This weekend, Disney rocked the internet by announcing the stars of its upcoming live-action adaptation of Aladdin. After a long search, Mena Massoud has been cast in the title role. Here are 8 things you need to know about the actor who is bringing the classic animated character to life.
1. HE’S CANADIAN.
Massoud was born in Egypt and then raised in Canada. Now, he splits his time between Toronto and Los Angeles.
2. HE GRADUATED FROM RYERSON.
He started out at the University of Toronto before transferring to an arts program at Ryerson University.
“I left UofT after I auditioned and was accepted into Ryerson and I haven’t looked back from there,” he explained in an interview with The Arts Guild. “Ryerson helped me because I was around acting all the time. It was pretty much all I thought about, even if I didn’t really get to practice every day; I definitely thought about it. Actually a lot of it was just sitting and watching, especially in my last year, but I think a good actor learns from everything. A good learner learns from everything!”
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3. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS ON ‘NIKITA’.
Massoud is fairly new to the acting scene. His first credit is from 2011, when he guest starred in an episode of The CW’s Nikita.
4. HE HAD TO FIGHT FOR HIS BIG BREAK.
In an interview with Defective Geeks, Massoud opened up about the role race has played in his career.
“I grew up in a culturally different household. My parents saw certain things differently than other people. I went to schools that had a significantly large Caucasian population and I feel very fortunate because I was able to compare that perspective with my family’s. It allowed me to create a wider world view on things. Also, though, at this point in my career, being a visible minority in this industry still affects me. I can’t compete for roles that require me to be Caucasian or African American, even if those characters really connect with me and intrigue me. The competition may be less, some people would say, but the amount of work to be had is less as well. However, I think the industry is growing more and more and starting to support actors of all cultural backgrounds.”
5. ‘ALADDIN’ ISN’T THE ONLY PROJECT HE HAS LINED UP.
In addition to leading a huge Disney film, Massoud will also be appearing in Amazon’s Jack Ryan series, starring John Krasinski and Timothy Hutton. In the series, Massoud will play Tarek Kassar, described as “the best and brightest” of the CIA analysts. Yes, please.
6. HE’S VERY INTO FITNESS.
The proof is all over his Instagram.
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7. HE HAS PRINCE-LY GOOD LOOKS.
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8. ROBIN WILLIAMS INSPIRED HIM TO BECOME AN ACTOR.
Being cast in Aladdin was especially amazing for Massoud, who says Robin Williams (the original voice of the Genie, of course) was one of the actors who inspired him.
In an interview with the The Hudsucker, Massoud said Williams was an inspiration “in everything he did…He was an incredibly well-rounded actor but I grew up on his role in Mrs. Doubtfire. That role by itself is very well-rounded and he goes through an amazing journey in that movie. I think it’s very underrated.”