Anything’s Possible star Abubakr Ali is a new leading man for the ages in Billy Porter’s historic Prime Video rom-com, but he initially says that it took a while for it to set in that he was actually one of the leads.
“To be fully transparent and honest…I was a bad actor [laughs],” Ali told Shadow and Act when speaking about his initial audition. “I had like 30 pages of audition material and I was flying out for work the next morning at like 7 a.m. When I taped that audition, just based on things I’d seen in the past in terms of people that look like me and people that come from my background in scripts, I fully assumed this was going to be like ‘Best Friend No.7.’ The possibility of this character being the leading man of the piece was not even in my brain. It wasn’t until I got the call back that I was like, ‘You know, I should probably read the script.’ [laughs] And even then I’m like, ‘Wow, this guy says a lot of lines.’ What’s tragic about it is like just having been used to things I’d read in the past, even until maybe like 30 pages in, I genuinely was still in denial that this was the leading man of the piece. It is very clear on the page, but just having seen things in the past, like I truly could not fathom it.”
The film’s history-making genesis (it is the first major rom-com with a trans lead at the center and a rare rom-com with a Muslim lead) is something that is also not lost on the actor.
He explained, “The question of the movie is, how do you as marginalized person, balance your desire to just live freely, live joyfully and live kind of the life you want– versus the expectations of people around you of what they believe your experience should be? That’s kind of like a big question of the piece and I think it’s a question that so many people deal with. Like for me as an artist, how do I go through my career and how do I ‘do my thing,’ while fully acknowledging who I am and the skin that I live in and my lived experience– but also not allowing the powers that be [and] their perception of what my experience should be define that– especially working in an industry that is primarily led by straight, cis white men who kind of have a very specific point of view of what your life should be and what your artistic mode of expression should be. Then [there’s] me, seeing that, but also being like, ‘Well, this is what I have to say, and this is kind of what I want to do.’ How do I balance that and how do I navigate that? [It’s] is a thing that so many artists right now are grappling with”
Ali also teased us upcoming role in Netflix’s Grendel, which is based on the comic book. The series makes him the first Arab Muslim male actor to be a lead in a comic book adaptation.
“So I’m a Gemini, [laughs] and for me here’s something so titillating and I love the mischief of this,” he said when speaking about the project. “In Anything’s Possible, we see this like, lovely, sweet, shy, enclosed human being who is just like the nicest guy you can imagine. And just get to work on something where, truly on every possible plane, to play the complete opposite human…like a traumatized, deeply haunted murderer/antihero….to me, that’s really exciting. As an artist, there’s something amazing about that, and also my inner Gemini…I just get so much joy of like, ‘Here’s the surprise of that.’ There’s something really cool about that. And in terms of being the first, I’m still learning how to navigate how to talk about it. But the thing I constantly have to remind myself, apart from the responsibilities that I have, is that community that I’m representing and the community that I feel very fortunate to [represent] as the first, is not a monolith. There are so many different layers and intersectionalities and different types of people within it. So I hope that me being the first in this doesn’t make me the end all be all, but the beginning of multiple conversations with more and more people that can be a part of those conversations.”
Watch the full interview below in which he goes deeper into Anything is Possible, talks about working with Porter and more.