You have a background in dance! Is that something you wanted to pursue as a child that turned into a desire to act? What lead you to a career in acting?
Yes, I do! I started dancing when I was eleven and then within a year I was part of Sharmila Kamte's dance company. It was the best experience. She taught me so much about dance of course, but also about presence and performing in general. Through dance I learned about discipline and commitment. As a dancer you have to go to class everyday, so that really developed this commitment to me to always work on something each day. I do that almost to a fault I think, sometimes it's hard for me to stop. My acting teacher at school came up to me on day and told me I had a natural acting ability and it was really that easy. Suddenly I wanted to do both. And so I moved to NYC at eighteen and pursued both, dancing on SNL and working with choreographers I really admired and taking acting classes and then at some point acting just sort of won over. I felt really at home with actors, like I'd found my tribe. I was studying with a man named Wynn Handman who really changed my life, and after two years with him I applied to Juilliard and NYU's graduate acting program, got into both, chose NYU and the rest is all unfolding.
Do you find that you’re able to express yourself in different ways as a creative when it comes to dancing and acting?
Yes and no. In a way it feels like the same inner feeling to me. I'm connected to myself and to people when doing both. Dancing somehow feels more private to me now, maybe because I only do it for myself and am no longer auditioning and pursuing it as I am with acting. I've recently realized that I need to do both to be happy. I think dancing is the way I communicate with myself and acting the way I communicate with the world.
You moved to NYC when you were 18. Were you nervous at all for such a big move? Or just excited by all of the possibility?
Not nervous at all. I arrived in NYC and felt like it was home. New York has that going for it. I think because it is so cosmopolitan and diverse in what it offers that there is a place there for everyone. I was also really lucky to travel a lot as a kid and have an ability to feel at home anywhere. If I had to move to New Zealand tomorrow I'd probably feel at home pretty immediately. I'm a total gypsy/nomad.
You grew up in Dubai - what are some of the biggest differences and similarities between NYC and Dubai? What do you miss most about home?
They are both extremely cosmopolitan. What I loved about growing up in Dubai is that my friends we're Swedish, Indian, Lebanese, American, Afghani, French, Brazilian, Pakistani etc etc. I miss my childhood friends and my dance teacher. I also weirdly miss the feeling and smell in the air when you get out of Dubai airport. The beach. I am really overdue on a visit home.
Have you found that Saudi Arabia is changing as a place for career-minded women?
My female friends in Saudi Arabia are business owners, creatives, brilliant powerhouses. I'm excited for all the changes happening.
Jack Ryan has been such a success! Did you have any idea it would be this huge? Has life changed in a big way for you?
Thank you!! You always hope that people are going to love it so the fact that people do is the COOLEST!!!! My life feels pretty similar except that now there is something out in the world that I am very proud of and so I am getting to meet incredible people in the industry and audition for things that are really exciting to me. I have also been pitching my own show which wouldn't have happened without Jack Ryan. I am so grateful for Jack Ryan and to Carlton, Graham and the rest of the producers and directors. When people come up to me and say how much they loved the show and my character I walk away thinking wow, that was crazy that just happened!
You’ve recently signed onto the show Habibti. Can you tell us a little about the project and what drew you to it?
I wrote it! Me and my friend Brian McGreevey who is an incredible screenwriter wrote it together. I just wanted to put arab women on screen that reflect me and my friends and our stories!
What’s it like to be such a trailblazer for Saudi women?
A huge honor that I do not take lightly. My desire is to always to be the best actor and story teller I can be and any impact I make or person I inspire is such an incredible gift.
What has been your career highlight?
Hanin for sure. Her story moved me so much when I read it, so to bring her to life is so far the thing I feel most grateful and proud of in my career.
Do you have a dream role?
You have a long career ahead of you! What are your goals for the future?
To tell nuanced and powerful stories. I hope that with every project I do I am doing something completely different and always stretching myself past my comfort zone. I want to empower women to tell stories and to get to a place when I can champion arab female story tellers. And a really important goal of mine is to always have fun. I get to tell stories for a living! I don't think it gets any better then that.