Barrington-raised ‘Iron Sheik’ living his dream

Brett Azar grew up in town and now stars in NBC sitcom Young Rock

By Josh Bickford
Posted 2/8/21

Barrington native Brett Azar has landed his biggest acting job yet, and might have a haircut to thank for it.

Stuck at home during the pandemic, Mr. Azar decided it was time for a change. So he …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

Barrington-raised ‘Iron Sheik’ living his dream

Brett Azar grew up in town and now stars in NBC sitcom Young Rock


Barrington native Brett Azar has landed his biggest acting job yet, and might have a haircut to thank for it.

Stuck at home during the pandemic, Mr. Azar decided it was time for a change. So he took out some clippers and shaved his head. He glanced into a mirror and sighed. “Wow, this looks terrible,” he thought.

But his new, bald head came at the perfect time. Just a few days after his haircut, he received a call for work — he was invited to audition for the role of the famous professional wrestler, The Iron Sheik.

“They liked my look,” Mr. Azar said.

In fact, the former BHS baseball and football standout landed his biggest role yet, playing The Iron Sheik in the new sitcom Young Rock, which premiers on NBC, on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

“It was a dream come true,” he said.

Mr. Azar said Young Rock is set in the future and is based on the life of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a Hollywood superstar whose early days were spent on the football field and later wowing the crowds as a professional wrestler. “The Rock” grew up around wrestling, and his father was a professional wrestler who went by the name Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson.

The television show features The Rock in the future, as he is running for President.

“He’s getting interviewed and telling stories about his past,” Mr. Azar said.

The flashbacks feature stories about some of the biggest names in professional wrestling’s past, including Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, and The Iron Sheik.

Filming down under

Mr. Azar said he worked with a voice specialist to prepare for the role, and spent plenty of time talking to the real Iron Sheik and his family on Zoom calls. He said the Sheik’s family said his accent was a great match.

When it came time to film, Mr. Azar and the rest of the cast flew to Australia. They arrived in September, and Mr. Azar quickly realized the vastly different approach Australian officials were taking to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Quarantining was strictly enforced — once he and the other actors landed, they were immediately taken to hotel rooms where they spent the next two weeks.

“They lock you in the room for two weeks,” he said, adding that producers equipped his living space with an exercise bicycle and a 300-pound weight set. “All I did was eat, sleep and work out.”

When the quarantine was over, Mr. Azar and fellow actors were allowed to live a life free from face masks and restaurant capacity limits. The only real restriction, he said, was that people were not allowed to travel from one state or territory to another.

“It was culture shock, for sure,” Mr. Azar said, adding that everyone on set was tested twice a week also.

Mr. Azar emerged from the quarantine in great shape, but discovered that he was ill-prepared for professional wrestling. In fact, he initially struggled with doing somersaults in the ring. On the first day of wrestling, Mr. Azar attempted a somersault only to pass out.

“It took like two or three days before I wasn’t going to pass out,” he said.

Producers brought in former professional wrestler Chavo Guerrero to teach the actors how to fly around the ring, bounce off the ropes and perform key wrestling moves — for The Iron Sheik/Mr. Azar, one of those moves was “the camel clutch.”

“It was Wrestling 101,” Mr. Azar said. “I didn’t realize how hard it was to bounce off those ropes… We didn’t have stuntmen.”

Mr. Azar said he loved the physicality of the role, and the comedic work. And he really enjoyed playing the part of “the bad guy.”

“It combined everything I loved into one character,” he said.

Following his dream

Mr. Azar grew up in town and was well-known for his athletic abilities.

But while he enjoyed sports, he loved acting and performing. He said the friends he made while performing in competitive chorus were some of his closest friends. He attended the University of Rhode Island and continued to pursue his passion for acting — he struck a balance between excelling in the classroom, training in the weight room, and acting in the theater.

“I became this gym rate/theater guy,” he said.

Mr. Azar graduated from URI in 2009 magna cum laude with a degree in kinesiology, and his family urged him to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. He considered it, but realized “physical therapy was boring to me.”

He focused on athletic training, and helping other people achieve their fitness goals. At the same time, he continued to look for acting opportunities. His first big break came in Terminator Genysis, acting as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body. He followed that up with a role in Terminator: Dark Fate. Mr. Azar said those roles opened some doors in Hollywood, especially garnering the Barrington native some jobs as a celebrity fitness trainer.

However, “In the acting world, it didn’t do much,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Mr. Azar pushed on, landing in a commercial with Ryan Reynolds and playing a role in a television show titled “Claws.” He kept looking ahead to what could be his next big break.

“It’s a lot of persistence, patience and consistency,” Mr. Azar said, of acting. “It’s a high risk, high reward situation.”

He said there were times when it was difficult to push on, but he is glad he did.

“I stuck with it. It’s what I love,” he said.

“You know what your passion is, pursue it or you will regret it,” he said.

He shifted his voice to that of his character, The Iron Sheik: “I’m humbled Bubba to be where I am. This is my dream.”

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.