“I’m Ready To Break Out And Challenge The World We Live In.” Haaz Sleiman speaks on his new show and how coming out as a “total bottom” impacted his career

“I’m Ready To Break Out And Challenge The World We Live In.” Haaz Sleiman speaks on his new show and how coming out as a “total bottom” impacted his career

Little America is a new anthology series by Apple TV+ that highlights stories of eight different immigrant experiences.

Haaz Sleiman stars in the episode titled The Son as Rafiq, who is forced to flee his home in Syrian village of Qardha, after his father catches him kissing another man. Initially, Rafiq goes to Damascus, where he meets another gay man, who encourages him to seek asylum in the West.

Sleiman, an openly gay Arab who moved to America from Lebanon as a young person, tells Salon he immediately connected with the story.

“I felt [the script] was so strong, and relatable, and universal,” he says. “There are similarities to my story. My father emotionally set me on fire, but over time, he actually did love me. He told me he loved me and would defend me.”

Growing up in Lebanon in the 1980s, Sleiman kept his sexuality a closely guarded secret. He said he had to “hide and not share [my true self] with my mother and siblings, and even my best friend from age six, who was actually gay. Later in our 30s, he and I talked, and it was: Look at all these years we wasted!”

He continued, saying that the fear of being found out was “debilitating” and “crippling.”

“I felt so isolated and lonely,” he recalls, “and I felt I couldn’t share who I am with anyone. I felt I was not seen, that I didn’t matter, that something was wrong with me. But no matter how much I tried to change, you cannot fight nature, and I kept losing to what’s natural.”

Of course, that is no longer his experience. In 2017, Sleiman made headlines when he came out publicly as both gay and “a total bottom.” This was eight years after he first denied his sexuality in an interview. He came out in a video posted to Facebook where he explained that he was inspired to make his declaration after realizing the homicide rates of LGBT+ people.

“Fans around the world have thanked me for the way I came out and said I made them feel powerful and not apologize for the way I am,” he recalls. “I’m glad I’m inspiring young queer people across the globe and giving them a role model.”

He continues, “That I came out and said, ‘I’m a total bottom,’ might turn off executives. I didn’t care. Coming out made me a better actor. And I don’t regret it. … I’m ready to break out and change the conversation and challenge the world that we live in.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Sleiman spoke about the impact of “tradition, culture and religion” for gay Arabs.

“It’s the patriarchal aspect,” he said. “It’s how much of a man you are. If you have any feminine qualities, the feminine has to be suppressed; to cry is to show weakness. That’s the bigger umbrella that tradition, culture and religion fall under.”

Asked what he hopes audiences take away from Little America, Sleiman says he hopes it opens their eyes to the immigrant experience.

“I think the show is a reminder that it is a land of immigrants, and Americans should be kinder to each other because we all come from a different part of the world, different continents, different religions, backgrounds, and ethnicities,” he says. “It reconnects us to the humanity of that journey of the American immigrant and what the nation is really based upon. It reminds us about that in a beautiful way and the truth of that. Even when an immigrant moves to America for a better life, it’s not sweet and perfect.”

Check out the trailer of Little America below:

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1 Comment

  1. Cedar
    January 21, 08:05 Reply

    Have started on the series, nice stories if you ask me.

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