Destiny, for some actors, might mean meeting a certain director or earning a coveted industry award. For Golshifteh Farahani, destiny arrived five years ago in the form of detainment at the airport in Teheran, when she was prevented from boarding her flight.

Farahani became an icon thanks to the 2006 film M for Mother, about a woman raising her disabled son, but sparked outrage in her native Iran two years later, when she attended the New York premiere of Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies— in which she starred—without wearing a veil. When she was finally able to leave her country, she says, “I knew I was leaving for good. I thought, Ah, my life has started.”

She took herself, and her talent, to Paris. “As an actress, I’ve always thought of myself as a gladiator,” says the 29-year-old over tea in Los Angeles. That belief was instilled in her by her theater-director father.

Farahani shows her indefatigable spirit in this month’s The Patience Stone, directed by Atiq Rahimi. It tells the story of an oppressed Afghan woman who finds liberation through speaking her truth—dark secrets and all—to her comatose husband as war rages outside their door. It’s essentially a one-woman show, and her performance is riveting. While the parallels to her own situation are undeniable, it was the universality of her character’s plight that most appealed to Farahani. “This story is global,” she asserts. “We all have our chains and our secrets.”