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Why Grayson From Netflix's Arcane Sounds So Familiar

Netflix seems to have finally cracked the video game adaptation code with its exciting new animated series "Arcane." The show's unique, illustrated style mixes magic and steampunk in a story that appeals to audiences beyond just the fans of its inspiration — the wildly popular game "League of Legends." After its release, the 9-episode first season garnered plenty of critical acclaim and a shiny 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

"The Edge of Seventeen" and "Hawkeye" star Hailee Steinfeld leads the series as Vi, a scrappy orphan girl from the undercity who's prone to inadvisable heists and is intent on looking after her younger sister. After said heist goes horribly wrong, exploding a building in the rich part of town, Enforcer Grayson comes down to the city's underbelly to ask Vander (JB Blanc) who is responsible for the wreck. Her husky, gravelly voice is unmistakable, belonging to the notable performer Shohreh Aghdashloo. Here's where you know her from.

Shohreh Aghdashloo's breakout was House of Sand and Fog

Though Shohreh Aghdashloo began her acting career in Iran, where she was born, she fled the country amidst unrest in 1978. She first came to the US in the '80s, but, she told q on cbc, "The industry was not ready for me" — there weren't many opportunities for a woman of color. So, after years of doing theater and various small films, 2003's "House of Sand and Fog," was her American breakout film, for which she snagged an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress (per IMDb).

"House of Sand and Fog," based on the novel by Andre Dubus III, is a devastating drama about a depressed, recovering alcoholic Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), who loses her inherited house due to a paperwork mistake. Before she can get it back, Iranian immigrant Behrani (Ben Kingsley) buys it with the intent of fixing it up and selling it. He's been laboring to provide the rich lifestyle his wife, Nadi (Aghdashloo), and son (Jonathan Ahdout) are used to, so when the desperate Kathy asks for her house back, he refuses and the situation quickly spirals out of control. Connelly, Kingsley, and Aghdashloo were all praised by critics for their acting.

In an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, Aghdashloo said she wanted to play Nadi after reading the book and was hoping to be cast in a hypothetical movie adaptation. Lucky for her, that's exactly what happened. Part of what drew her to the role was the depth to the characters of Behrani and Nadi. "What I like about this story is that it's about dignity, integrity, love, saving face — it shows it all," she said. 

Shohreh Aghdashloo plays a terrorist in 24

A couple of years after "House of Sand and Fog," Shohreh Aghdashloo got her first big TV role as an antagonist in the fourth season of "24." Since the show's shtick is Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) running around countering a different terrorism plot for 24 hours each season — with each episode an hour in real time — Aghdashloo originally turned down the part to avoid playing into Middle Eastern stereotypes.

However, as she told The New York Times, after they explained the character of Dina Araz — a Muslim woman, mother, and member of a terrorist cell in the U.S. — she signed on. "While they were talking, I realized this is the most compelling and challenging role of my career," Aghdashloo said in 2005. "She's a very strong woman. She's complex. She's the kind of person when you talk to her, you're not quite sure whom you're talking to. I realized it was, as they say, something I can put my teeth in." And yet, not everyone saw it that way.

Once again, Jonathan Ahdout — also of "House of Sand and Fog" — plays her son, the teenage Behrooz who clashes with his parents over his relationship with his American girlfriend. This storyline, in particular, garnered controversy because Behrooz refuses to kill his girlfriend at Dina's request and she kills the girl instead. People criticized "24" for poorly portraying Muslim Americans, which prompted Fox to play a public service announcement sponsored by the Council on Islamic-American Relations, according to The New York Times. Even so, Aghdashloo reminisced about the role in 2020, tweeting that it was one of her "best experiences on TV so far."

Shohreh Aghdashloo has had roles in Mass Effect and Destiny

"Arcane" is certainly not Shohreh Aghdashloo's first time voice acting. In fact, fans of the series, which is inspired by the video game "League of Legends," might know Aghdashloo from her work on other video games. She was in both 2010's "Mass Effect 2" and 2012's "Mass Effect 3," which take place far in the future, when humans and aliens have colonized the galaxy but are threatened by the antagonizing, intelligent machines called Reapers. She voices Admiral Shala'Raan vas Tonbay, a leader of the quarian people and auntie to the protagonist's close ally Tali (Ash Sroka). In an interview with The Gamer, she said Shala'Raan is "one of her most favorite [characters], ever."

To continue the sci-fi theme, she joined the cast of the video game "Destiny" in 2014 as Lakshmi-2, a representative of the Future War Cult. She can be found in the Tower, selling various items, armor, and weapons, appearing again in "Destiny 2." 

Shohreh Aghdashloo is known for intense politicking on The Expanse

These days, Shohreh Aghdashloo is best known as Secretary-General Chrisjen Avasarala of the United Nations on Amazon Prime's beloved sci-fi series "The Expanse." She navigates the difficult politics of an Earth centuries in the future, contending with the conflicting needs of the humans living on Mars and in the asteroid belt. "It's the most powerful female role I have ever played in my life," she told q on cbc.

In fact, she unintentionally prepared for this role — and several of her others — years ago when she studied political science and international business in the UK. She told The Gamer she initially wanted to go into politics before switching to acting, but the background has helped her understand many of her characters. For her portrayal of Chrisjen, she draws inspiration from multiple real female politicians, including the stoicism of Margaret Thatcher — who became the UK's Prime Minister when she was living there.

Aghdashloo loves "The Expanse" for its diversity and for portraying a woman in a role of such political importance. "It is not just [me] but the other powerful female roles in this series," she told Inverse. "We give a lot of hope to young women all around the world ... When they watch me on this series, they think, 'Oh, if she could make it, I can make it too.'" She's made the part her own and become a fan favorite for it. Ty Franck, one of the co-authors of "The Expanse" novels, told her: "You're better than what we thought or what we put in the books. You're more."

However, soon she'll be done with "The Expanse," which is ending after Season 6, and moving on to something new. Just listen for that unmistakable voice.