top of page
Capture d’écran, le 2024-02-21 à 15.12.37.png
Capture d’écran, le 2024-02-21 à 15.10.40.png

By Norimitsu Onishi Photographs by Renaud Philippe

Dec. 30, 2022

MONTREAL — Just five years ago, Mani Soleymanlou, a Quebec actor of Iranian origin, was playing characters named Ahmed, Hakim and Karim on French-language television shows produced in the province. Today, his roles include Patrick, a banker, in one successful TV series, and a corrupt police officer with the very Québécois name Robert “Coco” Bédard, in another.

Coco appears in “C’est comme ça que je t’aime,” or “Happily Married,” a dark, rollicking comedy set in the 1970s in a suburb of the provincial capital, Quebec City — a time and place where the chances would have been slim of running into someone like Mr. Soleymanlou: an immigrant who was born in Iran, and grew up in Paris, Toronto and Ottawa, before landing in Quebec.

“I think,” Mr. Soleymanlou said in French, with an accent picked up in Paris, “Québécois culture has long been very homogeneous.”

But that is changing — thanks in part to people like him.

That Mr. Soleymanlou, 40, went from playing typecast outsiders to an insider named Coco Bédard in a few short years is also indicative of larger shifts in Quebec society.

Though it still remains rooted in the French language, in ethnicity and in a shared history, Québécois identity is in flux right now — and what it means to be Québécois is what Mr. Soleymanlou has spent the past decade deconstructing in his other career as a playwright.

Capture d’écran, le 2024-02-21 à 15.13.47.png
bottom of page