Mena Massoud has joined the cast of Open Heart, a television drama that will air on TeenNick in the US (and on YTV in Canada) on January 20th, 2015. Open Heart explores a Dylan Blake’s (Karis Cameron) pursuit in investigating the disappearance of her own father while she volunteers at a hospital. Mena plays Jared Malik, the head of the Youth Volunteer program who “plays by the rules” and will most likely butt heads with the more rebellious Dylan Blake. In this interview, Mena talks about the upcoming series as well as his career as an Egyptian-born actor pursuing acting in Canada. Of course, we also find out which super hero he would want to be if he had to choose.
Your character in Open Heart is described as having “layers of jerk” but with a secret… without giving too much away, what about your character that compelled you to take on the role?
I’ll start off by saying that I think I’m a nice person, but sometimes when I’m introduced to people that don’t really know me, they might get the impression that I’m a little standoffish and that confuses them, so they see me as a jerk. Jared, the character I play on Open Heart, takes that to the next level. So that was really fun. It was like playing myself to the next degree and getting to explore that side of me. Many people might watch the show and not like Jared at first glance but I’ve grown to really like him and understand there is more going on under the surface, like most of us.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the premise for Open Heart? What do you think will be the most intriguing part of the show?
Open Heart follows the story of a young girl who embarks on a journey to find out what happened to her father who has suddenly vanished. Along the way she makes new friends, struggles with old ones, and bumps heads with her family. There are parts of her life that I think every single teenager can relate to and that’s why people should tune in.
The most intriguing part of the show will be the mystery that unfolds behind her father’s disappearance, but also the different relationships that are explored. There’s something for everyone in this show. There is the young teen, the struggling parent, the supporting grandparents and of course Jared, who has no idea what’s going on most of the time but really wants to be a part of it.
Do you like projects that are inspired by family and relationship stories?
Yes I do. In a way all stories are inspired by relationships. I mean, my job as an actor is to understand the character before I try to play them and a huge part of attempting to understand, is to look at their relationships or lack thereof. Even Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver had relationships that were important to the story and to his character.
As an Egyptian actor, do you feel that you have a different perspective when making career and character choices?
Absolutely. First off, I grew up in a culturally-different household. My parents saw certain things differently than other people. I went to schools that had a significantly large Caucasian population and I feel very fortunate because I was able to compare that perspective with my family’s. It allowed me to create a wider world view on things.
Also though, at this point in my career, being a visible minority in this industry still affects me. I can’t compete for roles that require me to be Caucasian or African-American, even if those characters really connect with me and intrigue me. The competition may be less, some people would say, but the amount of work to be had is less as well. However, I think the industry is growing more and more and starting to support actors of all cultural backgrounds.
What are the biggest driving force for you in your career as an actor? Do you have any big goals?
The biggest driving force for me is my passion for acting. I do not want anything more than I want to act. It’s simple really. It’s the industry that is hard. It’s hard to break into and it’s hard to stay, but I like the challenge.
I have big goals and dreams like anybody, but my goal right now is to get to a point where I am always keeping busy with work. Build up experience and keep fine-tuning my craft.
I know you have an upcoming comedy, Master of None, what was that project like? What kind of character did you get to play?
We’re currently in the middle of production for Master of None, and it’s going very well so far. It’s an ambitious project. The best part about it is that I’m working with my friends. We’re there to work, but because we know and understand each other so well, it makes things easier and very enjoyable on set. It’s going to be amazing, I’ll say that much. Look out for it.
I play a character named Majid, very different from Jared. He’s fresh off the boat and he’s desperately trying to start a new life for himself and his family, but he gets lured into the wrong crowd and things change very quickly for him.
Do you see yourself pursuing more comedic projects?
I’ll do anything that I find interesting. Doesn’t matter the genre. I think I’ve done more comedy than drama so far in my career.
Comedy is fun but I’d also love to sink my teeth into something ‘dark’ or ‘heavy’ soon.
If you had superpowers, what would your superhero name be and what powers will you choose? If you prefer to be a super villain, that is also acceptable… we don’t judge!
Let me tell you – I’m a very simple guy when it comes to superpowers. I would love to be Spiderman but I would want to have different colored Spider Suits depending on how I feel that day. If I was planning to really kick ass I would want a black or dark blue suit and if it was a more casual ‘helping people out’ day then the red would be the way to go.
In all seriousness, I would love to play any superhero or super villain.
Follow Mena on Twitter: @MenaMassoud