From Durban to LA: Actor earns a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination

Theo Iyer and some cast members of The Morning Show, from left, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup and Greta Lee

Theo Iyer and some cast members of The Morning Show, from left, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup and Greta Lee

Published May 25, 2024


Durban-born Theogan Iyer has earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination - given by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists - for his recurring role on The Morning Show.

The 31-year-old, who currently lives in Los Angeles in California with his fiancée Elissa Bonito and their dog Nelson (named after Nelson Mandela), moved to the US in 1996 when he was four.

“My parents decided to move to Southern California because my dad received a job opportunity for what was supposed to be a three-year contract. We obviously stayed longer," said Iyer.

"It was definitely challenging for my family to relocate as we left behind our home and entire extended family. My sister was born in southern California, so it's just my parents and us in the US. However, we’ve been fortunate to have a solid support system comprising other South African families who also immigrated

“Throughout my childhood, family has visited us and we visited South Africa almost every other year. I definitely maintained a connection to South Africa. I’m not sure if I miss the country but I always have an appreciation and respect for my country."

Iyer grew up in Irvine and while it was a diverse community, he said he often felt isolated because it was challenging to fit into different social circles.

He said as a South African Indian immigrant American child, he constantly grappled with his identity.

“I quickly realised that humour would be my means of survival and dealing with the challenges. I was always the 'class clown'. I focussed on making other kids laugh rather than being a good student.

"In high school, I took my first drama class and I immediately found the creative outlet I was seeking to express myself. Once I started acting in high school plays, I realised my true calling was acting.

"I studied at New York University’s (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts where I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting. This prepared me for a career as an actor.

"In my last year at university, I was fortunate to sign with an agent and manager and I began auditioning that year. I booked my first film role just before I graduated. After graduating, I lived in New York for a few more years and I was fortunate to book roles off-Broadway and regional plays, commercials and a few network TV shows.

"I’ve been working as an actor for a decade, honing my craft while nurturing relationships with casting directors, directors, producers, and executives in New York and Los Angeles.”

Iyer has most recently been playing a supporting role on The Morning Show (Apple TV+) for the last two seasons. Apple TV+ is an American subscription streaming service owned and operated by Apple Inc.

"The Morning Show is a high stakes drama that centres around the crazy world of a broadcast network in New York. The show stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup and many more."

He also plays a supporting role in Randall Park’s directorial debut film, Shortcomings, now streaming on Netflix.

For the SAG awards, he said: “Any time your work is recognised and validated, it’s incredibly gratifying. The SAG Awards is a peer recognition award and I think I speak for all artists when I say that having the recognition of your peers means more than the award itself. So I feel honoured just to be nominated for my work.

"It’s also meaningful to me that I have the platform to represent South Africa and the community of South Asian actors across the world. The Morning Show ultimately didn’t win our category, but it was incredible to attend the award show and I’ll always cherish the experience."

He said the journey and life of an actor or any artist was tumultuous and could be lonely most of the time.

"So I consider myself lucky to have a strong support structure. My parents and sister have always been supportive and championed me to follow my passion.

“My fiancé, Elissa, is also an actor. We met on the first day of acting training at NYU. We’ve been friends for 13 years and we dated for eight years before getting engaged last November.

"She has been an incredible life and artistic partner and so supportive through the ups and downs. I don’t know if I could have continued on my journey during the hardest moments, if I didn’t have her alongside me. We are getting married in Cape Town in January 2025.

"I also have wonderful friends and family members who have always been sources of love and encouragement.”

Iyer’s advice to budding actors: “There are two intentions to harness right at the onset. First, identify the purpose behind your art, which is usually something that transcends your personal gains. This is what promotes longevity and will provide you with the sustenance needed during the challenging moments on your journey.

"Secondly, if you can approach your work from a detached perspective, treating your work as your offering to society, culture, nature, the universe, God or whatever feels true to you.

"When you shift your energy away from yourself, your work becomes your means of service and your ego is no longer at the mercy of other people validating you and your work.

"Shedding the need for validation and recognition allows you to live a life and create work that is aligned with your truth and authenticity."