Bahar Soomekh (Persian: بهار سومخ born March 30, 1975) is an Iranian actress and environmental activist. She began acting in the early 2000s, and is perhaps best known for her film roles in the films Crash (2004), Mission: Impossible III (2006), and Saw III (2006).
Soomekh was born in Tehran, Iran, to a devout Persian Jewish family. “Soomekh” is a common surname among the Iranian Jewish community and her name, “Bahar”, means “spring” in Persian. Soomekh’s mother was from Tehran, and her father was from Hamadan. She moved with her parents and sister, Saba Soomekh, to Los Angeles, United States in 1979, to escape the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Bahar speaks fluent English, Persian, Spanish, and some Hebrew. She attended Sinai Akiba Academy, a Yeshiva, and Beverly Hills High School, where she played the violin in the school orchestra. She had played the violin for 13 years. Bahar got her degree in environmental studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. After university, she traveled throughout Europe. Upon her return, Soomekh began working at a corporate job in sales to pay off her debt from the trip. Bahar was miserable and unhappy working in the corporate job. She wanted to pursue her real passion, acting. So she took acting classes at night from 7PM to 2AM, before quitting her job to pursue a full-time acting career.
In the beginning of her career, in the years 2002-2004, Soomekh has guest starred on several television shows, including two different roles on JAG. Her role on the 4th season of 24, playing the role of Turkish terrorist Habib Marwan‘s wife, was edited out of the show; her scenes are preserved only in the deleted scenes section of the DVD. Bahar has later appeared in several films, including Academy Award-winning movies Crash (2004) as Dorri, and Syriana (2005) as Yassi. The whole cast of Crash had won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture. Bahar got some more attention playing Davian’s Translator in Mission: Impossible III (2006). That same year, Soomekh was one of 100 Most beautiful people in the world, as named by People. She had one of the lead roles in the horror film Saw III, which began filming in May and was theatrically released on October 27, 2006. In the same year, she portrayed Margo on the television series Day Break. Recently, she got one of the lead roles as Hollis in the television series, The Oaks, which will come out in 2008.
Family & religion
Soomekh has said that Judaism developed who she is and enriched her life and that she would like to raise her children in the Jewish religion. Soomekh married Clayton Frech, VP of Operations for Classic Party Rentals, who converted to Judaism in order to marry her, in 2001. They have a son, Ezra, born in 2005 and are currently expecting another child in 2009. They celebrate Shabbat every Friday night with their family, attend synagogue frequently, and celebrate the Jewish holidays. Bahar has said that one important Jewish teaching for her is tikkun olam, since she is an environmentalist. She is very proud of her Jewish Persian heritage and told Isaac Mizrahi at the Oscars, “Just because I’m in Hollywood doesn’t mean that I forget that I’m Persian or that I’m Jewish. Judaism is not only my religion—it’s my identity”.
The teaching of tikkun olam, to heal the world, guides Bahar’s life. She works on environmental and children’s causes. Soomekh also uses her name to be involved with organizations like the Green Cross. “I have the ability to use my name and be involved with such phenomenal organizations like the Green Cross … and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which was an organization I started raising money for when I was a kid, and then here I am coming back and I’m working with them now,” Soomkeh says. “But also a huge issue for me has become limb deficiency for kids around the world. Kids that are neglected because of some sort of disability—you see that a lot in China and you see that in Africa—I think that’s a very important thing”. With her husband, she launced the T.O. Productions to make movies about environmental and social issues.