Breaking out as one of this Fall’s faces to watch is actor Hadi Tabbal who is currently co-starring in NBC’s drama series THE BRAVE. No matter what the scene, one always has the sense that there is a lot more going on with Hadi’s character Amir. That layered and nuanced portrait has made him riveting and intriguing to watch. In an exclusive interview Hadi talks about the immense appeal and surprising aspects of his role in NBC’s THE BRAVE. He also shares some of the key insights he has learned in his career that have helped him reach this cool place in his career.
What initially appealed to you about the role of Amir Al-Raisani and working on NBC’s THE BRAVE?
HADI: In fact THE BRAVE is the first show that I read for and booked this past pilot season, among other bookings that were coming in around it. There is something serendipitous that brought me to this project and role so to speak. Amir is a great mix of things: he is tough, he is a CIA operative, he is on a very elite military omega team, he is Middle Eastern, he speaks several languages, he is religious, he is new on the team… there is so much! That specific combination of things to play is very exciting.
How would you describe who Amir is and his arc this season?
HADI: I love Emmy Magazine’s description of Amir as a quiet hero. At least he was more quiet in the pilot, but we get to know him more during this season. I think he is someone who keeps to himself and is committed beyond commitment. He is very tough and his vulnerability shows around very specific provocations, especially around his faith and integrity. He is intelligent, a fast thinker, and emotionally invested in his work. Amir starts off as a new member on the team and eventually gets accepted fully on it – during the course of which we discover that he joined the CIA in order to fight extremism after a personal incident that involved his sister.
What do you most admire and/or like about him?
HADI: I love Amir’s sense of integrity and unwavering beliefs. He stands by his ideals no matter what – and most importantly, he is VERY CLEAR on them.
What is it like working alongside such a talented ensemble on THE BRAVE? Who do you get to work the most with?
HADI: The team is really talented. It is a mix of pleasure, excitement, and responsibility – to reciprocate the work all the time. The team is very collaborative, generous, and committed to the material. We spend hours talking about the work and story. I get to work mostly with the team on the ground (Mike, Noah, Demetrius, Natacha), more than the equally talented group at the DIA. Depending on the episode, I get to work more with one member of the team than the other. We are paired differently every now and then.
What on-screen team relationship do you think Amir values the most and why?
HADI: I think his relationship to the team as a whole, but to Dalton very much is specific. I think the respect for the work, the team, the mission, and the victims that we save all make him honor his relationship to Dalton, the leader. There are many great moments of trust and decision making between the two here and there. I love that.
Any favorite scenes that you got to work on so far?
HADI: Yes. I just shot a great scene with James Tupper, fantastic actor joining us towards the latter part of the season (which we are shooting now). It was a psychological scene between two people who know how to play each other, and he gets me. I love it. I also loved my scenes in “It’s all Personal” with May Calamawy who played Mina, the girl we end up saving. In that episode, there is a scene where I save her by killing the ‘bad guy’ and blowing my cover. I knife Omar as I tell him: “Yes. I am the traitor. I have dedicated myself to bringing down men like you, men who have perverted our faith, and I won’t sleep until all of you are in the hell you deserve.” I find this scene and line in specific very powerful emotionally as well as politically as it tries to rectify a lot of misconceptions and prejudices against Islam and the predominant perceptions associating this faith with extremism and violence.
Then what is your favorite part about working on the show?
HADI: Celebrating a great day of work at the end of the day with a beautiful New Mexico sunset. And playing Amir all the time of course.
What has been the one thing you as an actor haven taken away from working on THE BRAVE?
HADI: How inspiring it is to work with a diverse group of individuals who are very different from each other… and when they come together at work, a magical mix happens! And we are all changed.
What do you hope viewers to take away from watching THE BRAVE?
HADI: I hope they are entertained. I hope they are moved by our stories. And I hope we are all learning together more about the landscape we are living in today.
What is the biggest challenge working on THE BRAVE?
HADI: I find successive night shoots into the early morning hours in general challenging, but that is not specific to THE BRAVE. On THE BRAVE, I would say the most challenging thing is maybe perfecting one’s weapons technique especially when we are shooting in spaces or weather conditions that make it a bit more difficult.
What is the biggest surprise working on THE BRAVE?
HADI: How unbelievably tight and loving the actors are, as well as the crew all the way up to the creatives. It’s a big family!
What has surprised you most about your career to date?
HADI: That I will be playing a badass omega team member on a military show in camo. Didn’t think it was going to be the first things coming my way this year.
Then what are the perks of where you are in your career right now?
HADI: The perks are having the visibility of being on a network show and sharing the work with a wide audience. It is also a great learning experience. We are also at a time where we are trying to understand the political landscape today, which is opening it up to many Middle Eastern roles that are becoming more and more specific and complex and being played by Middle Eastern actors. It’s a great time of potential for these roles. Hopefully, they keep getting refined and more artists from within the culture can write/ direct/act in those projects.
Do any of your characters and the situations they find themselves in ever leave a lasting impression on you?
HADI: Yes. Absolutely. There are some moments (experiences) that are very moving to the character, and inevitably, moving to the actor – especially when they relate somehow to your life (they always do anyway). But those moments stay. And I don’t want them to ever go away. They remind me of why we do what we do.
Has there been any great advice you have gotten? What advice would you offer to other upcoming and aspiring actors?
HADI: Yes. I have been given fantastic advice by so many wonderful people I am lucky to be surrounded by: friends, family, mentors, collaborators, and so on. It’s hard to remember one specifically. I think my favorite advice (coming from several) was: Listen. Listen. Listen. As a person in life and as an actor. It transforms everything. I do advise other upcoming and aspiring actors to not be too hard on themselves in finding their voice and place. I learnt that these things take time and effort. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but oh well…
Do you have any additional upcoming projects that you can share that fans should keep an eye out for?
HADI: Yes, I have been attached to a trilogy of plays that is going up in DC next Spring and possibly a film with a Sundance Award winning director and friend. It’s up in the air still but we are hoping we can shoot this winter.
To see what further surprises and remarkable moments are ahead for Amir and the entire team, be sure to tune in for tonight’s Fall finale of THE BRAVE at 10:00 p.m. on NBC. The show will return in 2018, so follow the show on Twitter @NBCTheBrave for updates and previews. You can also follow Hadi on Twitter @haditabbal to find out more about his upcoming films and projects.
Fall finale episode of THE BRAVE preview: