Ali Shayek: “I’m Happy To Be Part of a Project That Represents Muslims in a Respectful Way”

Ali Shayek is an actor and photographer. His role as Wali in the "Ramadan America" short “Playmates” is his first role.

Ali Shayek: “I’m Happy To Be Part of a Project That Represents Muslims in a Respectful Way”
In the short "Playmates," four young cousins at a family Eid party plan the ultimate heist: getting their hands on their uncle's adult magazine stash.

Leading up to and throughout Ramadan, we’ll be highlighting the filmmaking process for “Ramadan America,” Rifelion Media's first-of-its-kind film anthology written by, directed by and starring American Muslims. Our series on “Ramadan America” will include interviews with the cast and crew — many of whom are Muslim American — who brought the film to life.

Ali Shayek is an actor and photographer. This is his first role.

Shayek plays Wali in the “Ramadan America” short “Playmates”.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Fann Staff: Tell us about yourself. What do you do for fun when you're not acting?

Ali Shayek: I’m from San Jose, California. [I like to try new foods and] San Jose is a big city that has such a wide array of food options it is hard to settle on one restaurant. There have been many days where I just ended up eating at home because I couldn’t decide.

For fun I like to read, watch movies and I do a little bit of photography. 

Fann Staff: Did you fall into acting or was it always a passionate pursuit for you?

Ali Shayek: I fell into acting; it was something that I had the opportunity to try and I absolutely loved it.

I realized I was an actor when I walked on my first set. It was such a surreal experience. I was excited, though very nervous. By the end of it, I realized how much fun it was.

This was my first role, but definitely not my last.

Fann Staff: Do you have an idol in the world of theater, film or television?

Ali Shayek: My biggest inspiration would be Riz Ahmed. He’s an amazing actor with an impressive filmography. But most of all, he talks [about] Muslim representation in films and TV and how it is not always done with respect. He tries to change that through his films.

Fann Staff: Why were you interested in the “Ramadan America” short in which you featured?

Ali Shayek: [“Playmates”] was the [short] that felt most like the Eid parties I grew up going to. I also thought the script was super well written and the jokes were witty.

Fann Staff: How did it feel to work on a set mostly made up of Muslim Americans?

Ali Shayek: It was very refreshing to work with other Muslims Americans. A lot of the films releasing lack Muslim representation. I am very happy to be a part of a project that represents Muslims in a respectful way.

Fann Staff: What makes “Playmates” worth watching? How about “Ramadan America” as a whole?

Ali Shayek: “Playmates” is worth watching because it captures Eid in a very authentic way.

“Ramadan America” as a whole is worth watching because it is exciting to see how all of the shorts work together.

You can follow Ali Shayek on his Instagram.

There will be a “Ramadan America” watch party March 9 at the 2024 Austin Muslim House.

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