In an exclusive interview with Flickering Myth, Lebanese actor Danny Boushebel, who is about to make his debut on hit CBS show Elementary alongside Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu this month. Boushebel, who has also appeared in House of Cards, The Blacklist and Homeland, is also about to make his debut at the Cannes Film Festival with Much Loved, the new film from Academy Award nominated director Nabil Ayouch.
Boushebel sat down with Senior Staff Writer Scott Davis about his acting dreams, moving to America and what he hopes to achieve in Hollywood…
Danny Boushebel: Since a very young age, acting has been a dream of mine, but growing up in Lebanon, and then mostly Kuwait, it was difficult to do anything about it.
There were theaters and TV shows and other outlets to get involved in, however, I never felt inclined to get deeply involved in that scene because deep inside I knew that going down that path wasn’t going to get me to where I needed and wanted to be. I knew that it would only be limited to that country and region if I were lucky enough. Nevertheless, I still did plays and a few short films in Lebanon before I decided that I needed to formulate a different plan action to pursue this business professionally. And I did! It took many years in the making. And if I had to go back shift things around knowing what I know today, I wouldn’t change a thing about it as I feel that my journey thus far has steadily shifting in the right direction and leading me to better and better things.
SD: Was it difficult to leave your family and friends in Lebanon to move to America? How have your family reacted to your success in the US?
DB: It was difficult especially with the passing of my father at age 47. I felt obligated to stay and help take care of the family business which my mom had been involved in right from the beginning. I was torn as in my heart of hearts I knew all along what my calling was, but then again couldn’t leave my widowed mom all by herself to fend for herself and business in Kuwait. My only brother was constantly busy going about his own life and there was no choice but for me to stay there and be the good and responsible son that I was raised to be. With all that being said, both my mom and brother encouraged me to go and pursue my dreams.
SD: It must have been hugely exciting to be asked to feature in Elementary, given the show’s huge following. Was it your first taste of “true” Hollywood magic?
DB: It was an extremely exciting opportunity to have a guest star role on Elementary. No, it wasn’t my first taste of “true” Hollywood magic as I have already appeared on several other TV Shows prior to this such as The Blacklist, Homeland, Damages, and most recently House of Cards, to name a few.
SD: You are also about to head to Cannes for Much Loved, the new film from award-winning director Nabil Ayouch. You must be very excited?
DB: I am more than excited for ‘Much Loved’ and Cannes and the fact that I just collaborated with the Oscar nominated, as well as award-winning, director Nabil Ayouch and can’t wait to share it with the world. As for me attending Cannes though, unfortunately, my plans have had to change as I have just literally, on Friday, accepted an offer to work on a new HBO comedy TV show which films over the next 2-3 weeks. Filming conflicts with Cannes and the world premiere of ‘Much Loved’. As disappointing as it is to not be there with everyone, this is just the beginning of the films journey and I will definitely be attending the next festival.
SD: Much Loved sounds like a very exciting project with just yourself as the only Hollywood actor in the film – is it a project close to your heart?
DB:Yes, it is. Much Loved covers a very sensitive and real subject (Prostitution) that is currently still being lived in Morocco till this very day. True, I am an American living here, but I am very familiar with the cultures, language, and way of life of that part of the world, having lived for many years in the Gulf region (specifically Kuwait) and in the Middle East in general. The character that I portray in the film also comes from that region. So I am very glad that I get to genuinely play a character without any bias due to my extensive familiarity with that culture even though I am now coming from Hollywood.
SD: Another project you have on the horizon is Unfreedom, which debuts in the USA at the end of May. Can you tell us a little about it?
DB: After the premiere of Unfreedom at the Kerala International Film Festival, the movie was banned, and still is, because a part of the film covers a homosexual topic, which was criminalized in India. The other part is the freedom of speech. Unfreedom is set in the archetypal cities of economical and patriarchal control; four characters come face to face with gruesome acts of violence in a battle against unfreedom. It really is a movie not to be missed when it hits theaters in North America on May 29th, 2015.
SD: You also had a brief stint on House of Cards on Netflix. How was that experience? Did you speak/work with Kevin Spacey at all?
DB: Oh yes I got to spend quite a bit of time with Kevin during our scene. He is a great marvel to watch in a room. He had the crew laughing between takes which made me feel at ease during our scene. He is a great actor to watch in action.
My character, the photographer, in the show was fully interacting with both Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. His on-set chemistry with Robin was super too. It was a great experience for any actor. Besides, how often does one get to hang out in the Oval Office of The White House?
SD: Also, you have your sitcom, Handy Dan D, in post-production right now; can you tell us anything about it? Any familiar faces in the pilot?
DB: When I first started the casting process for ‘Handy Dan D’, I focused on booking friends that I was familiar with, and people that I had worked with before due to many reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, because I envisioned them portraying the roles I offered them. Secondly, I was sure that the only drama that I had to deal with was when the cameras were rolling because I wasn’t only starring in my own show, but in addition to writing and producing it, I also directed it. It was a great challenge done with a tight budget and a labor of love. So having the right cast and team was my priority. Thirdly, being an actor myself, I totally understand the hardships, challenges, and opportunities that actors constantly deal with and so I want to grant this opportunity to ones that I felt were worthy, appreciative, and who would feel as passionate as I am about the project. I didn’t care that they were unknown, yet experienced, actors so much because I want to be able to help push their careers forward as well along with mine.
SD: Do you get to go to the cinema much now you are in America? Anything films you have enjoyed lately?
DB: I have always loved going to the movies and still do. Although I mostly watch movies at home these days, I try to get out at least once every two-three months or so during off-peak hours during the week, or matinees, despite my tight schedule. After all, that is where and how my dream to be in this business stemmed from. I have recently enjoyed watching The Imitation Game, Birdman, and The Theory of Everything – all amazing, yet different movies.
SD: Are there any actors or directors you would love to work with in the future? Any other films in the pipeline aside from the sitcom?
DB: Wow – that’s a tough one as there are far too many actors and directors out there that I would love to work with, but to name few actors: Idris Elba, Bradley Cooper, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Denzel Washington, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson. A few of the directors I would love to work with would be; Martin Scorcese, Bryan Singer, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Michael Bay, and Alejandro Inarritu just to name a few.
SD: Any advice you would give any young actor who is trying to break it in the US?
DB: You need to make a solid decision and get a very good idea about the business before getting into it. You have to fight for it like it were your last breath and make sure that no matter what, you will stick to it as you too can be the next actor/actress that you’ve admired on TV or the Silver Screen at one point. Remember, they were all at one point where you are standing right now and envisioned it, believed it, and made it happen. On another note, never compare your journey to any other actor as there is only one you and that one you is what needs to be unique and shine all the way to the top. All the others taken or taking this business more seriously than you are while you are trying to come up with excuses not to keep getting up again in the process of rejections along the way. They are not personal. On the contrary, they are what will help shape you to become a well-rounded, more grounded, extremely personable and relatable actor. Keep your chin up and see where you want to be next and you’ll soon realize that your body will get you there.
Our thanks to Liz Rodriguez and the team at EMR Media for setting up the interview.
Many thanks to Danny Boushebel to taking the time to do this interview.