A L E X A N D E R U L O O M
Interview} John Russo
Photographs by} John Russo
Styling by} Jennifer Austin
Grooming by} Laly Zambrana
Location} Santa Barbara, California
Produced by} Ken Waller at Photohouse Productions
JR: Tell me about your childhood in Iraq?
AU: Although I technically spent some of my childhood years in Iraq, it was because of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 / first Gulf war that my family had to move into a refugee camp before being relocated to Washington state by the US government when I was only 6 years old.
JR: You had a pretty rough road on your path to success. You and your family lived in a refugee camp. Tell me about that experience and how it shaped who you are today?
AU: Refugee camps are never easy for anyone regardless of circumstance and/or country as I know there are many across the world who’ve had to experience living in one. That aside, ‘challenging’ is probably the best way to describe those living situations as it’s really a waiting game to see what is going to happen next and where you might end up. I think for myself and my family, knowing what it was like to not live in one made us appreciate what little we had at the time as well as who we were with. In my case, despite the majority of my family being relocated to the US, my mother unfortunately was not part of that move and therefore had to stay back in Iraq which made the transition all the more difficult for me and my family who did go.
JR: You were a volunteer for the US Military. Can you tell me about this experience?
AU: Going back to the Middle East later in life as a contracted translator for the United States military really opened my eyes to just how influential America’s muscle power is on the world stage and not just in that region. And although I wouldn’t say I agree with any said political agenda, being able to physically be present while playing a key role between the armed forces and locals was meaningful as I felt deeply connected to their plight as well as aspirations in just trying to live as ’normal’ of a day-to-day life.
JR: Why acting? What inspired you to follow this path?
AU: My first real taste of acting came about when I was living in Hawaii and assisted on the set of ABC Network’s LOST series that filmed entirely on the island of Oahu. Being around both other actors and crew with such a gorgeous backdrop really fueled my already growing imagination of what I could do in life. Ironically, one could almost say I was ‘lost’ until that unexpected and amazing experience laid the groundwork for my own pathway forward in finding myself and realizing what I was capable of.
JR: In spite of being a US citizen, you mentioned that your appearance type cast you as a terrorist. How do you handle this?
AU: Look, I get what I look like and why it is easy for many to assume what roll I should/could play if even just to get my foot in the door. But looking at the landscape of both television and film nowadays, it is easy to see how far things have come and that one’s look shouldn’t dictate what they should be playing just because. I profoundly believe in staying authentic with who I am, owning my look but also using it as an opportunity to expand one’s horizons while educating every step of the way; be it to just one person or to the masses.
JR: You moved to Turkey and accepted a role on a TV show, When did you decide you had to leave the US to find acting work?
AU: As devastating as the pandemic, as a whole was, it was actually the catalyst for really pushing me to get out there and keep going despite the then worldwide challenges that everyone was going through. But long story short it was actually a show called “Um Badila” (The Surrogate Mother) that my first opportunity came up in the Middle East and that was filmed in Lebanon. That led to a starring roll on “Khalid” which was filmed in Iraq and subsequently led to my third and currently airing lead in “Heera” (Confusion) that recently wrapped filming in Turkey. But all in the same general region and for which I couldn’t be anymore grateful for and the success they have all had thus far.
JR: How has your experience and the success you have found in Turkey affected your life?
AU: I honestly am so humbled as to how fast and quickly things happened in just the last few years. And at time when many, even those here in Hollywood were struggling to find work, I was going, going, going! To pinpoint one change in my life is almost impossible but again, all I can say is that I am extremely grateful and truly honored to have found my way forward and know that this is all just the beginning of many great things to come.
JR: What advice would you give a young Middle Eastern man who wants to pursue acting in Hollywood?
AU: That is such a tough question and really gives me pause to reflect at how honestly challenging it has been to prove myself on so many levels. I say this because there is no easy or direct pathway forward to doing what I get to do. But honestly, and to anyone reading this, as generic as it might sound; if I can do it then anyone has a shot! And this is not just for my fellow Middle Eastern sisters and brothers as this goes to anyone who doesn’t fit the ’norm’ be it their look, cultural background, language barriers and even location. Look at the Oscars this year which proved that the diversity of actors and particularily that of “Everything, Everywhere All At Once” proved just that point. If you believe that you have it in yourself then do what you can, where you are and don’t let the “Hollywood Standards” hold you back for any reason. You will experience a thousand “No’s” but who’s counting that when all you need is one single “Yes”!
JR: What is your dream for your acting career?
AU: Sure I can drop a list of known names and/or shows or films of what I would like to a part of but really, aside from making a name for myself outside of the Middle Eastern market onto the global stage, being able to do what I have grown to truly love in acting as a life-long career (ups and downs and all) is my dream. I want to experience it all but proving myself in various rolls that push boundaries is how I see things ultimately turning out.
To learn more about Alexander follow him @alexanderuloom and watch him on “Heera” (Confusion)