FSM Media

by Dianna Ranere

Interview with Yousef Sweid and Peter Horton from #AmericanOdyssey

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AMERICAN ODYSSEY -- Episode 105 "Beat Feet" -- Pictured: Yousef 'Joe' Sweid as Shakir Khan -- (Photo by: Keith Bernstein/NBC)

I had the distinct pleasure of attending a phone interview with Yousef Sweid (Shakir Khan) and Peter Horton (Executive Producer  from American Odyssey!

NBCUNIVERSAL EVENTS -- NBCUniversal Press Tour, January 2015 -- "Odyssey" -- Pictured: (l-r) Adam Armus, Executive Producer; Peter Horton, Executive Producer; Peter Facinelli, Anna Friel, Jake Robinson, Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment; Kay Foster, Executive Producer -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)
NBCUNIVERSAL EVENTS — NBCUniversal Press Tour, January 2015 — “Odyssey” — Pictured: (l-r) Adam Armus, Executive Producer; Peter Horton, Executive Producer; Peter Facinelli, Anna Friel, Jake Robinson, Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment; Kay Foster, Executive Producer — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

 

Question (to Peter):  Do you think you were crossing the line by showing the US military as the bad guy as part of this?

Peter Horton: You know, our intention from the beginning of this project was never to frankly pin any one group as bad or good. There certainly are individuals who have their point of view that creates all sorts of trouble. But even as you see the series go on even someone like Colonel Glen in Episode 13 has a really long speech about his point of view.

What we’ve always tried to do is give each character a point of view. And so even though they may be doing things that seem rather bad at the time, they’ve got a reason for it. We also never intend, as the series goes on you’ll see as well that the whole American military is bad. The idea is that there’s a seam within the military industrial complex that sort of join hands over the years – over the last couple of decades with private industry so that there’s a grey zone in between those two. It’s Dick Cheney being the head of Haliburton and then becoming the Vice President and us going to war.

You know it’s a seam within that’s got an agenda. That has – it has a theology that they’re implementing. And from their point of view for good, for the good. So that’s always our intention. It never was to really say by any means that the whole American military is bad at all.

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AMERICAN ODYSSEY — Episode 105 “Beat Feet” — Pictured: Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid as Shakir Khan — (Photo by: Keith Bernstein/NBC)

 

 

Question (for Yousef): You played your character to perfection especially considering the circumstances. Why was it important for you to take this role and play this character?

Yousef Sweid: As an actor, I think I remember the first time I went to do makeup and hair and another actor came inside and he said, “Wow, it’s like the dream of every male actor to play a woman.” And I think it’s one of the biggest dreams. It’s a lot of freedom inside.

I love all the fun and the character itself, she’s very complex and has a very interesting story. So of course, in every kind of aspect, it was one of the most interesting parts I ever read. So I really wanted to do it.

Peter Horton: I’ll add a little bit to that which is that it was – we really searched far and wide to find the right actor for this part. It’s a very difficult narrow path to walk playing this role because it’s – as Yousef said, it’s not only complex. It’s very, very delicate. There’s just the right calm for this character to be genuine and honest and true, but at the same time have a flair and have a presentation and a show.

And you know we finally found Yousef who really auditioned for us a number of times remotely. And just every time kept nailing that narrow path between overdoing the show or over-emphasizing the earnestness of it. And you know that’s the big reason why you have a character in front of you that you’re responding to is we just found the right guy for it.

 

AMERICAN ODYSSEY -- Episode 106 -- Pictured: Yousef 'Joe' Sweid as Shakir Khan -- (Photo by: Keith Bernstein/NBC)
AMERICAN ODYSSEY — Episode 106 — Pictured: Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid as Shakir Khan — (Photo by: Keith Bernstein/NBC)

Question (for Yousef): American TV doesn’t have a lot of drag queen characters, regular characters at least and  we don’t have as many Arab characters as we should. Do you feel any special responsibility playing both?

Yousef Sweid: Yes. Of course. But not just because it’s American TV. I feel responsibility as an Arab doing these kind of characters which are very dangerous. I know there are a lot of transgenders and drag queens which are Arabs and they live in danger. Like they can live their lives maybe more if it’s more in the western world.

In my life as an actor in my work, I always wish to do these kind of characters they have also kind of a message. And not only for the American, but also for me or for the Arab world.

And this character is living – what kept me going or what I think one of the features of this character is that she’s always in danger. She’s having fun. She’s happy. But she’s always in danger that something bad will happen to her. Like at any moment, can go out with a gun and kill her. And I think to see this world is special and different and interesting.

 

Question (for Peter): Do you know when you’ll find out if we get a second season or not?

Peter Horton: Boy, I’ll tell you. I’m sitting on pins and needles. You know obviously hoping against hope that indeed we’ll get that. You know, they – everyone at NBC really loves the show and really, really wants it to go. We just need some more people to watch it.

And I think we’re all hoping that over the next few weeks, we’ll get a bit of an uptick and give everyone a reason to say, “Yes”. But we’ve pitched a second season to them. And everyone is you know just really onboard with that. So it’s just a matter of again what’ll unfold over the next couple of weeks.

 

onstage during the 'Odyssey' panel discussion at the NBC/Universal portion of the 2015 Winter TCA Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 16, 2015 in Pasadena, California.
onstage during the ‘Odyssey’ panel discussion at the NBC/Universal portion of the 2015 Winter TCA Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 16, 2015 in Pasadena, California.

Question (for Peter): I’m wondering can you tell us about what’s coming up in the next few episodes without being super spoilery.

Peter Horton: Yes. Yes. There’s a few more people dying. You know it’s – the main thing to know is that each season of this show is going to have a beginning, middle and end. So it isn’t one of those things where you know you’ll be left not understanding things and having to wait until next season to understand them. They’ll be a sense of completion this year.

But you know the journey just starts getting more and more poignant really I think you know as the stakes build towards a climax and towards a conclusion. The story becomes a little more poignant and I think a little more emotional and meaningful as we go.

 

AMERICAN ODYSSEY -- "Tango Uniform" Episode 104 -- Pictured: (l-r) Itoya Osagiede as General Diallo, Yousef 'Joe' Sweid as Shakir Khan -- (Photo by: Keith Bernstein/NBC)
AMERICAN ODYSSEY — “Tango Uniform” Episode 104 — Pictured: (l-r) Itoya Osagiede as General Diallo, Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid as Shakir Khan — (Photo by: Keith Bernstein/NBC)

Question (for Yousef): Can you talk about maybe your favorite scene or a great experience from working on this show?

Yousef Sweid: Wow. Let me think.

Peter Horton: I’ve got to say one of the things I so love that just happened on the show between the two of them is, Yousef is your relationship with Diallo.

Yousef Sweid: Ah, yes.

Peter Horton: Sort of spark a thought. I mean you guys really had this beautiful chemistry to each – with each other. It really was the two actors, both of them.

Yousef Sweid: Yes. I – actually it was one scene. But it’s amazing this relationship because they’re really, really in love. And you feel the danger because Diallo doesn’t want to say anything about his relationship of course. Hoow she manipulates him but still loves him is one of the best things I’ve felt. Like, there could be manipulation, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no love. And because the situation is very so difficult and delicate, it has to be there, the kind of using each other but with love.

And each one knows the other’s points, where to push. And I love it that she wants to be very famous and loved and he wants to be a general. And they use each other with love to get there. And I think they – both of the characters bring a lot of fun to the show.

So I remember one scene when she tries to convince him to save Odelle and he doesn’t want to but then you see the love between them. She kind of manipulates to say, “Oh, if you save her, you’re going to be a famous man in the world and you’re going to be a great famous person.” She knows where to touch him.

 

AMERICAN ODYSSEY -- Episode 105 "Beat Feet" -- Pictured: Yousef 'Joe' Sweid as Shakir Khan -- (Photo by: Keith Bernstein/NBC)
AMERICAN ODYSSEY — Episode 105 “Beat Feet” — Pictured: Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid as Shakir Khan — (Photo by: Keith Bernstein/NBC)

Question (for Yousef): What special things, if any, did you do to prepare for this role?

Yousef Sweid: Well, actually audition. I think I did a couple of auditions. And each one, you know, a bit more. And I was living in Tel Aviv for 20 years. And now I live in Berlin. And its huge cities and very welcome cities for you know drag queens and transgenders and for sexuality and everything. So I have a lot of friends who just you know being around them, going to parties.

“What is the most challenging part about playing your character?”

Yousef Sweid: Challenging part. I think one of the challenges is sometimes you wish for these kind of characters to have a long time. Like, if you work on this character half a year because the challenge is to forget that you’re acting with a lot of characters. Forget that you’re acting and just to be concentrated on what you want and what is stopping you.

And that’s it. And not – and I didn’t have so much time. So I was a lot of times busy of his feminine side and how he’s walking or she’s walking and she’s talking. And sometimes I wish and it happened actually that I would forget all that and concentrate on being here and now. And just listening to my partners.

And just being there without trying to be the character and just be there. And I think this is one of the hardest things to do. And I think Peter and all the directors I worked with really helped me to get there. And it was, yes, it was amazing.

 

 

NBC Brings Red Nose Day Charity Event to USA on May 21st 10

Tune in for a new episode of American Odyssey – “FIGMO” (TV-14) – Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 10/9c

Luc (Gregory Fitoussi) comes to Odelle (Anna Friel) and Aslam’s (Omar Ghazaoui) rescue, and Odelle learns about the mysterious Frenchman’s past. Back in New York, Sophia Tsaldari (Orla Brady) helps Peter (Peter Facinelli) get closer to Yusuf Qasim (Anthony Azizi) and further exacerbates the rift with his family. Bob (Nate Mooney) tells Harrison (Jake Robinson) the truth about Ruby (Daniella Pineda), which has unintended consequences. Suzanne (Sadie Sink) and Julia (Allison Mack) continue to bond, raising questions for both Ron (Jim True-Frost) and Col. Glen (Treat Williams.) Elena Kampouris and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje also star.

 

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