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An Interview with Mico Saad, Star and Producer of Living the Dream, Co-Director and Star of Al-Masry Life

by Mike Haberfelner

June 2019

Mico Saad on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your upcoming series Living the Dream - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Living the dream (Arab Hollywood) is about a group of friends all of who come from Arab descent and came to Hollywood to pursue their goals and achieve their dreams. They are all extremely talented media professionals who are committed to make a change to the status quo of how actors from a Middle Eastern descent are portrayed in Hollywood.

 

How did the project come together in the first place?

 

After major accomplishments by the minority Hollywood Arab American actors, filmmakers & writers in Hollywood at present (like Rami Malik, Mina Massoud Ayman – and of course previously Omar Al Sharif), I believe that the world has regained a great interest in this part of the world and is now ready to see more talent. We as a group of talented actors, theatre art performers, filmmakers and writers who are currently present and active in Hollywood wish to follow the steps of Rami Malek & others, but through the Arab Hollywood Alliance so we can we have more resounding effective and a wider successful presence at Hollywood.

 

It might sound like a stupid question, but as an Arab in Hollywood, to what extent can you identify with the topic of your movie, and any personal thoughts on the subject not covered by the series?

 

We are living the same story because Arab American actors as the past few decades has shown in the Hollywood filmmaking industry are mainly cast as terrorists or villains. So, the reality may suggest that a talented Arab actor has no options or future in Hollywood but to be a villain or a terrorist. Arab Hollywood is created to change this reality that is ill-founded on a stereo type. I am optimistic and positive about the impact Arab Hollywood shall have on the Hollywood filmmaking industry.

 

What are the main challenges getting Living the Dream off the ground from a producer's point of view?

 

Choosing the right cast and making the story as dreamy as possible. Yet again, this is achievable and realistic as we have to audience to English and Arabs …

 

What can you tell us about Living the Dream's writer/director Ayman Samman [Ayman Samman interview - click here], and what's your collaboration like?

 

Ayman is a producer too in this project and he is so professional, and such a talented actor, director & script writer. I believe in him to be the most Arab actor/filmmaker that Hollywood has seen. He knows exactly what he wants and I can foresee his guaranteed success.

 

You'll also appear in front of the camera in Living the Dream - so what can you tell us about your character, and how do you prepare for your role as Fareed?

 

Fareed is a very interesting character. He is a Lebanese who grew up in Italy most of his life and has moved with his family to California. Luckily, I speak Italian. And he is in love with Salwa the female lead, so my mission is first to win her heart and whilst being a very shy character. In preparation for the character I have spent a lot of time with my Lebanese friends to familiarise myself with both the culture as well as the accent. So, now I am spending a lot more time with my Lebanese friends and learning to sing in Lebanese accent, which is great as they have fantastic songs and a fantastic culture and am always after stories from Lebanon to know what it is like to grow up between 2 countries. I am also a big fan of Mika who is a singer of Lebanese origin and who is currently a superstar in Italy. Indeed he is a great inspiration for dedication and success.

 

Do talk about the rest of your cast, and as a producer, how much of a say did you have when it came to casting?

 

Regarding the casting, I believe in Ayman's choices so far as he is the producer in the project. So far I am loving all the cast. We are still casting and I trust we have a class A Arab American cast.   

 

At what stage of production is Living the Dream currently, and what's the schedule? And any idea when and where it might be released, however tentatively?

 

We are in the development stage right now and after confirming with big names, so we are super sure that they will add an immense positive effect to the project, especially when the 22 Arab countries are represented.

 

You've also recently been in a short film, Al-Masry Life - so what's that one about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?

 

Al-Masry Life is short film starring the Hollywood actor Sayed Badreya as well as myself, it is a father and son story. An Egyptian citizen left Egypt 40 years ago when Egypt was a country that kept its customs and traditions. His hometown Port Said never left his mind and the further he goes the more he gets attached to his childhood memories. Despite creating a new life in America, successful work, and a lovely family, he is still attached to all of his country's news as if he still lived there. He smiles for the good news and feels sorrow for the bad ones. His heart is still very joyful with memories from the past. He implanted the love of his country in his son, and drew its features through his face. His son, who is American born, lives by the more practical American spirit that lacks some love to the past. The son finally rebels against the state of mind his father lives in (between here and there – the past and the present). It is a conflict between two minds, my character is 2nd generation American which are usually struggling with their identity especially living between 2 worlds.

 

Do talk about your character in that one, and what did you draw upon to bring him to life?

 

I find it easy to relate to the character, I am an Egyptian-born who grew up in England and sometimes I experience the human identity struggle. Personally, I live as both and by the best values of both, which makes me different.

 

How did you get involved with that project in the first place?

 

I worked with Sayed many times in the past and it was always great pleasure. We filmed together in London and he's such an amazing actor/filmmaker who is always active and full of ideas. We talked about making another short film and it shall come to life in due course.

 

What can you tell us about Al-Masry Life's co-star and co-director Sayed Badreya, and what was your collaboration like?

 

It always a pleasure and a special experience to collaborate with the superstar Sayed, he is super passionate about this, his passion come with 40 years of experience in the industry working with the best in Hollywood like Michael Mann, Peter Farley and James Cameron, and working for big movies like Independence Day and the main villain in Iron Man and Three Kings and You Don't Mess with Zohan. Sayed is full energy and I have learned a lot from him and we have a great relationship like father and son and I am lucky to have such a person in my career and life. 

 

Al-Masry Life is a mostly improvised movie - so to what extent does this influence your acting (apart from the obvious), how does this compare to doing a scripted film, and which of the two do you prefer, actually?

 

I studied acting in London and we were always told to respect the writer and not to add or remove any word unless is approved, so this has limited me a bit. In Al-Masry Life it was different because I didn't have to worry about the script and it was all done from the heart. I prefer improvisation considering my start as a TV host who didn't have a fixed script and the nature of my show was to improvise.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

The shoot was fantastic as it was one take. We used 98% of the footage taken by the talented Shakeel Bin Afzal who is a talented filmmaker and cinematographer. Thanks a million to him and to his amazing job. Shakeel worked with the biggest names in Bollywood and in England and it was such smooth sailing as they say

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Al-Masry Life yet?

 

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Everyone who has seen the short film has so far loved it. The Oscar winner for this year Peter Farley watched it and loved it. He said “Sayed and Mico had a great acting and I loved it when you both pop on the screen. I got emotional watching the car scene, you know why? Because the acting was so good and you guys got a gem.” The film has been admitted into 2 festivals so far. To be honest we are hoping to make it to the Oscars this year.

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

We are happy to be able to create more for other Arab American actors and move forward. This is just the end of the beginning if I can rightly describe so. 

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

I am grateful for your time and for the interview

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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