Interview with Yousef Sweid and Peter Horton from "American Odyssey" on NBC - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Interview with actor Yousef Sweid and Executive Producer Peter Horton of "American Odyssey" on NBC 5/28/15

It was really great to speak with these two guys. This is a really good show. I'm behind on watching it, but I enjoyed what I've seen so far. Peter starred in the show "Thirtysomething" years ago but now does mostly writing and producing. He was involved with "Grey's Anatomy" before this show. Youself was on "Homeland" before. He was awesome as Sharkira. See the clips below.

American Odyssey Yousef Sweid and Peter Horton Press & Media Call
May 28, 2015 11:30 am CT

Operator: Our first question comes from the line of Stephanie Piche with Mingle Media TV. Please go ahead.

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 pin 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 weíve 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, theyíve got a reason for it. And we also never intend, as the series goes on youíll see as well that the whole American military is bad. The idea is that thereís 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 thereís a grey zone in between those two.

Itís Dick Cheney being the head of Haliburton and then becoming the Vice President and us going to war.

Stephanie Piche: Thatís right.

Peter Horton: You know itís a seam within thatís got an agenda. That has - it has a theology that theyíre implementing. And from their point of view for good, for the good. So thatís 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. Iím from a third generation military family. So Iím not offended at all by anything that youíre doing. Itís just interesting.

Peter Horton: Okay.

Stephanie Piche: Yes.

Peter Horton: Thatís good to hear.

Stephanie Piche: And final question - oh, sorry. Go ahead.

Peter Horton: No. No. No. Thatís fine. I just was going to repeat myself and I probably shouldnít do that.

Stephanie Piche: And 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: Oh, thank you.

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, ďWow, itís like the dream of every male actor to play a woman.Ē And I think itís one of the biggest dreams. Itís kind of - itís a lot of freedom inside.

I love all the fun. I love - and the character itself, itís very - sheís 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: Iíll 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. Itís a very difficult narrow path to walk playing this role because itís - as Yousef said, itís not only complex. Itís very, very delicate. Thereís 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 thatís why - thatís the big reason why you have a character in front of you that youíre responding to is we just found the right guy for it.

Stephanie Piche: Great. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Peter Horton: Thank you.

Yousef Sweid: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with The TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.

Suzanne Lanoue: Good morning, guys.

Peter Horton: Morning.

Suzanne Lanoue: Yousef - Yousef...

Yousef Sweid: Good morning. Yes.

Suzanne Lanoue: American TV doesnít have a lot of drag queen characters, regular characters at least and - we donít 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 itís American TV. I feel responsibility as an Arab doing these kind of characters which are very dangerous. I know there are a lot of transgenders and drag queens which are Arabs and which there - they live in danger. Like they can live their lives maybe more if itís more in the western world.

But also there, itís 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 a message. And not only for the American, but also for me or for the Arab world. Or you know I guess thereís a lot of Arabs in the US. So for me, itís for myself also to do this kind of message for - you know for other people.

And this character is living - what kept me going or what I think one of the features of this character is that sheís always in danger. Sheís having fun. Sheís happy. But sheís 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 youíll find out if we get a second season or not?

Peter Horton: Boy, Iíll tell you. Iím sitting on pins and needles. You know obviously hoping against hope that indeed weíll 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.

Suzanne Lanoue: Right.

Peter Horton: And I think weíre all hoping that over the next few weeks, weíll get a bit of an uptick and give everyone a reason to say - to say, ďYesĒ. But weíve pitched a second season to them. And everyone is you know just really onboard with that. So itís just a matter of again whatíll unfold over the next couple of weeks.

Suzanne Lanoue: Alright. Well, good luck. Thanks a lot.

Peter Horton: Thank you so much.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Kara Howland with TV Goodness. Please go ahead.

Kara Howland: Hey, guys. I am really enjoying the show. Peter, for you, Iím wondering can you tell us about whatís coming up in the next few episodes without being super spoilery which Iím sure youíre not even allowed to do.

Peter Horton: Itís really great stuff.

Yousef Sweid: Everybody must die.

Peter Horton: Yes. Yes. Thereís a few more people dying. You know itís - the main thing to know is that each season of this show is going to have a beginning, middle and end. So there is - it isnít one of those things where you know youíll be left not understanding things and having to wait until next season to understand them. Theyíll be a sense of completion this year.

But you know the journey just starts getting more and more poignant really I think you know as the stakes build towards a climax and towards a conclusion. The story becomes a little more poignant and I think a little more emotional and meaningful as we go. So itís going - it still has the - you know the feel of our show has always been tension.

But I think the mixture starts leaning a little bit more towards emotion as we go.

Kara Howland: Yes. I agree. And for Yousef, I have to say, I really enjoyed your story line so much. And I was a little bit devastated after last weekís episode.

Peter Horton: Sorry.

Kara Howland: Well, no. Can you...

Yousef Sweid: What happened? I donít know. What happened?

Kara Howland: Can you talk about maybe your favorite scene? Or I donít know just you know a great experience from working on this show?

Yousef Sweid: Wow. Let me think.

Peter Horton: Iíve got to say one of the things I so love that just happened on the show between the two of them is, Yousef is your relationship with Diallo. You know I just - if that helps...

Yousef Sweid: Ah, yes.

Peter Horton: Sort of spark a thought. I mean you guys really had this beautiful chemistry to each - with each other. It really was the two actors, both of them.

Yousef Sweid: Yes. I - actually it was one scene. Actually, we did it twice. I mean we shot it two days. Like we did once and after, we did it again. And then I got more into character. But thereís - itís amazing this relationship because theyíre really, really in love. And you feel the danger because Diallo doesnít want to say anything about his relationship of course.

And how she manipulates him but still loves him is one of the best like things Iíve felt in this kind of thing. Like, there could be manipulation, but that doesnít mean that thereís no love. And because the situation is very so difficult and delicate, it has to be there, the kind of using each other but with love.

And each one knows the otherís points, where to push. And I love it that each one - like, she wants to be very famous and loved. And he wants to be a general. And they use each other with love to get there. And I think they - both of the characters bring a lot of fun to the show. And at the same time, you know drama and sadness. But both colors, I mean.

So I remember one scene when she tries to convince him to save Odelle. And he doesnít want to. But then you see the love between them. And she kind of manipulates to say, ďOh, if you save her, youíre going to be a famous man in the world. And youíre going to be a great famous person.Ē She knows where to touch him.

And I remember the scene because it was very kind of a - how do you say? - complex. And at the same time, Omar is on the side.

Peter Horton: That was one of our early episodes.

Yousef Sweid: Looking at them I think.

Peter Horton: Yes. Itís an - I think thatís an episode. Gosh was that 4, Episode 4, something like that with Aslam sitting there. And the two of you - you trying to convince the general to finally to help. It was either Episode 3 or 4 if thatís helpful.

Kara Howland: Great. Well, I hope you guys get a second season. Iím really enjoying it. Thank you.

Peter Horton: Oh, good. Thanks so much. Weíll bring Shakir back as a ghost.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Cody Schultz with the Hidden Remote. Please go ahead.

Cody Schultz: Hello, guys. Thanks again so much for speaking with us today.

Peter Horton: My pleasure.

Cody Schultz: My first questionís for Peter. Weíve seen Aslamís immediate reaction to the death of Shakir. But how did this particular death effect Aslam in the long run, in moving forward?

Peter Horton: Oh, you know itís so - itís such an interesting journey for him because - because you know the degree to which he is in need of family. You know his family gets pretty well wiped out in the pilot. The only family he has is his - this uncle heís never really met who he just goes to because itís his only option.

And then to discover his uncle is a cross dresser which at first is offensive to him. But then as you see, falls in love with him. Just gets so connected to him. And then when his uncleís dead, the only family he has left, as a possibility is Odelle. Yet heís trying to get Odelle home. And - which means out of Africa and into the United States.

So thereís a great sort of conflict for them both as to how - what are we going to do with Aslam? Does he go home with her? Does he stay in Africa? Does she stay in Africa? I mean itís a - itís a kind of very rich and emotional dilemma for them both as they kind of form their own sense of bond and family.

Cody Schultz: Alright. Great. And then my next question is for both of you. Has working on the series changed your attitude towards conspiracy theories at all?

Yousef Sweid: For me, no. I donít think so. I never really went to deep inside of these theories because itís sometimes too complex. And itís not for me. I want to be a you know a simple human being who works and loves his work. And I just - you know sometimes itís fun to get into these kind of things. But I donít go to deep. Anyway, so it didnít actually change.

Peter Horton: I think for me, itís - you know all of this conspiracy theory was born out of you know the headlines, out of whatís going on in life right now. Obviously, weíve taken it to an extreme, but not very far. We didnít have to travel far to get to a conspiracy theory. You know, the sort of market value being the primary value in the world even over the value of human life is prevalent is real.

Like I said a little bit before, the collusion between or the sort of grey zone, the relationship now between representative government and industry is braided together in a way that I donít think it ever has been before. You know so you start asking the question the series basically fundamentally asks is do we and the representative government still have power to stand what we believe is right?

And so the conspiracies that evolve around that really do come from - in a way itís a cautionary tale like because it comes from whatís actually going on. So in that sense, I suppose it has. I donít consider myself a conspiracy theorist. I donít. I think a lot of conspiracy theory is based on sort of knee jerk paranoia.

And I donít consider myself a paranoid individual. But I do find myself concerned with what I see going on in those areas. So itís - to the degree that itís made me lend some credibility to conspiracy theories, then I guess in that sense.

Cody Schultz: Alright. Thank you so much.

Peter Horton: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Emily Murray with NBC. Please go ahead.

Emily Murray: Good morning, guys. How are you?

Peter Horton: Good morning.

Emily Murray: Hello. My question is for Yousef.

Yousef Sweid: Good morning.

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 youíve 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 each one, you know, a bit more. 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 transgenders 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 didnít 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, itís you know all of these things. And of course, reading takes an understanding whatís going on and what the - the character and the production and Peter told me where the character comes from.

And so basically, research.

Emily Murray: Great. And I have a follow-up question for you. This comes from Meg Miller from Twitter. And she says, ďWhat is the most challenging part about playing your character?Ē

Yousef Sweid: Challenging part. I think one of the challenges is sometimes you wish for these kind of characters to have a long time. Like, if you work on this character half a year because the challenge is to forget that youíre acting with a lot of characters. Forget that youíre acting and just to be concentrated on what you want and what is stopping you.

And thatís it. And not - and I didnít have so much time. So I was a lot of times busy of his feminine side and how heís walking or sheís walking and sheís talking. And sometimes I wish and it happened actually that I would forget all that and concentrate on being here and now. And just listening to my partners.

And just being there without trying to be the character and just be there. And I think this is one of the hardest things to do. And I think Peter and all the directors I worked with really helped me to get there. And it was, yes, it was amazing.

Emily Murray: Great. Thank you.

Kelly Fernandez: Great. I think thatís all the time we have for todayís call. Yousef and Peter, thank you again so much for being for us. And everyone, donít forget to tune into American Odyssey on Sundays at 10/9 central on NBC.

Peter Horton: Thanks so much, Kelly. Appreciate it.

Kelly Fernandez: Thank you, guys.

Yousef Sweid: Thank you very much.

Peter Horton: Talk to you later, Yousef. Hang in there.




American Odyssey airs on Sundays at 10/9c

American Odyssey Official Site:

Watch episodes here:

Shakir Khan Bonds with Aslam (Digital Exclusive) - Video

Bonus Scene: The Shakir Khan Show (Digital Exclusive) - Video

About American Odyssey

From writer-director Peter Horton ("Grey's Anatomy") and writers Adam Armus & Kay Foster (ďThe FollowingĒ) comes ďAmerican Odyssey,Ē a complex journey through global politics, corporate espionage, and military secrets involving three strangers who only have one thing in common Ö the truth. In this ďTraffic"-like action drama, an international conspiracy explodes when the lives of a female Special Forces soldier, a disillusioned corporate lawyer and a political activist from a privileged family unexpectedly collide.

After a team of American soldiers battles jihadists in North Africa, they're shocked to learn that theyíve stumbled upon and killed Al Qaeda's top commander. Sgt. Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel, ďPushing DaisiesĒ) ó a soldier, mother, wife and the unit's only female member ó discovers computer files that prove that a major U.S. corporation is funding the jihadists. But before she can tell anyone, her team is attacked and killed. The world is told that the unit was wiped out by enemy militants, but the truth is that Odelle survived and is the only witness to her unit's true assassins: private military contractors Osela (think ďBlackwaterĒ).

As Odelle struggles to survive and find her way home, in New York former U.S. Attorney turned corporate litigator Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli, ďNurse JackieĒ) finds himself embroiled in a merger with the same company that funded the jihadists. As Peter begins to connect the corrupt dots of this companyís terrorist involvement, Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson, ďThe Carrie DiariesĒ), a political activist and trust fund kid, meets a hacker, Bob Offer (Nate Mooney, ďThe RichesĒ), who claims to have unearthed a massive military-industrial-complex conspiracy. Bob is right: He's stumbled onto the same cover-up that Odelle discovered, which will soon become a national headline with lethal implications. The only way they'll ever save their country, their families and themselves is by joining forces and exposing the people behind it.

FIGMO (TV-14) Ė Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 10/9c

Luc (Gregory Fitoussi) comes to Odelle (Anna Friel) and Aslam's (Omar Ghazaoui) rescue, and Odelle learns about the mysterious Frenchman's past. Back in New York, Sophia Tsaldari (Orla Brady) helps Peter (Peter Facinelli) get closer to Yusuf Qasim (Anthony Azizi) and further exacerbates the rift with his family. Bob (Nate Mooney) tells Harrison (Jake Robinson) the truth about Ruby (Daniella Pineda), which has unintended consequences. Suzanne (Sadie Sink) and Julia (Allison Mack) continue to bond, raising questions for both Ron (Jim True-Frost) and Col. Glen (Treat Williams.) Elena Kampouris and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje also star.

Read Our Review of "American Odyssey"

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