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Sweid and Executive Producer Peter Horton of "American
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
American Odyssey Yousef Sweid and Peter Horton Press & Media
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
airs on Sundays at 10/9c
Watch episodes here:
Shakir Khan Bonds with Aslam (Digital Exclusive) -
Scene: The Shakir Khan Show (Digital Exclusive) -
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
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).
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
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
Review of "American Odyssey"
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