US actor Waleed Zuaiter talks Arab authenticity on the silver screen

LOS ANGELES: Having starred in a number of hit films and TV shows, including “Gangs of London” and “Baghdad Central,” US actor Waleed Zuaitar is no stranger to the limelight.

The actor, who is of Palestinian descent, spent his formative years in Kuwait and is known for portraying characters from both American and Arab cultures in notable films and shows, including “London Has Fallen” and Golden Globe-winning “Ramy,” among others.

The actor sat down with Arab News to discuss the impact his roots have had on his career, as well as his latest venture.

“My father is from Nablus, my mother is from Haifa. I grew up in Kuwait, although I was born in the States … the union of my culture and my heritage and my Americanness found its way through a lot of the work that I’ve done,” he said, adding “‘Baghdad Central’ is a show, I’m very proud of. I got to play a heroic, noble anti-hero and a very complex character, (and) it was also very, very important to tell that perspective of the Iraq war from the Iraqis’ perspective.”

Zuaiter exhibits versatility through his performances, as demonstrated in his role in “Baghdad Central.” He is also lauded for his ability to master various dialects and accents, driven by his dedication to authenticity.

“I think actors should be trained in different dialects. Like you look at actors in the UK, part of their acting training is to learn all the UK dialects and and the American. I think Arab actors should be doing the same. I learned Iraqi for ‘Baghdad Central’ and I’m willing to learn any dialect because it’s about storytelling and authenticity.”

In a bid to champion authenticity when it comes to storytelling in the region, Zuaitar and his wife founded Flip Narrative with the aim of connecting the Middle East and North African markets with the US film industry.

Their latest undertaking, titled “The Valley,” occupies a compelling space reminiscent of the acclaimed series “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos.” This project presents a fictionalized exploration of Lebanon’s illicit drug trade.

“There are so many Arab filmmakers that we’ve recently been in contact with since we started our company. And it’s just exciting to see the level of talent of storytelling out there,” he said.