.
Be sure to watch the second season of The Bureau to witness Maan’s stellar performance as Houtan Vosoughi.