Rising star on Skellefteå upbringing: "Helped me dare to dream"

Skellefteå actor Ardalan Esmaili's talent is back in the spotlight with his role in the hit Netflix miniseries "I dina händer" ("Deliver Me"). Speaking to Norran, he shares insights into his upbringing in Skellefteå and the journey that has brought him to the success and fame he enjoys today.

Former Skellefteå resident Ardalan Esmail is making a splash in the film industry.

Former Skellefteå resident Ardalan Esmail is making a splash in the film industry.

Foto: Melissa Niemann

Film2024-05-14 16:40

"Deliver Me" is runaway hit topping the charts on Swedish Netflix and ranking third globally, and follows the aftermath of a shooting in the fictional suburb of Våringe. 

Esmaili, a former Skellefteå resident, portrays one of the characters and has recently garnered acclaim for his roles in notable productions such as "Snabba cash," "Svart krabba," and "Charmören."

– These meatier roles allow you to delve deeper into your craft, he reflects.

In 2019, Ardalan Esmaili was one of ten actors selected as a Shooting Star by European Film Promotions.
Ardalan Esmaili - the new George Clooney?

From Anderstorpsgymnasiet's media program to Sweden's prominent stages, Ardalan's journey has been remarkable. While now a familiar face on screen, his humble beginnings might surprise some, especially as someone who's being heralded as the new George Clooney.

– People are amazed to learn I'm from Norrland, he explains.

– Some pick up on it because of my accent, but for most, it's a revelation that I'm from 'schtaan' (a local colloquial term for Skellefteå).

At two years old, he arrived in Sweden from Iran. Concerned about their children's future in the war-torn country, his family initially planned to relocate to the USA, where they had relatives. 

However, circumstances led them to settle in Skellefteå.

– When my parents arrived here as refugees, they received immense support, Ardalan recalls fondly.

– There was a strong sense of solidarity in the north, where people helped each other progress. This nurturing environment enabled me to dream and muster the courage to pursue those dreams.

Ardalan fondly recalls his upbringing in the north and endeavors to revisit whenever possible.

– I have a fondness for Norrland, and the people of Skellefteå are its best aspect, he says.

– Despite my family's relocation to the south, I maintain many friendships there and endeavor to visit when time permits.

The path to his dream has been a long and winding road, but he has never faltered.

In Stockholm, he resides with his wife, Evin Ahmad, also a very successful actor. The couple has shared the stage in various productions.

Reflecting on his journey, Ardalan acknowledges the challenges he faced.

– It's been a winding road, fraught with obstacles, he says.

– As a northerner and a person of color, breaking barriers has been a formidable task. Perseverance is key to navigating this industry.

In previous interviews, Ardalan has shed light on the film industry's portrayal of immigrants and its reflection of structural racism. 

For instance, he once questioned an Aftonbladet reporter: "How many non-whites have you seen in leading roles, where they aren't portrayed as gangsters or terrorists, and their ethnicity isn't their defining characteristic?"

When Norran revisits the topic, Ardalan notes some progress but emphasizes that the glorification of immigrants as criminals persists, particularly following "Snabba cash." 

– We're making strides in altering the depiction of immigrants in the film industry, he says.

– However, systemic issues persist. People are treated unequally, and that's a significant concern.

Asked about his feelings on the matter, he responds:

– It's distressing.

Three 'snabba' questions

Your favourite Norrland expression?

– It would probably be "schjoo," he says, referring to the classic Norrland inhalation for "yes".

The hardest thing about acting?

– The hardest thing is when external challenges arise. For example, learning a new dialect.

Best tip for aspiring actors?

– Take it seriously. Find your reason why you want this.