14 Hollywood Stars That Are Middle Eastern
Hollywood is filled with actors of all races and genders, but it can sometimes be a challenge to find Middle Eastern actors in leading and supporting roles. There are, however, more than you may think and not just in bit parts or stereotypical roles. Take a look at these Middle Eastern actors that have become notable names in Hollywood.
Perhaps the most well known and renowned of Egyptian actors, Omar Sharif has starred in many notable roles of classic Hollywood films. After starring in several Egyptian productions, he landed his first major Hollywood role as Sherif Ali in David Lean’s grand epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962), earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Many supporting roles later, he landed the title role in the romance Doctor Zhivago (1965). And he would continue to appear in many films, from comedies (Top Secret!) to documentaries (Mysteries of Egypt) to adventure pictures (Hidalgo). He was last seen (or heard) in the animated educational film 1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham (2015), said to be his final role.
F. Murray Abraham
Born from an Assyrian, F. Murray Abraham worked his way up from tiny roles as taxi drivers and car mechanics to the award winning actor he is today. He won an Academy Award for playing the lead of the elderly Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984). Since then, Abraham hasn’t stopped acting, loading up his resume with plenty of television and movie roles. His most recent appearances were in Wes Anderson’s ensemble comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and Dar Adal on TV’s Homeland.
A Pakistan-American, Kumail rose from the ranks of a comedian to become one of the youngest, busiest and most notable Middle Eastern comedy actors. His television career started with small roles on The Colbert Report and Portlandia before becoming a leading regular on the tech comedy Silicon Valley. He worked his way through a few thankless movie roles of Pakistani Chef in The Five-Year Engagement (2012) and Gary the Delivery Guy in The Kings of Summer (2013) before finally being a more recognizable talent in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015) and Fist Fight (2017). His latest role is finally a leading one in the romantic comedy The Big Sick (2017).
Born in Tehran, Golshifteh was already on the stage when she was six and appearing in films by the age fourteen. She quickly rose up from small films to the larger productions of Body of Lies (2008) and Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014). She was last seen as the romantic lead in Jim Jarmusch’s drama Paterson (2016) and the sea witch Shansa in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017).
Both a native and college graduate of Cairo, Amr was such a talented actor that he made audiences believe he was Palestinian and not Egyptian. After several roles, he landed a spot in the ensemble drama Syriana (2005), earning him the Special Award for Arabs in The International Cinema at the Cairo International Film Festival. He continues to be spotted in supporting roles with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012) and Lucy (2014), as well as in the upcoming disaster epic Geostorm (2017).
Syrian actor Ghassan might have kicked himself for turning down a role in Syriana as he mistakenly feared it would paint Arabs in a bad light, but he still found plenty of Hollywood roles to compensate. He appeared as the Muslim leader Saladin in Kingdom of Heaven (2004), Ammand the Corsair in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) and Paser in Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014). Ghassan was last seen in the 2012 TV miniseries Omar as Abu Bakr.
Born from Egyptian parents, Malek started with bit roles on television’s Gilmore Girls and The War at Home before he would become a true television star as the lead on the technothriller Mr. Robot, garnering himself an Emmy award among other nominations. His movie career has also had a healthy life, appearing regularly as Pharaoh Akhmenrah in the Night at the Museum trilogy. He was recently the lead in the psychological drama Buster’s Mal Heart (2017) and is set to appear next year as Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
Born in Wisconsin to an American mother and a Lebanese father, who immigrated from the Middle Eastern country at 10 years of age. Tony had roles in major motion pictures like Men in Black (1997) and Men in Black II (2002). However, his most memorable role was playing the obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk in Monk (2002). Consecutively from 2003 to 2006, he was nominated for four Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, and won the award in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Hayek was born in Mexico, her father was Lebanese and her mother Mexican/Spanish. Her first big break came from starring with Antonio Banderas in Desperado (1995). She then continued on to play roles in huge shows and movies such as Friends (1994), Wild Wild West (1999), Frida (2002), Badidas (2006), Grown Ups (2010), and The Hummingbird Project (2018) to name a few. The Lebanese/Mexican actress is also a producer, and own her own company, Ventanarosa, which produced a movie that made it to the Cannes Film Festival as Mexico's entry for foreign film.
Best known for her role as Susan Mayer in Desperate Housewives (2004), which had won her a Gold Globe award for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She takes her Middle Eastern roots from her grandmother who was Syrian. Her other hit roles included Lois Lane in The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997), Rhea in Supergirl (2015-present), and the voice of Other Mother, Mel Jones, and Beldam in Coraline (2009).
Hailing from Syrian grandparents, Salha and Selim Hosni, Seinfeld was born in New York. He got his excellent sense of humor from his father, and went on to perform at local clubs and resorts until he was featured in an HBO special. Seinfeld went on to appear on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), Late Night with David Letterman (1982) and The Merv Griffin Show (1962). The iconic Seinfeld (1989) sitcom happened when he partnered with the legendary Larry David.
Saldana has confirmed in an interview that she is part Lebanese, and even enjoys Lebanon cuisine very much. The Latin American actress' big break came when she played a role in Center Stage (2000), and since then has been starring in major blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), The Terminal (2004), Star Trek (2009), Avatar (2009), Colombiana (2011), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: End Game (2019) to name a few.
Dewan gets her Middle Eastern ancestry from her father who is half Syrian Lebanese. The actress was born in Texas and discovered her talents first in the form of dancing. She appeared in many music videos and toured alongside accomplished artists such as Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin, Justin Timberlake, and Missy Elliott. She ventured into the acting world when she started playing roles in shows like The Young and the Restless (1973) Quintuplets (2004) and Joey (2004). Her biggest break yet was when she starred in the first of the Step Up series, Step Up (2006) as Nora Clark.
The major star of the hit series Prison Break (2005-2017), Wenworth Miller was born to an Afro-Jamaican father and a mother with Syrian/Lebanese roots. He had appeared on many shows before turning into a global sensation, such as ER (1994), Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997), Popular (1999), Dinotopia (2002), and The Human Stain (2003). Funny enough, he says the biggest exposure he got from any project was when he guest starred in a Mariah Carey's music videos It's Like That and We Belong Together as her lover.