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And now… ‘Leading Lady’ Nour Hooshmand

By Jason Tan Liwag Published Dec 02, 2022 5:00 am

Nourijune Hooshmand was already running late for her job when someone called and asked her to send an audition. She had no idea what it was for, but her instincts told her to film a tape and email it. When she was called back the following day, she was surprised to find herself on a Zoom call with one of her idols—filmmaker Antoinette Jadaone.

Since then, Hooshmand has become one of the country’s brightest up-and-coming talents—thanks to her supporting roles in web shows such as The Kangks Show and Sleep With Me, in the Cinemalaya-winning film Blue Room, and in the short film Graduation with Donny Pangilinan. In the months leading up to that life-changing call, Nour Hooshmand had put her dreams of acting on hold. But unbeknownst to her, such serendipities were signs pointing her toward a path in front of the camera instead of behind it.

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Hooshmand spent much of her life convinced she couldn’t be an actor due to anxieties about self-image. “When I was a kid, I was bullied because of how boyish I was,” she says. When a teacher read her diary in front of her class and asked the other students to ‘fix’ her by dressing her up and combing her hair, she was made to believe that something was wrong with her. “Ever since, I’ve felt estranged from my femininity and I’ve had a hard time expressing it.”

Hooshmand spent much of her life convinced she couldn’t be an actor due to anxieties about self-image.

Still, her proclivity for storytelling only grew as she got older. In her senior year, she directed a high school production of Les Miserables (“It wasn’t that good”) and decided to enter the BA theater arts program at UP Diliman. But these same fears were reinforced in college. “Someone told me to go into technical theater because there weren’t roles for people who had my face or looked like me,” she says. “Obviously, I wasn’t a leading lady.”

Nour Hooshmand has become one of the country’s brightest up-and-coming talents.

Heeding the advice, Hooshmand forged a home for herself backstage and focused her time learning the ropes of technical theater—directing, stage management, lighting design, set design, dramaturgy, shadow play, and more. It was here she’d meet others who, like her, were ostracized by the existing system.

Two instances first convinced Hooshmand she had a shot at acting. The first was when acclaimed choreographer and theater director Dexter Santos singled her out in an acting class despite being the only person from tech, later giving her an uno. The second was when the late theater luminary Tony Mabesa gave her the lead role in what would later become his final production—the Filipino adaptation of Six Characters In Search of an Author. Delighted by her eyes (“He said they were huge”), Mabesa entrusted her with the role of the sultry stepdaughter—the most challenging role in the production. “He was the first person to believe that I could be onstage.”

A scene from "Six Characters in Search of an Author."

Hooshmand graduated cum laude from the program. But when the pandemic hit, any momentum she built had dissipated. Stuck in the office, processing mountains of paperwork instead of touring shows, Hooshmand began questioning her abilities, later succumbing to months of depression. “It got to a point where I’d go to Manila Bay and stay there, wishing I was somewhere else,” she says. “I couldn’t tell anybody because I felt like it was wrong to complain, especially considering what everyone was going through.”

Since her debut on 'The Kangks Show', Hooshmand’s professional and personal momentum has only grown, and so has her confidence and her gratitude for those around her.

At the height of this depressive period, Hooshmand sought comfort in friends and in the arts. When she stumbled upon Jadaone’s Fan Girl at MMFF, Hooshmand was invigorated by Jadaone’s bravery and persistence in telling stories amidst the same turmoil that paralyzed her. Inspired to go out of her shell instead of in it, she made a pact with her best friend Joshua Chan that someday, somehow, she’d work with Jadaone on a project. 

But she hadn’t anticipated it happening so soon. During the pivotal callback, Hooshmand was surrounded by other beautiful, more feminine girls and felt as though it was the end of the line for her. Though she was ready to charge everything to experience, Jadaone, for reasons still not entirely clear to Nour, eventually selected her to star in her first TV commercial for Globe.

Over a year later, Hooshmand is still grateful to Jadaone for taking a risk on her. “I didn’t know anything. But she gave me a chance,” she says, tearing up, recalling moments when Jadaone extended her patience on set and encouraged her to play, even as she still felt alienated from herself. “I was able to conquer it by being genuine and truthful, and that was when I felt that I didn’t have to put on this facade of being ‘girly’ or ‘leading lady-esque’ to tell my truth. I can just be myself and it’ll happen organically.”

When one of Hooshmand’s highly anticipated projects fell through, she was afraid she’d have to return to her desk job. But soon enough, she was informed that Jadaone had a role for her in The Kangks Show—the introverted Amber Morado, whose stint as an intern under Doc Kara Teo (Angelica Panganiban) helps her develop the confidence to pursue what she wants. “I’m not sure if I’m romanticizing things, but it felt like that role was her love letter to me,” she says. “There were so many lines that felt like she was saying it to me.”

The parallels between her life and Jadaone’s have only made Hooshmand recognize the many ways being seen is a gift. “I feel like everyone’s kind of lonely at some level. But what sets you apart is that effort to make others feel less alone,” she says, now crying. “(Direk Tonette) pulled me out of a really dark place…Sometimes, it just really takes for someone else to see that in you.”

Since her debut on The Kangks Show, Hooshmand’s professional and personal momentum has only grown, and so has her confidence and her gratitude for those around her. “The show really helped me become comfortable in my own skin…I kind of got the courage to show myself and be seen.” 

When I asked her what was next for her, she admitted that she wants to try writing and directing a film. She came up with several words—coming-of-age, religion, loved ones—before conceding that she is still looking for it. Instead, she shared a line from Dulaang UP’s Angry Christ, written by Floy Quintos, one that seems to guide all her artistic endeavors: “Tell them the stories of their wounds.”