Siddig Is Proud of 'Syriana' and Star TrekBy Michelle
December 31, 2005 - 6:02 AM
"I'm part of the instutution of Star Trek so people generally know me and I'm a kind of safe bet," said Alexander Siddig (Bashir), who noted that as a result he has an easier time getting roles than many Arab actors. But he also finds himself in an odd position, as someone who is British and Sudanese - the nephew of a former Prime Minister of Sudan - trying to straddle two societies that are often perceived as being in conflict, as in his new film Syriana.
"It's really hard because I have two cultures in me: my English culture, Western culture if you like, and my Arab culture...and they are conflicted," Siddig told Robin Young of the radio show Here and Now (via Sid City Forums). Asked about his uncle, Siddig noted that Sadiq al-Mahdi remains a powerful force in Sudanese politics and that he is not certain how closely his father's brother was involved in some of the atrocities committed during the Sudanese civil war. Though he called his uncle "somewhat reform-minded," he added, "I don't know how clean his hands are and I'm not sure I'll ever find out."
Siddig said that he was tempted to go back to explore his family in Sudan, whom he thinks may be more likely to talk to him about the situation in the country than an outsider. "People are essentially the same," he noted, "just as able to be great friends as great enemies." But he denied that he modeled his character Prince Nasir on his uncle, saying, "I don't know if I consciously based it on him. It's tricky, otherwise, to do a sort of pastiche of a man who is around and is related to me. But I couldn't help but be influenced by him."
Siddig said that he was proud of the complexity of the script for Syriana and called it "an extraordinary privilege" to be cast in a role "by a writer I already admired, Stephen Gaghan, who won of course the Oscar for Traffic. I noticed it was this wonderful fleshed out extraordinary character who was in a quandary, given the fact that he was trying to rule a Middle Eastern country in today's political climate, and his ideals ended up taking a backseat."
Though Siddig has played terrorists in the past - "I try to play any guy who I think is going to make a contribution to the big discussion...how we understand each other," he explained - he was pleased to be playing a character who was so different from the current stereotypical role for actors from the Middle East. In Syriana, "like any country, if I'm going to talk in absolutes, there are bad people, good people and all kinds of shades of gray between those two extremes," he observed. "The movie is trying to be very careful not to patronize the Arabs by painting too bright a picture, or denigrate them by saying they are all evil crazy people who are willing to blow themselves up on planes." Yet he has been willing to take on such parts, he added, because "when you get a chance as an actor to play roles like that, you get a chance to understand yourself" and to try to make others understand as well.
Though Young wondered whether Siddig was tired of people coming up to him with bat'leths and prosthetic foreheads, Siddig insisted, "No, I love Klingons! I have no problem with them at all...I love hanging out with them." He said that when he has the opportunity to attend Star Trek conventions, "we chat and go for a drink...I enjoy the Star Trek fans."
The full audio interview, which aired on WBAL Boston, may be downloaded Sid City Forums.