Actress and Activist Shiva Rose

Often times we see gossip columns that focus on celebrity relationships, fashion, and follies. Many times it is difficult, if not impossible, to read and learn about celebrities of substance. Shiva Rose, starring in her latest film “David and Layla,” bravely brings current issues to the forefront of our minds both on and off film. Active in human rights, anti-war protests and organizations, Shiva dedicates as much time as possible to fighting injustice and violence across the world. She has also become the first Persian actress to lead in an English speaking film. The film “David and Layla” tackles such politically charged issues as the Israeli Palestinian conflict by using the comfortable and familiar form of the romantic comedy, transforming a polarizing issue into something accessible to all viewers. “David and Layla,” is a must-see film and Shiva Rose, as explains, “…excels as a self-reliant damsel in distress worth rooting for.” Shiva is not afraid to publicly address issues of war and human rights off-screen. She has been arrested two times for the peaceful expression of her anti-war views and has no plans to stop fighting the injustices of the world. Read more about unique and refreshing Persian American actress in our Young & Professional Profile.

What’s your background?

Ever since I was a child I was drawn to the performing arts. I studied theater at the age of 15. I went to UCLA where I studied Theater and World Arts & Cultures. It is something I gravitated towards. I was very passionate about theater. I loved language and I loved the idea of fantasy. Theater combined those things for me. My father was in the entertainment business. My mother was an opera singer in Iran. She had a TV show; my father did TV shows. I was surrounded by the entertainment world all my life. So at first, I did mostly theater. I moved to New York and auditioned for some films, a few independent movies.

How did your involvement with human rights begin?

My politics started when I was in college at UCLA. I was really involved with the war in Bosnia. When I graduated I went to Bosnia and worked in a refugee camp. And that was sort of the beginning of my social action besides the various demonstrations I did in college. Also, I started a committee in high school and college to feed the homeless. I always had the desire to take social action. I have been arrested twice now for anti-war protests. When the rumblings of the war in Iraq began, I just knew that with every fiber of my being that it was wrong. I knew it was a fallacy and I just felt very passionate about it. The first time I got arrested was months before the war even started, and people thought I was a little nuts. And then the second time was just a few months ago. At that point, people began to agree with me. The first time was very easy I was just held for a couple hours. It was with an organization, American Friends Service Committee, it’s a Quaker group. We organized an event where we lay down in coffins in front of the federal building. We all represented the death of something as we went into the war: the death of justice, the death of people, the death of women, the death of democracy. We lay on the sidewalk and were told to move, but we didn’t so we were taken to jail. The second time I got arrested was with a similar group, but this time the arrest was much harsher. I was held for eight hours and I wasn’t even allowed to nurse my baby. I think it is because of the Patriot Act that it was so much harsher. I am going to continue being active, but I can’t get arrested for a while!

What are your day to day responsibilities? How do you balance it all?

It is so hard to balance, I need to learn the secret to it. It is a juggling act. I over-extend myself sometimes! I have started putting restrictions because I want to get my play done and that is a priority. I start my morning with meditation or a chant session. Then I feed my baby. I take my older daughter to camp or school. On a good day, I try to write. Sometimes I have meetings about designing clothes. This is really my passion, fashion. I have meetings with various organizations such as Amnesty Internationals. Everyday is different. Some days I have auditions.
When you are writing a play all by yourself, you really need to sit and focus, so I try to do that.

Most notable milestones

Having my children. Maybe I would say getting arrested in the anti-war demonstrations. I feel that although it didn’t change the issue, at least I was putting the way I felt into action. I took action. I feel so passionately about how there is no reason for war in any situation.

What’s the niche?

Being of two different cultures. My love of theater also makes me unique. Theater is so separate in this town from movies. Also, my politics color what I think and do. I try to pick parts that are political. I have turned down parts to play terrorists on TV. I played in an episode of The Practice where I played an Iranian woman, and that was fine. But I turn down roles of terrorists that perpetuate stereotypes.

Scene from “David and Layla”

What’s in store for the future?

I am producing a film called The Persian Bride, which is a beautiful book about an Englishman who goes to Iran in the 70s. I am also producing another film called “Relative Insanity”. In addition, I want to take more action with Amnesty International. I have a idea where I want to make a videotape and send it to people globally. It will be the statement “I’m sorry.” And I want to film people here in America for it. I want to send it to Iraq and other countries because I want people to see another face to Americans. Because America does a lot for other countries, a lot of money is donated for great causes, and I want people to see that.

What are unexpected things you have learned along the way?

I think we all yearn for success and money, material things – the things we think will make us happy. I have realized that relationships with family and being in touch with nature are the things that make me happy, not success and money. What I really long for is to go for a walk in nature with my kids.

How did you initially get involved with the movie? Why did you want to take the role of “Layla”?

The casting director thought of me and I came in audition ….I loved that the lead in a film was a Middle Eastern woman. There haven’t been a lot of films on Kurdish culture, and this film sheds light on the plight of Kurdish people. We hear a lot about Palestinian and Armenian persecution, but I feel we know very little about the Kurds. Jay Jonroy, the brilliant director of “David and Layla” was instrumental in my involvement this project. His passion for film and dedication to the cause of human rights made it attractive for me.

What was the greatest lesson you learned from your participation with this movie?

I learned more about Kurdish history. Also, I learned that less is more. We had so little money, but with the brilliance of Jay and the cinematographer, we were able to make a little go a long way.