From writer-director Peter Horton (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and writers Adam Armus and Kay Foster (“The Following”) comes “American Odyssey,” a complex journey through global politics, corporate espionage and military secrets involving three strangers who only have one thing in common… the truth. In this “Traffic”-like action drama, an international cover-up explodes when the lives of a female Special Forces soldier, a disillusioned corporate lawyer and a political activist from a privileged family unexpectedly collide.
Staring Anna Friel as Odelle Ballard, Peter Facinelli as Peter Decker, Jake Robinson as Harrison Walters, Jim True-Frost as Ron Ballard, Treat Williams as Colonel Stephen Glen, Nate Mooney as Bob Offer, Elena Kampouris as Maya Decker, Daniella Pineda as Ruby Simms.
I was recently invited to a phone interview with Yousef Sweid (Shakir Khan ) & Peter Horton (director). Though my schedule would not let me participate, I’m very excited to share some of the highlights from the call with my readers.
Stephanie Piche is with Mingle Media TV. Suzanne Lanoue is with the TV MegaSite. Emily Murray is with NBC.
Stephanie Piche: Thank you. Hello, gentlemen. I am so fascinated with the complexity of each of the characters and how their story unfolds, pulling threads and unraveling the bigger story of secrets and conspiracies. My question for Peter is do you think you were crossing the line by showing the US military as the bad guy as part of this?
Peter Horton: You know, our intention from the beginning of this project was never to frankly pain any one group as bad or good. There certainly are individuals who have their point of view that creates all sorts of trouble. But even as you – I think as you see the series go on even someone like Colonel Glen in Episode 13 has a really long speech about his point of view.
And what we’ve always tried to do is give each character a point of view. And so even though they may be doing things that seem rather bad at the time, they’ve got a reason for it. And we also never intend, as the series goes on you’ll see as well that the whole American military is bad. The idea is that there’s a seam within the military industrial complex that sort of join hands over the years – over the last couple of decades with private industry so that there’s a grey zone in between those two.
It’s Dick Cheaney being the head of Haliburton and then becoming the Vice President and us going to war.
Stephanie Piche: That’s right.
Peter Horton: You know it’s a seam within that’s got an agenda. That has – it has a theology that they’re implementing. And from their point of view for good, for the good. So that’s always our intention. It never was to really say by any means that the whole American military is bad at all.
Stephanie Piche: Oh, no. I’m from a third generation military family. So I’m not offended at all by anything that you’re doing. It’s just interesting.
Stephanie Piche: I have a question for Yousef. You played your character to perfection especially considering the circumstances. Why was it important for you to take this role and play this character?
Yousef Sweid: First of all, like Shakir had to be famous. And second is well you know as an actor, I think I remember the first time I went to do makeup and hair. And another actor came inside and he said, “Wow, it’s like the dream of every male actor to play a woman.” And I think it’s one of the biggest dreams. It’s kind of – it’s a lot of freedom inside.
I love all the fun. I love – and the character itself, it’s very – she’s a very complex and has a very interesting story. So, and very deep. So of course, in every kind of aspect, it was one of the most interesting parts I ever read. So I was really, really – really, really wanted to do it. So, yes.
Peter Horton: I’ll add a little bit to that which is that it was – we really searched far and wide to find the right actor for this part. It’s a very difficult narrow path to walk playing this role because it’s – as Yousef said, it’s not only complex. It’s very, very delicate. There’s just the right calm for this character to be genuine and honest and true, but at the same time have a flair and have a presentation and a show. And you know we finally found Yousef who really auditioned for us a number of times remotely. And just every time kept nailing that narrow path between overdoing the show or over emphasizing the earnestness of it. And you know that’s why – that’s the big reason why you have a character in front of you that you’re responding to is we just found the right guy for it.
Suzanne Lanoue: American TV doesn’t have a lot of drag queen characters, regular characters at least and – we don’t have as many Arab characters as we should. Do you feel any special responsibility playing both?
Yousef Sweid: Yes. Of course. But not just because it’s American TV. I feel responsibility as an Arab doing these kind of characters which are very dangerous. I know there are a lot of trans-genders and drag queens which are Arabs and they live in danger… Like they can live their lives maybe more… if it’s more in the western world.But also there, it’s dangerous for them. And in my life as an actor – in my work, I always wish to do these kind of characters they have also kind of how do you a message. And not only for the American, but also for me or for the Arab world. Or you know I guess there’s a lot of Arabs in the US. So for me, it’s for myself also to do this kind of message for – you know for other people. And this is character is living – what kept me going or what I think one of the features of this character is that she’s always in danger. She’s having fun. She’s happy. But she’s always in danger that something bad will happen to her. Like at any moment, can go out with a gun and kill her. And I think to see this world is special and different and interesting.
Suzanne Lanoue: Thank you. And Peter, do you know when you’ll find out if we get a second season or not?
Peter Horton: Boy, I’ll tell you. I’m sitting on pins and needleseds. You know obviously hoping against hope that indeed we’ll get that. You know, they – everyone at NBC really loves the show and really, really wants it to go. We just need some more people to watch it.
Emily Murray: I work on the social media for the show. And we did a special shout out for fan questions. And this comes from (Sara Beth Rossfield):. What an incredible performance. You are on my radar now. And I want to see everything you’ve done. What special things, if any, did you do to prepare for this role?
Yousef Sweid: Well, actually audition. I think I did a couple of auditions…And I was living in Tel Aviv for 20 years. And now I live in Berlin. And its huge cities and very welcome cities for you know drags and trans-genders and for sexuality and everything. So I have a lot of friends who just you know being around them, going to parties.
Just watching one of the auditions I did, one of my friends who works as a drag dressed me up and you know we had a lot of fun. And you know I didn’t have to imitate anything. But you know you go, you see. You collect things as you like. You mix it up with your personality. It was the love of trying to be a woman. I think every man would love to try it once in a while. Every many has kind of a fantasy. And you get in touch with this fantasy. And in the end, it’s you know all of these things. And of course, reading takes an understanding what’s going on and the character and the production and Peter told me where the character comes from. And so basically, research.
Want more from the cast? Read my previous post “American Odyssey Q&A with Jake Robinson“.
Be sure to watch American Odyssey Sunday nights, at 10/9c on NBC!