Arab-American Producers And TV Writers:
By: Anthony Bayyouk / Arab America Contributing Writer
Did you know about the amount of Arab-Americans in the production and film industry? The Middle East has a long history of entertainment from the Egyptian singer-songwriter umm Kulthum to the current Lebanese singer Fairuz. There has never been a dull moment in Middle East entertainment. TV shows produced in the Middle East are starting to pop up on Netflix and other American streaming sites. Youtube and social media have given the Middle East the opportunity to share their entertainment with the world. Below are just five out of hundreds of Arab- Americans that have had an impact on American entertainment.
Anthony Marc Shalhoub:
Better known as Tony Shalhoub, Tony was Born 1953, in Green Bay Wisconsin to Lebanese parents. Tony’s dad owned restaurant chains. Tony attended the University of Southern Maine and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in drama, then he went on to get a master’s degree from Yale School of drama. Tony started off on Broadway where he met his wife. Tony and his family later moved to Los Angeles. His first role in Hollywood was as an Italian cab driver in the sitcom Wigs. Tony went on to have roles in Men In Black, Men In Black II, Galaxy Quest, and most notably his role in the Monk. The series made him a star, earning him four Emmy awards for lead actor in a comedy series.
Rolla Selbek is an Arab-American writer/director of film and T.V. Rolla moved to the United States from Abu Dhabi after the Gulf War. She is most notable for writing and directing the film Three Veils. The movie is about three Middle Eastern women who intertwine as they struggle to defy tradition and create their own realities. Rolla films focus on bringing women to the forefront and showing the struggles Middle Eastern women face. Rolla’s most recent work is on a show called Ya Bint which is about three girls that move from the Middle East to Los Angeles and this show was picked up by Disney+ in 2020.
Tima Sholmail is a Jordanian producer, director, writer, and comedy actress. Tima attended the University of Jordan and graduated with a BA in business administration and finance (none of the universities in Jordan offered fil studies at the time). After college Tima attended many workshops and seminars presented by the Jordanian Royal film commission. Tima has produced small films and even written and starred in a couple of Arabic TV Series. In 2012 Tima founded her own production company called Filmizion production. Tima has recently been making headlines for her Production of Al Rawabi School For Girls which was picked up by Netflix.
Ramy Youssef is an Egyptian-American actor, writer, director, and stand up comedian.
Born in Queens NY, then later raised in New Jersey. Ramy is best known for his role Ramy Hassan in the Hulu comedy-drama series Ramy, which tells the story of a first-generation Muslim Arab American growing up in the United States. Ramy has received the Golden Globe award for his role in Ramy.
Peter Macdissi was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived through the civil war. Peter had a love for acting at a young age when he would perform for his family while guns and bomb fire could be heard from their home. The war stopped him from practicing acting and he decided to move to Sweden to study Swedish literature and had a brief dancing career. After Sweden, he moved to Los Angeles. Since then Peter has become an actor and producer. He acted in the comedy-drama film Uncle Film. 2017, Macdissi executive produced The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the shockingly true story of an African-American woman who becomes an unwitting pioneer for medical breakthroughs in the early 1950s.
The entertainment industry is not an easy industry to become successful in. These actors, producers, writers, etc have proved that it is possible to succeed in an industry that operates on connection and who you know. Over the decades Arab Americans have been entering every industry in America little by little. From the food industry to entertainment you will always find a successful Arab American.
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