Alia Shawkat has had a long and storied career in Hollywood. She’s been in everything from Arrested Development to Green Room (which is a film everyone should go watch right now, please and thank you) and Search Party. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the roles she’s had. However, she rarely plays an Arab woman (save for in Search Party and Amreeka). It’s a lot like Tony Shalhoub, who typically plays white men and almost no one remembers that he’s actually Lebanese-American.
However, Shawkat is developing a whole series about an Iraqi immigrant family living in Los Angeles. Plot twist, they run a gentleman’s club in Palm Springs (I really did not see that one coming). She will star as the family’s daughter, which means she’ll actually get to play an Iraqi woman whose family is a big part of her life. In addition, Shawkat’s character will be grappling with her sexuality and identity as the daughter of immigrants. I’d like to see how this plays out because Arab women are so rarely given the space to be three-dimensional in movies and on TV. We’re usually standing silent somewhere, walking several feet behind a man, or something equally as stereotypical. So, of course this is refreshing and intriguing and exciting.
Shawkat co-created the series with Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne, who will executive produce the show with Shawkat (who will also write the series). That’s cool because it goes to show that there are those who can step aside for Arabs to tell their own stories. The show will air on Amazon and honestly my biggest gripe so far is that it’s called Desert People. Why? WHY? Arabs, desert, get it? Ha ha ha. And here I thought we were trying to break stereotypes, but I suppose it’s something I can forgive because I am weak.
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