[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode]
Tonight on From, Fatima’s anniversary celebration turned into a Colony House of horrors when a misguided Kevin let his monster bae in and she promptly killed him and left the window open for her crew. While the party devolved into terror and sent everyone running, Fatima was focused on Julie and Ellis, and only finding Ellis, secured him with her in the foyer and hung a talisman, saving their lives. This week, I caught up with Pegah Ghafoori, who plays From’s beacon of sunlight, for an exclusive conversation about the season so far, and tonight’s episode. [Also, acknowledging Father Khatri, ICYMI, I chatted with Shaun Majumder last week.]
Ghafoori shares that the universe lined up to help point her toward the role. “I originally didn’t get the audition. I got a message from an acting coach that asked if I’d gone out for this character named Fatima, and I messaged my manager and asked, ‘Have I been sent out for this?’ He [followed up] and 30 minutes later I had the audition,” she recalls.
“It was just way too perfect [in the sense] that it was almost the universe putting some extra attention on this audition. This character is just so special to me because she and I share so much in our history. And Fatima is my grandmother’s name and one of my aunt’s names. And her background [had] a lot of parallels to my grandmother’s life, so I didn’t have a hard time bringing truth and honesty to this. It was a matter of wanting to honor her story and my background and my life and obviously be respectful about it.”
As other cast members have shared with us, Ghafoori spoke with series creator John Griffin to suss out her character. “We talked about what he had in store [for her]. And if I remember correctly, he mentioned how Fatima was the beginning, like the baby for him. It all started with this character,” she says.
“It was just an honor to hear that from the writer. And [made me] put that much more love into this. We worked on creating her to be someone that he loved as much as I do. He told me where he wanted to go with it. And I told him about my background and parallels and he loved that. The writers and the creative team are very, very good at allowing us to bring our own experiences because these characters are so human, so real. They feel so multidimensional [and] it’s rare to see characters that are written out fully and you don’t have much wiggle room to play with them.”
As we learned in episode 5, beneath Fatima’s sunny demeanor is the story of a survivor who lived through a childhood of real-life monsters who murdered her father, and that her optimism doesn’t equal naivete. “Another thing that John and I talked about was that she’s already walked through hell and made it out the other side. She obviously knows that she is at least capable of handling that kind of hardship,” she explains.
“I wanted to make sure that I didn’t portray her as this perfect person that figured it all out. A lot of what she does is also a coping mechanism. Everywhere she goes, she tries to create a family because hers was torn from her.”
“She was in the next chapter in her life when she arrived here. So she chose to let go of what she had and accept this new family, which is a hard thing to do on its own. The relationships that she has with people are almost a coping mechanism, but also she wants to save Julie, for example, from some of the unnecessary heartache that she had to go through, because she didn’t have that person in her life, growing up with just her mom.”
“That must have been hard and that gives you some sort of a sense of maturity. Now she’s trying to almost fulfill upon Julie so that she can find herself and define who she is as an individual, so that all of these external factors don’t affect her to her core, so that she doesn’t lose herself.”
“Whether that’s by giving her the wisdom that she’s gained or holding her hand and walking her through it, or just being there so that Julie can figure it out on her own. That was a similar theme for Fatima, where she exists as almost a pillar, but she’s also struggling. And a lot of people don’t see that because she doesn’t let it show.”
“And her father coming from a religious yet almost holy background, she also has her faith to fall back on that helps her through a lot. But she created a support system for herself by gathering a family around her. She went to Colony House instead of the town [because] they have each other’s backs.”
“Obviously I’m not talking about Kevin, although I don’t think she’d be mad at Kevin because she understands you need love, and if you need love desperately enough to find it in something that will kill you, I think there should be room for empathy and not just anger.”
“I want to say she’s a broken person who’s trying desperately not to verbalize it or to externalize it because then it will become real. I hope that she doesn’t lose what she’s mustered up to be able to survive. But at the same time I wish I could be like her and keep it together as well as she does.”
Tonight’s episode reveals Fatima’s ability to take charge when everything goes south, and Ghafoori says that’s another layer she loves to play. “As soft and kind as she chooses to be almost all of the time, she is a badass. You can be soft and you can choose to be light, but that doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of running into the fire and choosing to live, choosing to fight [back] and win,” she points out.
“That’s what this whole show is about. Out in the real world, you can run away from your problems because there are so many places to go. Whereas here you’ve been put in this little fish pool and there are piranhas in there. There’s nowhere to go. You’re forced to confront your demons. Sometimes they win. Sometimes you can outplay them, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve won until you figure out a way to get out.”
As Faitma rises, Ellis falls apart a bit, which is the first sense we get that perhaps whatever this place is a good place for the couple to be together. “I think if they were to ever leave this place, they would be completely different people. I think that she has finally come to peace with the fact that they’re here for a reason, so she needs to make the best of it,” she says.
“So that if this is a test, she doesn’t fail it. But at the same time, she knows how Ellis tends to avoid problems or to turn his back on them as a sense of gaining control over it. That’s also a coping mechanism. And so far, things have been good, but as soon as the shit hit the fan, he fell back and there wasn’t as much support or being there for her while she had to do it on her own.”
“She wants to make sure that [her family] will be okay [but she’s not in a hurry to leave]. These monsters, we know how things work for them. We know that they only come out at night, whereas out in the real world, monsters are everywhere. And considering she met the worst of humanity at a young age, she can see right through people.”
“Obviously she wishes for the best, but she knows that not everybody can handle the monsters as well [as she can]. She’s seen that the kindest, most joyful people here ended up losing the battle to their own monsters and she knows what Ellis has gone through. So that scares her. She’s just scared of loss in whatever form it may come. And it’s that uncertainty that I think gives her so much anxiety when it does come time to try to actually leave. I think she definitely has some abandonment issues, which is understandable.”
One of the things that made Fatima so interesting from the jump is that she doesn’t share Ellis’s animosity toward Boyd and doesn’t overtly try to steer Ellis back to his dad, but she loves them both. “She misses her father. In Donna, she found a mother and I feel like she has so much love for Ellis [and] she sees a father in Boyd and loves that she can give him the daughterly love she couldn’t give her own dad,” she shares.
“And it breaks her heart every time she sees Ellis put Boyd down, because at least he has a father who is doing so much to make sure that he is protected. He’s trying to love him so hard. The love parents give regardless of how awful their children can be to them is nothing to be taking for granted.”
“So Fatima tries to love Boyd as much as she can, because she can see him yearning for his son’s love. And she can see Ellis yearning for that love but there’s this thing in the middle that they just can’t get past. And a lot of times it’s not so much figuring it out as much as it is deciding that it’s not worth it, that you’d rather lose a bit of your dignity than love from your family.”
Tonight’s reckoning at Colony House and in town, which brought more tragedy for father and son, will move the needle on that rift in the episodes that follow, and look for Fatima to help push that forward.
Photos courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
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