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Arian Moayed Juggles The Accidental Wolf, Spider-Man: No Way Home, And Succession - Exclusive Interview

Arian Moayed is currently gracing the screens of two significant projects: He plays Agent Cleary in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and Stewy in "Succession." While fans can certainly pick him out in a crowd, he works behind the scenes along with acting. The accomplished actor has been on shows like "Law & Order," "The Following," "Elementary," and "Madam Secretary."

However, fans might not realize that while Moayed isn't acting in TV, films, and theater, he's often writing and directing. On top of a couple of video shorts, Moayed brought the Emmy-nominated series "The Accidental Wolf" to life. The series stars Kelli O'Hara as a mom who receives a troubling call that screams "government conspiracy" — and what length a civilian would go to uncover the truth. What started as a passion project for Moayed in 2014 has since found a home at Topic, with another season on the way.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Arian Moayed revealed his inspiration for "The Accidental Wolf," what it was like working with the cast, and the unconventional way he filmed the series. Moayed also dished on working with Tom Holland and the "Spider-Man: No Way Home" cast and some ad-libbed moments from the film.

Tackling the issues that matter

"The Accidental Wolf" is a really topical series, and it tackles everything from white privilege to human rights issues. What inspired you to write this story in 2018, and why do you think it's such an important series to talk about and pick back up in 2022?

It's amazing. Actually, the pilot episode started ... we shot that in 2014, and then as we kept on building the pieces, every single time, it got a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger. Because I have been producing with my nonprofit theater company, Waterwell, for the last 20 years, I was like ... in those early days with my producing partner, Damon Owlia, we were just doing what we [could] to make it happen, and along the way, we started getting all these amazing actors.

Every step of the way, I kept on responding to the world at hand. The Ebola crisis just broke out, and I found that really fascinating. Then I started talking to my Sierra Leonean friends, and then ... you say white privilege in your question, but it's so funny because in 2014, '15, '16, when we shot Season 1, it really wasn't in the vocabulary. That whole big monologue that she gives, that mother that gives us, "Just shut up. Spread your legs..."

I think we shot that in [2015 or 2016], I really don't remember. Then, every step of the way, we would get another nugget that would give us the confidence to do another step. We put out Season 1, we put it on our own website, we made it interactive, and each episode [was] like ten minutes long. In between the episodes, you can get a text from us.

Season 3?

You can call Laurie Metcalf. You can leave a message for Kelli [O'Hara]. You can go into the apartment where Kelli was at, that fancy, huge apartment. We made that thing, and then that went viral for a bit, really. We got an Emmy nomination, and then the original investors [Jayne Sherman and Gregory Franklin] were like, "Why don't we just give you more money?" In 2018, we shot the vast majority of Season 2 of what you've seen, which is interesting because ... Topic came onboard in 2019, and in 2020, they really asked a really big question. They were like, "Now that you have four hours of a show, what's missing?" I got to take a step back and really plan out for the first time ever because as we were making it, it was always makeshift. You know what I mean?

We were putting story pieces together every step of the way. And now that I [had] that in 2020, I did a couple of additional shoots for season 1 and a couple of additional shoots for season 2, re-edited it, and reframed it. And we just announced yesterday, we just announced our cast for season 3, which we have also already shot. We shot it over the summer.

Are there any plans to bring some of that physical website, virtual element back to the show?

It was so fun and exciting when it happened the original time. If there is, it's got to be built into the communities, I think, meaning like Reddit communities and whatnot. We should. It was so fun to get coordinates, and you can be like, "Where did she walk?" We did this thing where she was walking on that day. It was cool. I would love to. For us, you have to realize, putting your stuff out there, not on YouTube, is kind of like a black void. Do you know what I mean?

It's so hard. We really wanted to make it interactive and fun, and really easy. You can leave a message for Laurie Metcalf. You call a number, or you can get an email from us, and you get an email and when the email came ... Anyway, it was fun stuff.

Getting back into the groove

Was it strange at all, going so long between picking this up and starting the new season, and how did everyone sort of getting back into the groove of that?

A little bit of that's [related to] COVID ... to get the wheels in motion, when we partnered with Topic, it just took a little bit of time, and then COVID hit. I think the hardest part of [it] actually is just maintaining the energy. Do you know what I mean? We knew we had something really cool with Season 2. We knew the material was fascinating and unique, and special. But now, all of a sudden, we shot that in 2018 ... You know what I mean?

The hardest part was getting everyone to make sure the energy was still there, but they really were. Kelli is such a big fan of the show. She's so amazing in the show, but she's also such a big fan of the show. So that's been really cool ... The other thing that was kind of scary is when you go back and have those four hours that you've already shot or four-and-a-half hours that you already shot. There's stuff that we shot in 2017 that's in Season 3, just to give you an idea of how world-building I was going as a part of the process.

I say that to say that there is a fear when you step back and look at all the s*** that you have and be like, "What's the missing link in these little places and how do I rearrange this and how do I make this better?" No one really gets those opportunities, but I had to do a lot of ... Andrew Levin and I, the editor. He's amazing. We really kind of had to reinvent the wheel. It was a puzzle piece.

Broadway's Ben McKenzi

So is there anyone that you wanted back that you couldn't get back because of schedules and COVID and that kind of thing?

Everybody. I mean, sure, everybody. I can literally tell you. I would work... COVID was a big portion of it also. Everyone is really fancy. You know what I mean? Everyone's got like 50 f****** projects. I'm saying this for them humbly. Everyone's like, "Wow, you are in the biggest movie of the year." Okay, cool. Amazing. Fine. Fantastic. It's a little bit throwing it against the wind, but for me, kind of the beauty of the show [as] if they were game to play and with their schedules aligned, I would write towards it, and if they weren't, I would write towards somewhere else. And it always works. You know what I mean? It just works towards that idea.

From Broadway to filming 24/7

I noticed Ben McKenzi in this show, and that's when I realized that this might have been filmed a while ago. Because I was like, 'Ben McKenzi doesn't look like that anymore.'

That scene was shot ... I'll tell you about that. I was doing a show on Broadway called "The Humans." We had so little money and so little time, so we had to shoot a night shoot. This is a true story. I would end shooting around ... I mean, I would end the play on Broadway around 10:00, get in an Uber, go all the way to New Rochelle, and I would shoot from 11:00 PM-ish, 11:30 to kind of like 5:00 AM. [I would] sometimes do doubles. That's how I got Laurie, because Laurie was doing "Misery" on Broadway. She was across the street from us, and we just started hanging out because of Joe Mantello, who was the director of both of us ... It was a little bit of scrappy, "Does anyone want to play tonight with us?" Do you know what I mean?

The Accidental Wolf cast

Speaking of the cast, you've got a pretty great cast. What was it like working with Mike Doyle and Kelli O'Hara, Frank Wood, [and] Ben McKenzie?

I wonder often why they say "yes" to me because they're not getting paid a lot of money. I think what's really cool about working with all these legends is that they bring a level of artistry to the table. I'm not even trying to be highfalutin when I say that, I'm just being real. They really give a s***. When they really care, I really want to make it great for them as well, because I'm also an actor and [have] been on one-day sets, where it's not that fun, and everyone's running around.

I don't want that energy. I want an energy of like, "Let's f****** make something cool." When you get Laurie Metcalf to say "yes" to go under a church basement place to look up for 30 minutes before she's doing "Three Tall Women" on Broadway. In between shows, she did that for us. It's a fun experience of just having those people.

It was challenging, but working with Stephen McKinley Henderson in ... I think we shot that in Queens or Staten Island. I don't remember where we shot that, but it was a dream come true. He is the guy that I look ... Every time I would read an August Wilson play, his name would be there, and now all of a sudden, he's doing this thing for us. It was a dream. It was like a club. It was like, I made a fun club, and I wrote to everyone's skill sets.

You mentioned Mike Doyle, and I'm glad that you did. He's so amazing. That scene with him at dinner or whatever, when he's like, "I'm running for Congress," you just kind of want to punch him in the face, but he does it so convincingly.

Yeah. Everyone knows that guy.

Everyone knows that guy. Everyone knows that guy. And so I wrote towards him because I knew he could do that. And Kelli. I knew that with Kelli and Marsha Stephanie [Blake], you [could] write anything, and they can do it. I don't know.

Ad-libbing with Ned Leeds

You had some hilarious exchanges with our favorite "Spider-Man" characters in "No Way Home" as Agent Cleary. What was it like interrogating Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Marisa Tomei? Can you recall any funny moments from that set?

That was a fun, amazing whirlwind. We shot in two stints, one in January of last year, one in March ... It didn't feel like I was on a Marvel set. You know what I mean? I didn't feel ... I was nervous, for sure, I'm not going to lie about that, but it was instantaneous how part of a community they have built there. Tom and Zendaya and John Watts and Jacob [Batalon], they're really great leaders, and they're really nice people. I cannot say that enough times.

When you have the top talents, not only on your set, but in the world, question mark, maybe, probably, be that nice, it makes everything a lot more fun. What can I ... There was so much fun. There [were] so [many] exciting moments. John Watts was so fun to be around. It was exciting. It was just really cool. And there wasn't a sense of ... Asking me to be a part of it is like ... They wanted a real f****** tough f****** character. So it was fun to just be all in and have some bits. That scene with Ned is so funny. That scene with Jacob is so funny. It was fun.

Hanging out with Aunt May

Did anyone improvise or break character during any of those scenes?

Oh, yeah.  There was a lot of improvising.

Can you think of anything, in particular, something that might have made it into the final edit?

God, I don't really want to say unless ... Now I'm like, was it written? There was that ... I think with the Cleary and Ned scene, where he's like, "No, I didn't know that," where at one point he's kind of like, "No, I did not know that," I think that's improvised.

Oh, that's amazing. Did anyone break at all?

We both did.

During that?

We did a lot of different versions of it. We were screaming at each other sometimes. We were improvising in the room. It was just kind of like, "I'm so sorry you had to wait," I don't know. Some of that felt [like it] might have been improvised. We really wanted to sell the idea that we're putting him out ... It was a fun time.

Marisa ... oddly enough, I've known Marisa for a long time. I've seen probably [an] equal amount of her in theater that I have seen her in film and television, probably ... so I just saw her in a play on Broadway right before the pandemic, and we talked about that. We just felt comfortable. It didn't feel like a Marvel set. There are certain things like cloaks and that kind of s*** that is intense, but other than that, it was easy.

What's next for Agent Cleary?

Given that Agent Cleary is a government agent, there's certainly room for him to appear in upcoming MCU projects. Would you be open to that, and which MCU shows or movies are you dying for him to appear in?

Of course, yeah. I would love Agent Cleary to come back. I think Agent Cleary could fit in probably anywhere.

Yeah, that's the beauty.

Yeah. I really feel like there is ... He's a fun and hard-nosed character that you kind of love to hate.

Is there a show that you want to be in, in the Marvel universe, at all?

All of them. Don't know what to tell you. All of them. Any one of them ... [if] "WandaVision" [were] to come back, I don't know if that would be possible. That might be harder, actually.


"Hawkeye" would be fun. Damage Control, the company that you kind of like heads up, it's really ... That's fun. That could be a whole... I mean, there's so ... I mean this. The reason why I'm being hesitant, even anti, is [there are] so many versions of everything. So I would [say] yes to all that.

Tom Holland's biggest fan

And is there a character from the MCU or an actor within the MCU that you really would like him to have a scene with?

I'd love to have another scene with Spider-Man. I love working with him. I am genuinely a big fan of Tom Holland in every respect. He is a good, hardworking, f****** kind of genius. He's really amazing. So I would love to do it with him. Anybody, honestly. I don't want to even single anyone out because I would do it with all of them. I would love to do a little scene with Happy. 

You also star in "Succession." What have been some of your favorite moments working with that cast?

Every ... I mean, is the most... We're all theater people. Everyone in the show does theater. Everybody. So every day is just like [being backstage in theater]. That's what it feels like. Always. I mean, I loved having a scene with Sarah Snook. I loved having another scene with J. [Smith-Cameron] again this year. I had a couple [of] scenes with J. this year. I like those big group scenes. Those are so fun. You get to hear everyone and hear everyone's opinions on things. There's a lot of exciting moments on there, and the material is so just delicious that you just want to hang out there. I mean that. Every day we are like, "Thank you for having us, even for ten minutes. Thank you."

Stewy's Succession future

What kind of story arcs do you hope that Stewy follows in the future, and where do you think that his story's heading?

I mean, no idea where it's heading. Genuinely don't even have a guess for where it's heading. I know that Jesse [Armstrong's] got to figure that out, and I don't know anything either, and I don't want to, really. I want to experience it. I don't need to know all the details. I mean, what? If it's now Team Logan v. Team Kids, I'm sure people are going to need allies. I'm very intrigued [by] how that relationship is going to go. You know what I mean?

And also, from the evidence that we have, Sandi with an I and Stewy weren't technically on the same page with regards to Matsson. So I'm intrigued where that's going to go. And then, I mean, what's going to happen with that relationship, Kendall and Stewy? What the hell is going to happen there? No idea. No clue. I'm excited to find out.

Actors are fans, too

What's your favorite movie of all time?

I've thought about this question. I'm going to go art [film]-y. It's the movie, I think of when people ask this question first, even though it's ... It's an Iranian film that was made in 1990 called "Close-Up," and in the international film community, it's genuinely considered one of the masterpieces of all time. It is definitely my favorite movie because it's a genre ... It's like half documentary, half reenactment, and in the middle of it, you don't know if it's a documentary. It's about this guy, this Iranian man who gets arrested for impersonating a film director.

They ask him, "Why did you impersonate this film director?" And he's like, "Because that film director understands me better than anyone else on earth." So he's giving a spiel to the Iranian government that, "This filmmaker understands me better than everyone, so I impersonated him and conned the family out of some money."

"The Accidental Wolf" Season 2 is exclusively streaming on Topic.