Showtime’s “Homeland” ended on Sunday, upsetting us loyal fans who were so grateful to this enthralling series for distracting us from the weekly horrors of the coronavirus crisis.
Anticipating the finale, I spent the past week asking friends who their favorite “Homeland” villain was. The enigmatic al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Nazir, played by Navid Negahban, came up as the top winner. The Persian-born actor performed so brilliantly that he attracted high praise from former Israeli President Shimon Peres and former U.S. President Barack Obama.
I was about to email Negahban my informal poll results when his fundraising appeal arrived in my inbox. He had unleashed a campaign to save the Los Angeles artist retreat he created, the Romany Artist Center & Studio, that now is in dire financial straits.
Negahban conceived the center, which will house up to eight artists in addition to providing studio space, as “an artist colony and residency that is a safe haven, free from any kind of prejudice — for artists, built by artists.” He explains the focus is “how what one can achieve when given a safe environment to be their true selves, no matter what nationality, color, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We welcome everyone.”
Negahban said he was motivated to develop the center because when he came to Los Angeles from Germany in 1993, he had little money and slept on a park bench. Today, homelessness remains a reality for many talented artists. The virus has ended work that sustained the lower echelon of actors. Many in the arts are truly struggling with life’s basics.
In an effort to give back after his acting successes, he created the Romany Artist Center & Studio as an artist hostel and creative space located in L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood to “provide housing, a studio and recording space, and an opportunity to earn an income, for artists who need a place to stay and work while they get on their feet.”
But the actor who has been labeled “The Man of a Thousand Faces” did not predict there would such a sudden financial downturn that he could not afford to complete the center.
“I had acting projects and work lined up that would have given me the funds I needed to finish the center,” he said. “Unfortunately, like so many others, the coronavirus brought all my work to a halt, and I am at risk of losing the center and all the work that has gone into building it so far.”
Negahban said he has spent more than $400,000 of his personal money and “invested everything I had into the center.” But he admitted, “Now, during this unprecedented global crisis, I am facing a very challenging situation because I am unable to finish the work without further funding, and the current economic situation is making it impossible to get a loan. Believe me, I have explored that option already.”
On screen, Negahban can be a formidable presence. But in real life, he is a benevolent soul who’s become a friend since I pitched him a television series I conceived with him as a firefighter. I assure you, Negahban already fits that heroic persona as he launches a GoFundMe campaign to raise $200,000 to make his center a reality.
“I am reaching out to the global community to ask for your help, to join me in this endeavor to help artists,” he said. “Your generosity will allow me to finish building the center, which will ultimately lead to housing, food and income for our artist community.”
The struggle of aspiring artists is real. “Just imagine living in quarantine right now without music, films, your favorite TV or radio shows,” he said. “We all have so many artists to thank for keeping us entertained during this time. Their work is not a luxury — it’s an essential part of human life.”