Interview with OUTshine Film Festival Vanguard Award Recipient Actor Haaz Sleiman


Actor Haaz Sleiman accepting the Outshine Film Festival Vanguard Award
Actor Haaz Sleiman accepting the Outshine Film Festival Vanguard Award

During the OUTshine Film Festival Awards event, we had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the Vanguard Award recipient, actor Haaz Sleiman.

Born and raised in Lebanon, Haaz Sleiman moved to the United States at the age of twenty-one. He rapidly developed a passion for acting in various medias including film, television, theater, and video game voice acting. Haaz Sleiman is perhaps the most well known for his role as Tarek, an undocumented Syrian immigrant, in The Visitor an Academy Award and Screen Actors Guild Award nominee, and as Mohammed De La Cruz in Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.

Haaz has however held several other roles in various shows such as ER, NCIS, Veronica Mars, 24, Company Town, Nikita, The Promise and The State. His artistic talents and acting career are not limited to television. He has also held a role in the Off-Broadway play Venice and Food and Fadwa as well as lent his voice to game series such as Diablo III, Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

Haaz Sleiman has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards and Best Ensemble Cast at the Gotham Awards for his role in The Visitor. He was able to secure second place at the Boston Society of Film Critic Awards for Best Ensemble Cast for his role in The Visitor.

In 2017, Sleiman announced that he was gay and has since been very outspoken about his sexuality and his support of the LGBTQ+ movement. Whenever he discusses his sexuality or his love for the movement he is honest and straightforward. He lives his life authentically and holds nothing back when discussing his sexuality and support for the LGBTQ+ community. He is an extremely empathetic and sensitive person which translates both on and off screen and endears him to his followers. He often credits his demeanor to him being raised in Lebanon as a young, gay Arabic man and he always aims to be genuine in everything he does.

On October 20th, Haaz Sleiman was honored at OUTshine, an LGBTQ+ film festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was recognized as one of the few openly gay, Muslim Arab-American males in Hollywood and awarded the Vanguard Award for his performances and status as a role model to the LGBTQ+ community.

Left to Right: Outshine Film Festival Executive Producer Arnel San Pedro, Actor Haaz Sleiman, and Actor / Producer Emily Leguizamo

NYSG:

Thank you for the opportunity for this interview. We want to congratulate you on being awarded the Vanguard Award by OUTshine Film Festival.

When you came out to the public in 2017, it was a strong statement against the violence of the LGBTQ community. Do you feel the treatment of the LGBTQ community has improved or worsened since then? and Why do you believe that to be the case?

Haaz Sleiman:

This is definitely a long term issue. Just like the women’s movement of respect and empowerment. A society cannot change instantly. That’s why every single one of us in the LGBTQ community can make a difference.

NYSG:

Growing up in Lebanon, when did you know you were gay and how did you handle it? Were you able to share your sexuality with anyone? (Our understanding it is not accepted to be gay in the Arab community)

Haaz Sleiman:

The Arab culture is a machismo culture. Very patriarchal. Although Lebanon is the most gay friendly Arab country I grew up there in the eighties. So it so much better there now today. However, I lived a very solitary childhood even though my family is wonderful and very loving. But I never felt safe enough to confide in any of my family members. I lived in quiet fear of getting exposed.

NYSG:

If you could speak to someone struggling with their identity on whether or not to come out, what advice would you give them?

Haaz Sleiman:

Don’t feel guilty that you are not out yet! This is YOUR life. No one else gets to call the shots but you. But it’s incredibly important for your soul to start doing small acts of self-respect on a daily basis and that will snowball into something beautiful.

NYSG:

Do you feel you have an obligation to be a role model?

Haaz Sleiman:

Not really… But I have so much love to give to our world.

NYSG:

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

Haaz Sleiman:

After The Visitor was released theatrically. Yes, after I’ve been already acting for a couple of years. I had to understand that as an actor I can enlighten, empower, and inspire people. Make them know that they are not alone.

NYSG:

What projects are you working on now?

Haaz Sleiman:

The Eternals for Marvel. Little America for Apple comes out next year in January. An independent feature film written and directed by an openly gay practicing Muslim, Mike Mosallam.

NYSG:

What dream role would you like to play in the future?

Haaz Sleiman:

James Bond… I feel it would empower me. And hopefully empower other Arabs, Muslims, and LGBTQ people.

NYSG:

What are your thoughts on being selected for the Outshine Vanguard Award?

Haaz Sleiman:

Shock. Was not expecting it at all. But after I digested the idea it actually made sense to me. I always make sure to give as much love as I can in my work. And now it’s simply being returned.

NYSG:

What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

Haaz Sleiman:

Hopefully portraying characters in projects I wanna be a part of. And creating my own content. Writing screenplays and producing.

NYSG:

Do you have anything you would like to share with our audience?

Haaz Sleiman:

Be kind to yourself. Give your love to the world and to the people around you. And most importantly, always be true to yourself and practice being genuine. It’s the most underrated human quality.

NYSG:

Thank you Haaz, and a special thanks to OUTshine Film Festival for all that they do for the LGBTQ+ community…

Previous People's Choice Awards 2019 Full List of Winners
Next AMERICAN INFLUENCER AWARDS ANNOUNCES CELEBRITY PRESENTERS AND MUSICAL GUEST

No Comment

Leave a Reply