Posted by Natalie Nisco-Frank on June 05, 2016 in Blog
Capturing American audiences as Elliot Alderson in the “compulsively watchable” TV series, Mr. Robot, Rami Malek was born in Los Angeles to Egyptian parents. Malek cherishes his connection to the Arab world and his ability to advance the representation of Arab Americans on television and in the movies. He has received critical acclaim for his performance as a paranoid cyber hacker on Mr. Robot. After the series’ first season, Malek won “Best Actor in a Drama Series” at the Critics’ Choice Award and was nominated for a number of other awards, including a Golden Globe, Satellite Award, Screen Actors Guild, and two Dorian Awards. Malek’s performance also helped the show win a Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice Award, and a Peabody in 2016. Malek is known for playing notable characters in film and television including The Night at the Museum trilogy, The War at Home (2005-07), The Pacific (2010), Larry Crowne (2011), The Master (2012), Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013), and Short Term 12 (2013). Among other roles, Malek has portrayed a king, vampire (Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2) and doctor. This wide-ranging casting history has made him the “most visible actor of Middle Eastern descent on television.”
Malek takes great pride in his Egyptian heritage and his ability to represent his culture through his success in Hollywood. “Thrilled” to bring more visibility and representation of the Arab American community to television, Malek speaks optimistically of the growing diversity in Hollywood and the receptiveness of audiences, something he doesn’t think “would have happened ten years ago.” Malek keeps up with current events and closely follows events in Egypt. As a child, Malek enjoyed watching Egyptian films and he continues to be a big fan of the Cairo Film Festival, and hopes to attend one day.
Arab American actors have and continue to transcend being typecast into specific roles in Hollywood, and actors like Malek push the limits of this accomplishment. Malek’s desire to “play against ethnicity” in order to portray “complicated characters and show range” reveals his mission to breakdown stereotypes of what sorts of roles go to actors of Arab descent. Expressing hope that his acting career contributes to diversifying TV shows and films, Malek calls on American audiences and film makers to continue to make “diversity a touchstone.” “I hope it’s not just this year that diversity is a touchstone,” Malek states, “That it’s not just talked about. That people actually act upon it.”
Watch Malek's interview with Egyptian television on diversity in film and television below.
Read more stories about Arab immigrants and their descendants on the "Together We Came" main page.