Adnan Jaffar makes an appearance in the current season of Homeland, sharing the screen with none other than Art Malik. He talks to Instep about the experience…
“Internationally, your talent, skill and merit counts, not whitening your skin, extreme muscle bounding or developing a fake accent. Be grounded and work hard, because ridiculous posturing will get you nowhere.”
In a world of actors who claim to have been approached by Holly-wood there are others, like Adnan Jaffar, who prefer discretion. The news anchor turned actor from Pakistan has managed to break into the big league with his appearance in the eighth and final season of Homeland without even announcing it. He plays a Pakistani Army officer in the ninth episode of the ongoing season, a role that’s more or less offered to Indian actors who seem to have a stronghold on US TV.
Instep On Sunday spoke to the actor, currently seen as Dr Feroz in drama serial Ruswai, about his international debut in Homeland. In this interview Adnan shares his experience of working in a major American TV show, sharing the screen with the legendary Art Malik and his transition from being a news anchor to a newsmaker.
Instep on Sunday (IoS): First of all, congratulations on playing a cameo in Homeland. How did that happen in the first place?
Adnan Jaffar (AJ): Thank you very much. The Homeland people were looking for an English-speaking actor with a South Eastern face and since I have a presence on Netflix (thanks to a couple of films), their search led to me. I was approached through a casting person who sent me an audition script, which I promptly recorded and sent back. They took a few weeks and luckily, the production team cast me in the character. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it, being a ‘nobody’ on the international scene. So many people audition without success, plus it was such a high profile series. Any Indian actor could easily have done it, but I guess me (a Pakistani actor) being in it brought more authenticity.
IoS: How was the experience of working in a major American TV show different from working at home?
AJ: I must say, it was the most impeccable production system I have ever witnessed. All my senses popped out because of the way the production was being run by Fox 21 Television Studios. Nobody was screaming on the set and everyone was doing a specific job assigned to them. All instructions were given to me in booklet form on arrival at Casablanca Airport and even minor things like a separate cell phone with numbers of the whole production team fed in with available balance were taken care of. After every take, I was taken to a Green Room and had two people on me all the time. They were constantly checking my uniform, my shoes, etc. to see if there was anything out of place because that went with my character. It was just a grand time, where I was so thoroughly well taken care of!
IoS: How was your experience of sharing the scene with the legendary Art Malik?
AJ: Art Malik is a wonderful actor and I learned a lot from him during our scene together. We both come from a theatre background and that sort of connected us. He has shared the screen with some of the best actors in Hollywood but even then, we rehearsed a lot in the most casual form. Our scene had two to three lines but we practiced it as many as a dozen times. We were totally there for each other, playing two Army officers; he being the retired officer and me being the serving one. It was all fun. You will be able to see that while my character is over the edge, as the sh*t is going to hit the fan, his character remains calm because of being well-versed in American politics.
IoS: How did you feel about representing Pakistan on an international screen?
AJ: Playing a Pakistani Army officer was a proud moment for me. Usually in Hollywood, most of the time they cast Indian actors in the role of a Pakistani because the Indian entertainment industry is so well connected with them, and has been for decades. We are quite alienated, hence I consider my Homeland cameo as an ice breaker. The executive producer and director were very encouraging and satisfied as I took three to four takes maximum.
IoS: Where was the scene shot because from what we have seen, it looks like a place that resembles Pakistan, but is not Pakistan?
AJ: My scene was shot in a posh neighborhood of Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. Since it was a double camera shoot (huge Arri Alexas), no time was wasted and it was all done in quick succession.
IoS: Casablanca has its own magical history; how did you feel about shooting in a culturally rich city?
AJ: Casablanca is like a gateway for Hollywood for whenever they want to shoot South Asia or South East Asia, as it more or less resembles the culture of that area. I am quite happy that I managed to perform at a place where Hollywood has been going for decades now and where films like Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy franchise, The Hurt Locker, etc. were partially shot. What would have made me even happier is if those scenes were shot on actual locations in Pakistan, especially since we are now emerging a tourist destination of repute!
IoS: Any advice for the local filmmakers now that you have had witnessed how it is done in the international arena?
AJ: I was quite surprised to see a lot of local Moroccan Arabs, film students, technicians who were interning/working as part of the crew with Homeland producers.
A lot of pro-fessional exchange was happening on location as the locals were learning a lot. It is about time that the Pakistani Government take steps and open up doors for international productions. We can only become a number one tourist destination if we invite producers from abroad to shoot in Pakistan, rather than going for a place that resembles the country. With the world becoming a global village, we should declare ourselves open not just for films but for web platforms as it will help the local actors, film students and technicians in a big way.
IoS: You have made a successful transition from being an English news anchor to a celebrated film and TV actor. When you made the switch? Did you know that one day your decisions might take you to Hollywood?
AJ: You might call it a little foot in the door to Hollywood (laughs). Yes, from an English anchor to Theatre then TV dramas, a few films on the Pakistani cinema revival wave, and now a little entry here. I am happy with the way things have progressed for me. Let’s see how it goes, but my ultimate soul satisfaction would be to see and be part of great films in Pakistan. I must say one thing here that internationally, your talent, skill and merit counts, not whitening your skin, extreme muscle bounding or developing a fake accent. Be grounded and work hard, because ridiculous posturing will get you nowhere.