As one of the top entertainment journalists in Hollywood, as well as an actress herself, Vida Ghaffari feels equally comfortable on either side of interview mic. She’s covered film premieres, red carpet events, and shows all around Hollywood, interviewing everyone from small business owners to A-list celebs, including some Iranian personalities in Farsi, which is her mother tongue. She’s also covered quite a few eminent fashion shows of top Hollywood designers, often while wearing their creations.
Although she enjoys hosting and conduction interviews, Vida is currently focused more toward her acting career. Her credits on the small screen include Green Manor, It Casting, and The Mindy Project, in which she appeared in the pilot episode. Filmwise, some of the titles on her list are the short Cross My Heart, Grunder Oakley Productions’ Natural Born Filmmakers, and Mark Savage’s highly anticipated Circus of Dread, which has been causing a buzz around the indie horror community, preceding its release. Vida’s been the voice behind many commercials and animated films, as well. Notably, the 2014 comedy short Lovesick Fool – Love in the Age of Like, in which she worked with Dominic Polcino, one of the top animation directors in the business.
It’s no surprise Vida’s become a prominent name the Los Angeles entertainment community and has been recognized for her endeavors. This past June, she was honored with an award from the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce for her outstanding work. More recently, she was the recipient of an entrepreneur award from The World Networks, and of course, she granted Idol Features the following interview. Above photo courtesy of Vida herself.
CHRIS CHARLES: Earlier this year, you received an award from the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Congratulations and please tell me about that.
VIDA GHAFFARI: I was thrilled to be honored by the chamber for my career endeavors in acting, voice-over, and journalism. I got my start as a journalist on the West Coast covering events in Westwood, so it has really come full circle for me. Big thanks to the president of the chamber, Roozbeh Farahanipour for the commendation as well as board members Elham Yaghoubian and Steve Little.
CHRIS: I’d say say you’ve conducted many more interviews than given them, correct?
VIDA: Yes, but lately I’m on the other side of the camera, getting interviewed at events, but I still manage to guest co-host a radio show with witty sports personality Cameron Datzker on LA Talk Radio.
CHRIS: Do you feel more comfortable as the interviewer or the interviewee?
VIDA: I’d say both. I’m a curious person at heart, which I think makes for a good interviewer. And I love to talk, so I feel comfortable being the interviewee.
CHRIS: You seemed to really enjoy interviewing pro wrestler the Iron Sheik back in 2009. Was that one of your favorite interviews?
VIDA: The Sheik is an amazing guy. Nothing like his ringside persona. I really enjoyed interviewing him, but off the top of my head, it was Margo Martindale at the Hannah Montana movie premiere at the El Captain back in the day. There were thousands of little girls screaming Miley’s name, but what I remember from that noisy evening was telling Margo that she would one day win an Emmy for her acting and that there are many more wonderful opportunities for women in TV. My prediction was correct. She actually won two Emmys. One for Justified and one for The Americans. But more than that, I was touched by her humility. That’s something one doesn’t see enough of in this town.
CHRIS: You’re an experienced voice-over actress. What is the age range of the characters you’ve voiced? VIDA: Anything from a teenybopper to a much older woman. I have a deep and authoritative voice, so I tend to usually voice roles that are much older than me. And I often play the “straight woman” in voice-over rather than the charactery roles, especially when I’ve voiced commercials. I’ve done a lot of narration over the years for companies like Fidelity Investments and Best Buy. Guess it’s my intonation.
CHRIS: What voice-over projects have you worked on recently?
VIDA: I recently made my voice-over animation debut in a film I was really proud to be a part of called Lovesick Fool, which was directed by Emmy-nominated animation powerhouse Dominic Polcino (The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy). I voiced the roles of the dream girl and the hipster girl, which was really fun as they were completely opposite characters. Noted actors such as Fred Willard, Lisa Kudrow, and Janeane Garofalo also voiced roles in this film. I was very grateful for the experience. To be directed by a genius like Dominic in the booth was an amazing experience and he really brings out the best in voice-over artists. This film has so much heart and has truly become a festival darling and won best animated film at various festivals such as the highly regarded Topanga Film Festival, LA Arthouse Film Festival, and the Atlanta Underground Film Festival. It also recently screened at the popular Hollyshorts Festival at the Chinese Theatre. Attending that showing was a surreal experience for me as an artist, as I used to go to there as a kid when I visited relatives on the West Coast, and I’d never dreamed that a film I’d be a part of would screen there! The icing on the cake was that there were films in the animated block that were voiced by noted artists like Richard E. Grant and Bob Bergen (the voice of Porky Pig), so I was in excellent company.
CHRIS: Wow, you sure were. Moving on to you acting in front of the camera; what have been some of your most memorable filming locations? VIDA: Some years ago, I worked on a film called Pirate Scurvy’s Pieces of Eight where my character’s name was “Gypsy Girl.” It was written and directed by a guy called Michael J. Elwell, but everyone called him “Captain Mango.” No joke! I ran into him and his wife “Apple” recently, and yes, the Mango is married to the Apple, after I heard him bellow ” Howdy Gypsy Girl!” out of nowhere in the distance, but I digress. For this shoot, we shot inside this cavernous warehouse type space that looked like we were inside the hull of a ship and it was retro with dark wood paneling with lots of pirate-themed knick knacks, I’m talking hundreds, if not thousands of these things, down to the goblets we’d be drinking out of with a long bar that you could totally see pirates congregating at. It looked tiny on the outside and was on a main road thoroughfare in the valley, but somehow they made it happen with little interruption as it was a night shoot. But oh, all those knick knacks!? Can you imagine the crew working around all of that stuff in such a dark place? And the Captain directed us in character! My costume was really tattered on that shoot. I guess I was portraying bad fortune teller, so the wardrobe was memorable too. I’ve also often worked in the desert or even Blue Cloud Ranch for most of my Middle Eastern roles, but nothing was like Pirate Scurvy. I shot the short film Strangers in a Book this past spring in Old Town Claremont, which is such a nice college town. Very rustic and quaint. One of the locations, Viva Madrid, was a really nice bar and restaurant and added to the drama of that film. I had the pleasure of working with Jon Mack (Saw VI), Christy McGinity Gibel (Little Women: LA), Carl Bressler (The Usual Suspects), Marv Blauvelt (Snake With a Human Tail), and Kristin West (Hell’s Kitty). I also worked with Kristin on Seeking Valentina, which was written and directed by Armin Nasseri and is doing amazingly well on the festival circuit. Very excited for them!
CHRIS: I’m looking forward to seeing Natural Born Filmmakers when that one comes out. What was it like working with the cast and crew on that one, namely Debra Lamb? VIDA: It was a great experience, though I unfortunately wasn’t in the same scenes as Debra. I got to play the role of the slightly sexy secretary Babette. Usually I play nerdy secretaries, so this was great fun. Especially when I put my wardrobe and hair and makeup together. Steve (Oakley) and Melanie (Grunder) are wonderful people and did an amazing job wearing many hats as filmmakers on that project. And I got to work with my actor friends, Dawna Lee Heising and Gregory Blair, who both excel in comedy.
CHRIS: Tell me about your role in the upcoming Circus of Dread.
VIDA: I can’t say much about it beyond the fact that my character is named Souzan, but I will say that Mark Savage is an incredible director and I’m so excited to be working with him. I’ve been a fan of his work for years. And to finally work with Bill Oberst Jr. is something I look forward to. I will be working alongside Dawna (Lee Heising) again, so I’m excited about that too.
CHRIS: In a 2012 interview with Dawna, you talked about your father, who was a Fullbright scholar, and who wanted you to go into science and later economics, but you preferred the arts. Did he ever try to discourage you from going into acting or entertainment journalism?
VIDA: Always! My dad was not only very smart, but also very practical. He knew I had artistic tendencies and tried to instill his love of math and science on me, but all those summers in math camp discouraged me even more!
CHRIS: Does he now feel you made the right career choice? VIDA: Unfortunately, I lost my dad two years ago. Though he probably wanted me to be an engineer or a mathematician or even an astronaut. He could have gotten me into space camp. He always knew that I marched to the beat of my own drummer and totally respected my career choices. I’ve had more success in these past two years than most my career, so it’s a real shame that he hasn’t been around any of my successes. I think he would have felt more at ease, but moreover, regardless of career strides, I truly miss him dearly.
CHRIS: Oh, I’m sorry to hear you father passed away, and me not knowing that and asking about him in the present tense, brings to mind Jack Nicholson’s line from A Few Good Men after his character made the same gaff. So moving on, you and Dawna seem to be pretty close friends. Where did you two first meet?
VIDA: I’ve known Dawna for so long that I oddly can’t even remember where we met. I’m thinking it may have been on set somewhere or at a horror event.
CHRIS: You both also have roles in Mark Savage’s upcoming Pond Scum. Who is your character in that one?
VIDA: This film is about a wronged woman who heads out to Los Angeles to settle a score with an ex-boyfriend, but is upended by a brutal encounter with a monstrous killer/rapist. I play Carla Mitchell, the unknowing wife of the killer and rapist. She is a pious woman, who is betrayed by her abusive husband, who is an abhorrent beast hence the apropos title Pond Scum. And Dawna also acted in this film, but we weren’t in the same scenes.
CHRIS: You’ve covered a lot of fashion shows and events, where you’ve met many top designers. If you were nominated for a major award, say an Oscar or an Emmy, is there a particular designer you’d have in mind to contact about designing your gown? VIDA: It would be Sue Wong. I’m a big fan of hers and proud to call her a friend. She’s a very inspiring and accomplished lady and has brought glamour back to Hollywood and LA in general, which is known to be a blue jeans and T shirt town. She is such a creative force with limitless talent. As someone in the arts, it’s great to be around her and the community of artists she has created. CHRIS: It looks like you started your blog, So Very Vida, in May of this year. With your busy schedule, do you fine it hard to find time to update it regularity? VIDA: Yes, I find that blogging is the hardest and most time consuming thing to do. Everything is current and is very time sensitive. It’s like having a non-stop deadline. CHRIS: What events have you recently attended and will be attending in the near future?
VIDA: I recently attended the Entrepreneur Awards on December 8th at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood, where I was honored with an Entrepreneur award by wonderful Lousine Karibian, the founder and CEO of the World Networks. She was gracious enough to recognize me for my acting and voice-over work as well as how involved I am with my community and charitable endeavors. Lousine is a very accomplished entrepreneur in her own right, so I’m very honored and humbled to be nominated by her organization and the other nominees are luminaries in the fashion, beauty, media and finance industries. Right now it’s the holiday season, so it’s mostly holiday parties that I’m attending, but I plan on having my blog launch party this spring and will be hosting an international film festival around that time, which was founded by writer, producer, playwright, novelist, poet and activist Ata Servati, so I have a lot on my plate.
CHRIS: You’ve been the recipient of several awards this year for your work. What have been some of the others? VIDA: It’s been a great year and I’ve very thankful to say that I was also honored with a media appreciation award by Eugene Sidney, who is a very accomplished menswear designer. I very flattered to be honored by him as he’s really talented and I really admire him for bringing back upscale style to menswear. No small feat in this town! CHRIS: What upcoming projects are you involved with? VIDA: I just shot a music video with a wonderful musician, Rolan Bolan, called Master Plan which was directed by a wonderful multi award-winning filmmaker Thomas J. Churchill aka Church. I play the role of a flirtatious barfly called Miss Lonelyhart. I was also cast in one of his films, which is a mob movie that will shoot sometime in 2016. And I’m also cast as Risa in Darling Nikki by another filmmaker with multiple awards, the fabulous Gregory Hatanaka. There’s a great ensemble cast and I’ll be cast alongside James Duval (Independence Day, Donnie Darko), Kristine DeBell (Hunter: Future Cop, Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance), Mel Novak (Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, Black Belt Jones) and Church (Checkpoint, Lazarus: Day of the Living Dead) once again. I will also be acting in a western written and directed by noted actor and filmmaker Rick Groat, who has a strong following in that market. I’m really excited about this project as it’s my first western. Ever! So off with the hijab and on with the bonnet! CHRIS: Do you have any hobbies, skills, or interests that most people don’t know about?
VIDA: I love yoga and I love hiking. Pretty much standard California fare. I’m obsessed with beauty products, probably because I have a blog and have to look presentable at events, so I spend a lot of time window shopping at Sephora and my local beauty supply store. I’m also pretty good at putting a nice outfit together affordably at a moment’s notice. My mother, Mitra, has great vintage jewelry and accessories, which I lovingly refer to as #TheMitraCollection on social media. I would love to one day create a jewelry and accessories line of my own inspired by her whimsical stuff, but wish there were more hours in the day to do so!
CHRIS: With that, I thank you again for allowing me to add you to my list of lovely interviewees, Vida. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone? VIDA: First and foremost, I wanted to give you a shout-out for taking the time to conduct this interview and all the research that you did. You are a great researcher and that’s the true sign of an accomplished journalist. I wanted to also acknowledge my amazing publicist, Joe Williamson, for setting up this interview. He is also a producer and a manager and he wears many hats in this industry, so I’m truly grateful for all he’s done for me. And my wonderfully supportive family, my dear mom and lovely sis. My schedule is very erratic and they have been so patient and understanding. Love you two!
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English, traveling, and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the monthly magazine, Effective.
Me interviewing actress and my fellow entertainment journalist, Vida Ghaffari, for More Horror magazine at the premiere of Natural Born Filmmakers at the 2015 Action on Film Festival last September. About the author Dawna Lee
My hour-long interview with Dawna Lee Heising didn’t seem like an hour at all, since we had a lot to talk about and she was such a pleasure to talk with. She’s done nearly all on a film set, on both sides of the camera.