Mena Massoud: ‘I haven’t had a single audition since Aladdin came out’

Aladdin Premiere

Mena Massoud was Aladdin in Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake this year. Aladdin was a hit – it’s made more than a billion dollars world-wide, and critics seemed surprised that it was actually a good live-action Disney film with charismatic stars. Mena got a lot of attention for the role, and we learned some basics about him: he’s 28 years old, born in Egypt, raised in a Coptic Christian family, his family moved to Canada when he was just three years old and that’s where he grew up. He’s spent a decade in the film/television industry, trying to play any character other than Middle Eastern terrorists. Mena spoke to the Daily Beast about what his life is like now that he’s starred in a billion-dollar Disney movie. Turns out… he hasn’t even been able to get an audition. For anything.

No auditions post-Aladdin: “I’m kind of tired of staying quiet about it. I want people to know that it’s not always dandelions and roses when you’re doing something like Aladdin. ‘He must have made millions. He must be getting all these offers.’ It’s none of those things. I haven’t had a single audition since Aladdin came out. It’s wild to a lot of people,” he says. “People have these ideas in their head. It’s like, I’m sitting here being like, OK, Aladdin just hit $1 billion. Can I at least get an audition? Like I’m not expecting you to be like, here’s Batman. But can I just get in the room? Like, can you just give me a chance? So it’s not always what you think.”

Trying to avoid being cast as terrorists & thugs: “There’s always a wild card or two when you’re casting. I’m usually the wild card. In a room of Caucasian guys, a director might be like, OK, let’s see, like, two guys who aren’t. And maybe they’ll be the wild card choice.”

He still feels like he’s got to prove himself: “I feel like I’m going to be overlooked and underestimated for a long time because I am a young actor. I’m an up and comer in the sense that I’ve been doing this for 10 years, but to a lot of people, Aladdin’s the first thing they’ve seen me in. So I think I’m going to be viewed that way for a long time. I’m going to have to work at chipping away at that. I think since Aladdin my expectations for things releasing and what they’re going to do in my career, I’ve had to really pull them back. Because, you know, I got the same question about Aladdin and it was like, ‘Oh, you know, Aladdin’s coming out. How do you feel about what that’s going to do to your career?’ The big truth is I haven’t really seen a big anything from it. As for whether people are gonna discover me from it or what it’s going to do, I literally have no clue. I can’t tell you I know how things are going to work out anymore.”

[From The Daily Beast]

Good God, this sucks. Hollywood sucks! It sucks for so many reasons, but typecasting Middle Eastern-looking men as “Al Qaeda #2 terrorist” is one of the worst parts of this whole f–ked up thing. It also strikes me that… Rami Malek is getting a lot of stuff these days, and I feel like Hollywood has that thing where producers feel like “well, we have one Egyptian guy getting all of these parts, we don’t have to look any further.” Like, there can be only one. It’s awful. It’s awful that Mena can’t even get an AUDITION.

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

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78 Responses to “Mena Massoud: ‘I haven’t had a single audition since Aladdin came out’”

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  1. Mignionette says:

    Surprise, surprise.

    I wonder if the same is true for Yalitza Aparicio.

    • Stef says:

      Probably. she doesn’t really have much future here in Mexico. They’ll get her a maid role in a telenovela if she stays, sadly. And most arthouse directors here in Mexico only cast white mexicans. Most actora come from nepotism like Gael or diego Luna. So I hope she started learning English so she get more opportunities like Salma even in small roles.

      • Mignionette says:

        Salma’s rise was truly a FUX YOU to the narrow margins of Mexican TV and casting. I hope Yalitza has her day also.

      • DragonWise says:

        That is awful! I was really pleased to see a dark skinned Indigenous Mexican represented on film, as I only see white Mexicans predominately in their media. Besides being a great actress, I think Yalitza is gorgeous, and was so beautifully dressed in bold colors that looked great against her skin for her premiers and awards season. I really hope that she finds more work to increase representation.

    • Lowrider says:

      Yalitza Aparicio is similar too Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips. Neither showed interest in acting before their big movie break. I’m sure Yalitza will receive a few roles here and there but I don’t see her aggressively pursuing an acting career.

      • Dee Kay says:

        Isn’t Barkhad Abdi getting work, though? I saw him in that Eye in the Sky movie and at least one other thing. His imdb looks fairly robust, like any regular working actor’s:

        I think the problem for Yalitza Aparicio and Mena Massoud is that there are no roles written into mainstream film scripts for types of characters they can play. There are parts for Latinas (either hot/sexy teenager-to-30s, middle-aged judge/doctor/politician, or elderly woman who is like everyone’s abuela) and a few roles for indigenous women (usually limited to hot/sexy younger women) but Aparicio doesn’t fit any of those types, or at least Hollywood’s ideas of what those should look like. And Hollywood has no roles for Middle Eastern young men that aren’t terrorists or the silent sons of Saudi princes. It’s a huge bummer b/c we (the audience) miss out on lots of good talent to Hollywood’s lack of racial imagination. Massoud should be considered to be the cool/fun love interest in a comedy, or a kind of Dev Patel leading man.

    • Diplomanatee says:

      In the meantime, Yalitza is doing amazing work as an activist! She’s speaking at the UN Global Compact Summit today. I was thiiiiis close to attending but oh well.

  2. Aoife says:

    “it’s not always dandelions and roses” ?

  3. Casey says:

    It’s good he is speaking up to open our eyes. I hope he gets some auditions as a result.

  4. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    This pisses me off so much. I also am completely unsurprised.

  5. He he says:

    Glad he is speaking up.

    • ZanB says:

      I feel for him. For casting directors, the difference between Rami and Mena is that Rami is much fairer and has blue-green eyes. In other words, Rami can “pass”; hence, Rami’s casting as Christian Slater’s son in Mr. Robot. It’s sad but (at least in this century) still true.

      • ME says:

        I was thinking the same thing. Just like the actress who played Princess Jasmine. She can “pass” too because she’s half Caucasian. She’s been getting roles. Mena is talented, he should be getting plenty of auditions and roles. This is really really unfair ! How the f*ck does a horrible actor like Justin Timberlake keep getting roles but actual talented people can’t? F*ck Hollywood.

      • Nanainwonderland says:

        This is so true. I am Egyptian born like Mena and I know what you mean. You hit the nail on the head.

        Hollywood prefers people who have ‘exotic’ features as long as they are not too ‘exotic’ and can pass as white.

      • Kage says:

        Yeah, I came to say this, Rami is much lighter skinned.

  6. Jerusha says:

    That does really stink. I think a lot of us would appreciate more varied casting. I watch a lot of films from Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Iran, India, etc. I know the world is not made up exclusively of people who look like me and I want to see that onscreen. I hope Mr. Massoud gets some opportunities soon.

  7. Tiffany says:

    That kind of pretty should be on the screen, Really, he is gorgeous. And he has charisma to boot.

  8. Lisa says:

    Hopefully the right opportunities will come his way.

  9. Jim Liu says:

    Maybe he sucks.

    • Tiffany says:

      Because he has been given chance after chance to show that….oh wait, he has not.

      • Lilian says:

        He sucked in Aladin. The female lead had to carry him. Even his singing sucked. The 1billion wasn’t due to him.

    • Jessica says:

      This is so obtuse. He’s been in exactly one film, and it’s been Disney’s most successful live action remake to date. He’s not even a flop king like, say, Armie Hammer, who gets chance after chance. And what about mediocre white guys like Ansel Elgort? You’re deliberately refusing to see the racial dynamics at play even though they’re right in front of you. Any famous actor of color will immediately relate to Mena. Octavia Spencer didn’t have many offers coming in even after winning an Oscar. Viola Davis will tell the same story. Regina King. Lupita. They all went through major dry spells before someone decided to take notice and cast them in decent roles. Actors of color are often carried by filmmakers of color because white filmmakers just aren’t casting them most of the time. Look at their filmographies, they will tell the tale.

      With this kind of glib obtuseness around race, no wonder it’s always one step forward, three steps back. (I am white btw.)

      • MariaS says:

        @Jessica. What you’ve written is so dead on. I’m exhausted having to explain this to people determined not to see what’s right in front of them.

    • Jensies says:

      I guess I don’t get all the hate for this guy, from posters I’ve never seen before no less. I didn’t see Aladdin so I don’t know completely, but he’s good looking, seems charming and no drama, met his marketing commitments for Disney…no reason this guy shouldn’t be getting plenty of offers. Interesting to me that these, maybe he sucks, maybe he doesn’t deserve it, comments only come up around a brown actor.

    • noway says:

      Did you see him in Alladin and not like him or something? Apparently, a lot of people saw him and at least thought he was good enough for that, 1 Billion dollars worth of tickets sold. A lot of white mediocre men and women in Hollywood couldn’t put all their movies together to get to that amount of ticket sales. He even was critically acclaimed, so not sure where your comment is coming from, hopefully not from a terrible place, maybe you are just a contrarian. Something is wrong with Hollywood whey you have that kind of success and you can’t even get auditions for parts, even minor parts.

      Two things Hollywood and the public need to do. First make stories with more diverse backgrounds and women and the public needs to support them. Second, we need to stop being so literal in our depiction with actors, and give minority actors a chance to shine in characters which are not necessarily their racial or gender makeup. Hate to say this but Scarlott Johannson got it partially right. An actor should be able to play any part, but here’s what she got wrong. Hollywood has been extremely racist and sexist and it should definitely give minorities and women the chance for them to have those parts first. We spent decades with white men playing Native Americans and all other minorities we need to turn the table.

      Thanks for bringing up Rami in this article too. I do get a feeling this is how Hollywood is working. They feel all woke cause they went and got an Egyptian to play Freddie Mercury. He’s the only one allowed though.

    • perplexed says:

      I don’t know if it matters if he sucks though. If someone like Kellan Lutz can get roles, then everyone else might as well too. It’s up to us to choose to watch or not to watch what’s put out for us to see, but there are a lot of bad actors out there working and acting on film that get to the stage of having their names on the credits. Obviously we ignore them, but the actors do get paid to do that work and see their names on the scroll.

      • CK says:

        Honestly, it baffles me that people still think “talent” is prerequisite for roles with the amount of terrible white actors that get pushed into box office after box office picture.

        If he had blond hair and blue eyes, he’d have his pick of roles after front a billion dollar film. He wouldn’t even have to audition.

  10. Thepamsicle says:

    This man is HOT. Get him in the movies!!

    • Oui oki says:

      Hes soooo attractive in Aladdin!
      But in another drama on amazon prime he’s too petit for me lol. Still I’d happily watch more of him. You guys can check out his vegan page on instagram to support him meanwhile

    • Mar says:

      He is gorgeous but the “Hollywood” problem is he’s very ethnic looking ( for their standards).
      Black and Latino actors are finally getting good roles after putting up much of a fight, but Hollywood still passes on Asians, Indians and Middle-Eastern looking actors as leads in film as of now, in many cases . I hope this changes , and it probably will in time

  11. Middle of the road says:

    He’s an Arabic Henry Golding…..we need more of him because my God he’s sexy

    • Infognito says:

      He’s not Arab/Arabic; he’s Coptic. It’s right there in the article.

      • Nezha says:

        Coptic is a religion (Christianism).
        Arab is an ethnicity.

        He is an Arab and his religion is coptic Christianism.

        Look it up if you need a proof. It’s right there in the dictionary.

      • A says:

        This is like saying he’s not French, he’s christian

  12. anneliser says:

    He’s so handsome and charming–I haven’t had the chance to watch the live-action Aladdin yet, but the camera loves him! What is wrong with casting people?!?

  13. Cay says:

    Maybe if he made videos about jacking up his bed to clean up vomit, people would start to follow him on Instagram and have some respect for his “hustle.”

  14. Originaltessa says:

    This is rough. Hope he gets something soon. He was not great, not gonna lie, but not a single audition? Yeah, that’s horrible.

  15. Moco says:

    He was on Jimmy Kimmel yesterday pitching his new show. Probably had an audition for that.

  16. Yasmine says:

    How is no one talking about how incredibly racist the move Aladdin is?
    The movie itself was so racist and upsetting, that of course the brown actors were going to be tokens for this one role.
    I totally feel for Mena and I don’t want to judge him for taking that role. But I want to flag the bigger issue around that movie being made to begin with.

    • ME says:

      What bothered me is how they just mixed a bunch of “brown cultures” together. One minute it’s Arabic culture, the next it’s Indian. WTH? But hey, we can’t blame Mena. It was his first big role, he was not going to turn it down. He needed a foot in the door.

      • Yasmine says:

        Exactly, it’s a mish mash of what looks like brown people and exotic brown stuff, and that is so dangerous. One colleague at work asked me (because I’m Arab) if this movie is authentic. I said: THIS IS NOT REAL, it’s a fable made up by a French Orientalist, that should’ve never been made in the first place. This article explains the history well, and how the original fable was actually set in China:

      • ME says:

        @ Yasmine

        Yup this is the problem. Non-brown people watched the movie and thought it was all based on real sh*t lol. I mean wow. Hollywood is known to do this. They just mix brown cultures together and just assume no one would notice or care. WE CARE ! Thanks for the link.

    • Aka says:

      I don’t know about racism but I did find it ironic that they couldn’t find a single Middle Eastern actress to take on the role of Jasmine.

      • Yasmine says:

        It isn’t ironic that they couldn’t find a Middle Eastern, it’s straight up racist and confirms how they just wanted exotic brown people, no extra labour or thought to the complexity of representation. As a Middle Eastern person I find Aladdin very racist, and a ton of articles that came out the last two years explain why. I shared a Vox article in my comment to ME. Please give it a read if you have the time, it would really help to explain it all!

      • whitecat says:

        Aaaaaaaaaand that’s why even though it is incredibly hard for Middle Eastern men to score roles, it’s even more difficult for an Arab woman.

  17. Yawn says:

    Methinks he needs a new agent maybe?

  18. Carina says:

    The difference between Mena & Rami, is that Rami sold his soul for awards. Karma is coming for Malek…

  19. Valiantly Varnished says:

    For everyone talking about how he was the “weak link” in Aladdin or how he isn’t very good as an actor. I can name at LEAST five mediocre white male actors who are cast in major roles. Their mediocrity doesn’t seem to be hindering their careers or ability to simply get an audition. Check your bias.

  20. Mo says:

    It is possible for both these conditions to be true:

    1) Holy fork, this is totally racist and will be an example for all the future how racist Hollywood is!!!

    2a) His team is somehow forking things up royally in a way that this kid doesn’t even understand.
    2b) He’s got an OK team and he’s not listening to them.

    I am reminded of a friend who was going on and on about how she was sending out all these resumes and not getting any interviews. Yeah, it was badly formatted and had several glaring typos.

    I hope this call for help inspires someone with an outside view to step in and see what’s going on.

  21. Amy says:

    He’s young, charismatic and good-looking…all things that would open the door to a white or white passing actor of similar credentials.

  22. Adrien says:

    There is a race problem for sure but then when you think about countless Oscar winners and nominees who didn’t have exceptional roles prior to their breakout roles then Mena is not an outlier. Mira Sorvino is white, well connected and can really act but her only other hit was a comedy movie Romy and Michelle. We learned she was blacklisted by Weinstein but I still think that wasn’t much of a factor.

    • perplexed says:

      I think it’s more about getting auditions though. If you’re not getting any auditions at all, that’s a little weird. Once the audition process takes off then I would expect someone to get rejected. But to not get in the door at all is a bit brutal.

      He’s not fat or ugly, so on that count I would think he’d get a try at an audition.

  23. CK says:

    He’s the lead of a billion dollar film. More importantly, a film that grossed 695 million internationally. If he were white, auditions would be the least of what he would be getting. The Hollywood Reporter would set up shop in his living room and he’d have offers that he’d be refusing.

  24. Ye says:

    The man cant get an audion with a face like that? He is gorgeous. There are two possible solutions. Either he is a creep and everyone hated working with him. Or racism. Or hey, both.

  25. February Pisces says:

    When Leonardo DiCaprio first started acting an agent told him to change his name to Lenny Williams because ‘leonardo Dicaprio’ sounded “too ethnic”. He has blonde hair and blue eyes but the idea of him being thought of as ‘ethnic’ meant this agent didn’t want to take him on. Can you imagin what it’s like for actual darker skinned actors and all the times they are told no just because of their ethnicity.

  26. kerwood says:

    I just watched ‘Aladdin’ a couple of days ago. Mena didn’t set the world on fire but he definitely didn’t shit the bed either. He held his own and didn’t embarrass himself. More importantly, he was sweet and charming. He also had great chemistry with Will Smith (who I loved). I was more disappointed with the actor who played the bad guy. Mena DEFINITELY wasn’t the weakest link in the film

    While I was watching the film, I wondered what Mena was doing now. I’m disappointed to hear that he isn’t getting any gigs but not one single bit surprised. He’s clearly an ‘ethnic’ actor and his ethnicity isn’t one that Hollywood is interested in.

    Hollywood is full of White actors in his age range who book job after job. Hollywood will put these non-entities in blockbusters, the film will fail but the crap actor will continue to work.

    And if we’re talking about failing UP, what about the director of ‘Aladdin’? I was honestly shocked to see Guy Ritchie’s name in the credits. When I’m thinking of directing a big-budget musical about ‘Arabian’ characters, Maddona’s Whiter-than-White ex-husband who has made flop after flop, is not the first name that comes to mind. I’m surprised Disney couldn’t find a better director with a touch more melanin because I can name several off the top of my head.

  27. Soupie says:

    My first thought was that he isn’t playing the Hollywood game the way it’s often played. You know, submitting himself in various demeaning and other ways to power brokers. Look at Justin Timberlake. He and the other guys submitted to that pedophile. If Mena is known as a guy holds to his integrity at this stage of the game then maybe that’s one reason or the main reason why he’s not getting auditions.