Watch: From Rom-Coms to Joining the Marvel Universe, Out Actor Haaz Sleiman Pushes Boundaries

Saturday January 30, 2021

Haaz Sleiman
Haaz Sleiman  (Source:Instagram)

Out actor Haaz Sleiman is part of Marvel Universe history in the upcoming "Eternals," playing the husband of gay superhero Phastos. He's more down-to-earth is his current role in the gay-rom com "Breaking Fast."

The genesis of "Breaking Fast" was a 2015 short film of the same name by queer writer-director Mike Mosallam. After screening at film festivals throughout the world (including Cannes), Mosallam said that there was a demand to tell more of the story. "I started to really put pen to paper and think about what would happen. We found an investor, and the rest is history," he told NewNowNext in an interview along with the film's star, out actor Haaz Sleiman.

Sleiman came out in 2017, Watch his coming out message.

In the film Sleiman plays Mo, a West Hollywood-based, gay Lebanese-American, who finds himself unhappily single when his closeted boyfriend tells him on the first night of Ramadan that he is going to marry a woman, he finds himself suddenly single. Cut to a year later, when his BFF (Amin El Gamal from "Good Trouble") introduces him to handsome, All-American Kal (Michael Cassidy), Mo is intrigued, but cautious as he begins a relationship with Kal during the month-long religious holiday.

"As in most rom-coms, it's not if the couple will get together but how," writes LA Times critic Gary Goldstein in reviewing the film. "Still, Mosallam's incisive and heartfelt, if occasionally on-the-nose, approach to matters of love, religion, family and culture sets the film apart.

'Add in Sleiman's endearing performance, some enticing Middle Eastern food porn, a clever dropped-towel scene, and a nice use of L.A. locales — from WeHo's LGBT Rainbow District (formerly Boystown) to Runyon Canyon to the Vista Theatre (in a sweet, unlikely scenario) — and 'Breaking Fast' makes for a satisfying repast."

(Source: Haaz Sleiman and Michael Cassidy in "Breaking Fast")

Sleiman also received high praise from Mosallam, telling NewNowNext that they have been friends for many years with families that come from the same town in Lebanon. "Haaz, as both himself and an actor, is a pioneer in a lot of ways. He's so wonderful and talented, and there are so few actors who could really live in the character. I don't think Mo and Haaz are the same, but there's so much about the world they come from that's similar that I knew he 'got it' right away. It was a good thing we had a shorthand, because I could be really upfront with him about how stuff needed to land, and he was very receptive. We had a great working dynamic."

For his part, Sleiman related to Mo "big time," he said. "There are some similarities between Mo and I. As Lebanese [people], we have a lot of curiosity about other people's cultures, music, food — that's something we celebrate."

And that towel-dropping scene led to high anxiety on the set. "It was a nightmare for me! I'm very shy," he explained. Mosallam assured him it would be done tastefully, but during shooting Sleiman dropped his towel and "screamed like a girl, that was not acting. That was me freaking out, and Mike went, 'That's it, we're gonna use that one!' And he picked the take I felt the most fragile and vulnerable in, but I gotta give it to him, it was pretty funny."

Sleiman's career has seen him play everything from Jesus to a Palestinian activist and a Syrian immigrant who befriends Richard Jenkins in the acclaimed 2007 indie "The Visitor." He has had featured roles on the series "Nurse Jackie" and "Jack Ryan."

Though what looks to be his best-known role has yet to be seen: That of the husband of Phastos (played by Brian Tyree Henry) in Marvel's upcoming "Eternals." Phasto marks the first LGBTQ superhero in the Marvel Universe, Cinema Blend reported last March.

"It's my first Marvel film, so of course I'm excited. My gut feeling is you'll be so proud. What Marvel has been able to accomplish, I'm so proud of them because they approached it in a very thoughtful way, and Phastos is one of the biggest superheroes in the film. I'm his husband, an architect; we have a child. Even though I wished I was the superhero, because when will we see an Arab Muslim openly gay actor playing a superhero? I can't wait to see it," he told NewNowNext.

Watch this video of Sleiman's roles:

Comments on Facebook