Beyond The Blacklist: A Music Q & A with Amir Arison
Agent Aram Mojtabai, with his adorable ways, has endeared himself to all of us. Join me in a Q&A I did with the incredible actor who portrays him, Amir Arison. Find out what music has his attention right now, which band he will next see in concert and much more!
PC: Your character Aram has a Spotify playlist, I notice some of the music is by British bands (Radiohead and Yazoo), you performed Shakespeare in the UK in 2006, did you discover those groups during that period or were you already a fan of the British music scene?
AA: I grew up listening to the radio – I had no idea as a kid so much of our pop culture was infused by British Artists. When I fell in love with certain bands or artists, I really had no sense where they originally hailed from, I just loved the song(s). U2 was a childhood favorite but only when I got a little older did I learn they were Irish. Separately – performing in Stratford-upon-Avon at the RSC was a dream experience, but it had no correlation with the music I grew up listening too.
PC: Aram was organizing a playlist for Liz and Tom’s wedding reception, did Jon Bokenkamp invite you to suggest any of the songs included? If he did not, what would have been your choice for a classic dance floor filler?
AA: What’s so funny about this is that the playlist that was shown was created by our graphics and video playback departments. They all chipped in on what Aram might have created – and then I pointed out a couple of thoughts/suggestions as well. Only Beyoncé and the B-52’s were who the writer’s were responsible for because those artists were specifically mentioned in the dialogue/script. We all were amazed that that playlist sorta went viral.
PC: I had not previously heard of Everest or Modest Mouse, (I like them) are these typical of the types of music you listen to or are they more of an Aram thing?
AA: Jon Bokenkamp – our leader, as well as musical aficionado/genius, asked us each for our input into our characters’ playlists. And then he took those suggestions and had his own input and collaborated with our music supervisor. I think he ended up using all of my suggestions – Everest and Modest Mouse were both artists I was a fan of and found myself often listening to them when getting dressed at work into Aram’s suits so it just made sense. I guess they’re artists that both Aram and myself dig. I do believe each cast member has a good deal of overlap with the characters they/we play. Makes sense that certain music taste/sensibility overlaps as well.
PC: Is there a song or piece of music you have particularly liked that has been featured in any of the episodes of the series so far?
AA: So many!! Jon and our music department really have an exquisite eye and ear for just the right song at just the right moment – whether it be a classic song or from a new, lesser known artist.
One that comes to mind is at the end of 308, “Blame it on me” I think really hit home for every character – gave me goosebumps when I saw that sequence. Also, end of 318 when the entire team learns what happens to Liz Keen, I don’t remember the title of the song but I know I rewound and watched that sequence numerous times because I thought the music, the camera shots and moves, the edit, all of it really, just remarkable filmmaking execution.
PC: You and I share a love for David Bowie’s music, were you ever lucky enough to see him perform live?
AA: Regrettably, I never did – but I did see the David Bowie exhibit in London a few years ago, with numerous clips of all his work and I went from previously just liking him to being absolutely gobsmacked by his talent/relevance/life. I’ve listened to so much more of him as a result, now knowing the origins and the context of his work. He truly is an icon in every sense of the word.
And right up to the end, I did see Lazarus (a play at NYTW with original and old music by Bowie) – hard to explain but it felt like a comprehensive look at human existence and in many ways, it was his goodbye. I can’t shake the idea that he was fighting cancer to the very end to get his music/message/show out…He needed to work, every breath, he had more to say, and more to work through, and thus there is an urgency in those final songs and a release that is beyond stunning. It’s other worldly.
He lived and died as a total embodiment of the artist. Beyond music.
PC: What was the last song you heard that excited you?
AA: I am sorta late to the party but I been really jamming to Alabama Shakes lately, i.e. “Always alright” “Hold On” …just incredible songs.
PC: Can you tell me more about the first record/CD you ever bought and do you remember where you bought it from?
AA: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. TAPE cassette. I was 5 or 6. My parents musta let me buy it, I think they wanted it too. But holy moly that album is still perfect top to bottom. I was an MTV child.
PC: Which song do you just have to play at full blast or the one that you gets you pumped?
AA: Under Pressure by David Bowie/Queen
Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang by Dr.Dre/SnoopDog
PC: Which song soothes your troubled mind or heart?
AA: So many different ones, I have an old playlist that has a live track of “Joey” by Concrete Blonde. Still resonates. Not 100% sure how I first discovered it, but it’s a phenomenal track.
PC: Assuming you like live music what was the last and best concerts you have been to?
AA: I’m planning to go to Radiohead with my best friend this summer. Last show, hmmm, saw some live music at SXSW, but the funniest recent memory: My buddy’s girlfriend cancelled on him last minute and he had an extra ticket to Kelly Clarkson at the Hollywood bowl. Not joking. It was a blast.
PC: I am taking classical piano lessons, do you have any musical abilities, if so can you elaborate?
AA: I ended up in plays mostly and not musicals growing up specifically because of my inability to sing. That being said, I did pretty good with choreography, so rhythm and dance came naturally… Later, I learned basic drums for a cameo in an Amy Heckerling movie and then kept at it cuz I enjoyed it so much. But I’m a total amateur, I just like to jam for fun sometimes.
PC: Which Movie soundtrack do you never tire of?
AA: Magnolia. Aimee Mann is so special. Also, Good Will Hunting, but that breaks my heart now, we lost Elliot Smith too soon.
PC: Which group or artist would you say you are super fan of?
AA: So many… off the top of my head: Talking Heads. Radiohead. Al Green. Prince. Bowie. Queen. The Beatles. Otis Redding. When I was a kid, I was a diehard Guns N Roses fan, and U2.
PC: My guilty music pleasure would be “A Better Man by Thunder”, what would yours be?
AA: Didn’t I already give away that I attended a Kelly Clarkson concert?
And who didn’t like Hanson’s MmmBop. Kidding…Not! Guilty pleasures – I sometime just love those radio pop hits, they get in your head.
PC: I’m usually first up on the dance floor, are you usually first or last and do you have a signature dance move?
AA: I got a few moves. Depends on the occasion, but I like to boogie.
PC: Finally, what is your favourite song on The Blacklist soundtrack and can you tell me your reasons for that choice?
AA: You know, I’m not sure – I have to sit down and listen to the whole soundtrack, so many remarkably curated tracks.
Make sure to follow Amir on Twitter, and say hi! Thank you very much Amir for allowing us to get a little glimpse of your listening pleasures and life outside of The Blacklist.