For a long time, I had this idea of what I wanted to look and be like. It was all about the type of actor I wanted to be, just like the men I looked up to. Only to realise I was growing up not meeting any of those expectations I set for myself.
I thought I was going to be the biggest action hero, just like my heroes of the 80’s. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. Most of all Arnold though. I really looked up to him as most guys did because he was huge, of course I wanted to look like that too, what boy didn’t. But, what I admired the most about him, was that he was different. He had an accent from a far-off place, a crazy name that people still can’t pronounce and he didn’t look like your average Joe.
When I was growing up I never felt like I fit in anywhere, I was born in Australia but Aussies would call me a wog, I went to Cyprus (where my family is from) and they would call me an Aussie. After 9/11 and the Cronulla riots I felt that I fit in even less, being of a Muslim background. So, seeing a foreigner on screen and finding out later, that a lot of people said to him that he would never make it because he was different changed my life.
I felt like I could make it and I never really thought I was going to have my own path. I just wanted his path, I want to be that action hero. When I started acting, all I could think about was the cool action effects, like walking away from an explosion looking like a boss. But I could see all that wasn’t really my strong suit. I didn’t fit the bill of the action heroes I idolised. Not in my own mind anyway. Partly because all the films I watch now, the Muslim looking actors are still commonly bad guys.
I had to adjust the way I was thinking about it all. When I was in drama school, I went through a really hard time towards the end of it. We were doing analysis on each other, everyone was telling me that I was really strong with my comedic timing and drama. It was one of the hardest moments in my life.i didn’t want to be the funny guy. It was like my dreams were shattered. I thought that if I couldn’t be the action hero, that meant I wasn’t going to be an actor.
I had to stop thinking of that as my goal and accept my journey for what it is going to be. I don’t need to be an action hero to be a great actor, not to mention love acting. I don’t need to be just like Arnold. I needed to find who I am as a person and I realise that it is a lifelong path that will always change depending on the choices I make. I’ve learned so much over the last few years, I have accepted who I am and I love the journey I am on. I want to be the best actor I can be, but I’m doing it to make me happy, no one else. I don’t care if that means I won’t be the action hero anymore. I want to change the world and take someone on a journey, like I go on every time I watch a film. I want to do it all in my own way different from the rest. Because I am different and I love it.