Eman Esfandi’s world changed to color when he stumbled into an acting workshop with his friend. “I was there to meet people for a project I was doing about individuals who come from all walks of life and end up doing something they didn’t intend to later in their career.” After that, casting directors became interested in him and asked him to audition for roles in a career that he had never even thought about. Since then, he’s been involved in multiple films on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus while modeling for Spark and finishing up his Economics degree. His love, however, lies within acting.
The moment he steps foot on set, he’s looking for a connection – not only with the character, but with the audience itself. Esfandi’s favorite moment was when he proved himself to a cast and crew that doubted his abilities; he connected with them in a way that he never thought he could. “It was the most emotional range I had ever been cast for,” Esfandi remembers. “[The character’s] enraged but he’s telling a very sad story. It was the most excited I’ve ever been to play a part – to the point where I was kind of nervous. And I could feel them doubting. We switched to my close-up and I heard them talking about how they were going to need five to six takes. And then we go and we do it on the first take and everyone is bone quiet. And the director goes, ‘uh, yeah, lets do one more for safety. That was perfect.’ I’d never felt so proud of myself.”
Esfandi has gained a popular following after posting his headshot on his social media accounts for the role of Aladdin. Even people who he barely knew shared his post, trying to get his headshot to Disney. Although they announced the casting for Aladdin not long afterwards, Esfandi found himself as one of Buzzfeed’s picks to play the Disney prince. When the article came out, though, he was on set, so he really did not have time to appreciate what was going on until after he was done shooting.
His love for the character goes far beyond Aladdin’s obvious popularity appeal. Esfandi feels a real connection to him; a connection that he must have to play any character. “Everything Aladdin does is almost similar to what I’ve been doing here in Austin,” he says of the character. “This is going to sound a little cheesy but there’s a rooftop that’s my favorite place in Austin and I still go. I would take people to this spot, just like Aladdin took Jasmine to his spot. You go up there and you’re not in the world anymore.” He even took singing lessons to prove his dedication, sending in a second audition once he felt more comfortable with his voice. He feels like he was meant for the role, even if he didn’t receive the part.
Although Esfandi graduated with an economics degree, he knows his future is within the acting world. While he likes working behind the camera too, being in front of it is what is really important to him. “The best actors are going through something and in your heart of hearts you’re going through it as well,” Esfandi says. “That connection, even through a screen, is my favorite part of film acting – the connection with an audience solely through their genuine reaction.” Even though he only found his passion for acting a couple of years ago, his dedication to the art is written into his smile as he talks about a role. Eman truly embodies our magazine’s motto: all it takes is a spark.
Featured image by Andrew Byrne.