Angela Sarafyan, an Armenian actor who stars in the new feature film “The Promise,” considers herself very fortunate to have landed a role in the film. She actually considers herself fortunate to be even in the world to be able to audition for any job.
Sarafyan’s grandparents were children during the Armenian genocide starting in 1915 that’s depicted in the film. Like so many children, they were orphaned but managed to escape to Syria.
“They formed families there and years later decided to move to what is the current Armenia,” Sarafyan says. “I would not be sitting here today if it weren’t for them and their escape like the orphans in the movie.
“Being Armenian, this is such an important story to tell. It is a story that I have been told all my life and I am so happy to be part of the project.”
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Being cast to play Maral in “The Promise” also proved to be emotionally draining. Maral starts out as a happy young woman living in a small Armenian village whose only concern is having to wait two years to marry Mikael (Oscar Isaac). That changes when the Armenians are rounded up and killed under the orders of the Ottoman government.
She had difficulties performing in one pivotal scene because she couldn’t stop crying.
“I knew it was a film set but I just couldn’t stop,” Sarafyan says.
Sarafyan’s no newcomer as she got interested in acting after her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 4. The 34-year-old has been working since 2000 when she landed a role on “Judging Amy.”
She struggled to find roles early in her career because she wears her Armenian heritage on her face. Her exotic look makes her standout in a world where blond, blue-eyed actresses are the norm.
“I was told many times I should fix my nose to be more like the other actors,” Sarafyan says. “I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to get stuck playing the same kind of roles.”
There have been some roles she didn’t get because of her appearance but she’s also landed parts because of her exotic looks.
Sarafyan was cast specifically for her look for the 2012 feature film “Lost and Found in Armenia,” a film produced by Roosevelt High School graduate Valerie McCaffrey.
The light comedy was shot almost entirely in Armenia in 2011. The trip there to film was the first time Sarafyan had been to Armenia since he family moved to America.
She loved being part of the movie because it showed so much about Armenian culture and humor.
After years of struggling, Sarafyan is no longer typecast. The biggest job of her career has been in the HBO hit series “Westworld.”
“I fell in love with the script with the three pages they gave me and I knew I had to be a part of the story,” Sarafyan says.
That part is Clementine Pennyfeather, a saloon hostess in a massive adult playground that looks like a page from the wild, wild West. She was in the middle of shooting the first season of “Westworld” when she landed the part in “The Promise.”
“Westworld” has brought a lot of attention to Sarafyan but she has a special place in her heart for “The Promise.”
“It is very important to make it – similar to ‘Schindler’s List’ – educational but also so you have a personal connection to it,” Sarafyan says. “There has to be a personal connection rather than just a history lesson. This film does that. You will live through what happened through the characters.
“The most important thing is you see that when Armenians stick to together and help each other, they survive.”