Houston

Mo Amer calls ‘Mo’ a love letter to his Palestinian heritage

The debut season, comprised of eight half-hour episodes, was created by Amer and Emmy-nominated actor Ramy Youssef, Amer’s good buddy and former roommate.

NEW YORK — Up-and-coming comic Mo Amer was opening for Dave Chappelle in 2014 when the extra established comic made a suggestion: Amer ought to make a quick movie to introduce his act.

“I started thinking about the short film. I put it together, I was obsessed. And then I wrote it out and then all my friends were like, ‘This is genius, bro. You need to save this for a TV series.’ And I was like, ‘Word? TV series?’ Since then, I’ve just been kind of accumulating all these stories from my mother, my family… my history, my refugee experience in America, the fish-out-of-water element.”

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Amer’s true household historical past serves as the muse of his new Netflix dramedy, “Mo.” He describes the collection as a love letter to his Palestinian heritage and his hometown.

“Although it’s a refugee story, an immigrant Palestinian story, it’s also a love letter to Houston. It’s also like an everyman struggle (story) — people who are working paycheck to paycheck, they’re trying to take care of family, people that are dealing with addiction,” mentioned the 41-year-old. “It has all these layers to it.”

The debut season, comprised of eight half-hour episodes, was created by Amer and Emmy-nominated actor Ramy Youssef, Amer’s good buddy and former roommate. “Mo,” along with shows like Youssef’s critically acclaimed “Ramy,” is a part of a rising — however nonetheless extraordinarily underrepresented — motion in Hollywood bringing Muslim and Middle Eastern tales to the lots.

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The collection follows Mo Najjar (performed by Amer) as his household, together with his mom (Farah Bsieso) and brother (Omar Elba) navigate via life within the Houston space in methods many immigrants in America are pressured to: looking for employment with out citizenship and subsequently working odd, under-the-table jobs, in addition to maneuvering an typically unforgiving well being care system and attempting assimilate into society.

Similar to the storyline, Amer’s personal dad and mom have been initially from Palestine earlier than fleeing to Kuwait. Amer was born there, however the Gulf War pressured them to go away and ultimately settle in Texas. Learning about his household historical past and their struggles via conversations with his mom, Amer, helped create a blueprint. However, he additionally discovered onerous, beforehand unknown truths, together with how his father was tortured in Kuwait.

In the collection, flashbacks give context, and a few are pivotal to each the present and his actual life; episode seven opens with his mom cleverly hiding money because the household prepares to escape Kuwait.

“My mom started just crying when she saw it. She was just like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you recreated this like that.’ She’s like, ‘How did you even remember the house, the colors, the things on the walls?’” Amer recalled proudly. “I can’t forget that.”

Houston is thought for a lot of issues: space exploration, its world-renowned medical middle and its slowed down hip-hop music known as screwed music; what America’s fourth largest metropolis will not be identified for is a movie and TV trade. However, Amer was adamant about capturing there, aiming to elevate the present’s authenticity issue. Despite a couple of major films shot in Houston in the early ’90s it hasn’t been a vacation spot for moviemakers.

Local expertise all through Texas was employed for manufacturing, and there are a few notable visitor appearances, together with rising Houston-based rapper Tobe Nwigwe who performs Najjar’s greatest buddy, and cameos from well-known Texas-flag bearers Paul Wall and Bun B of the legendary southern duo, UGK.

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“It just really was shocking to me there’s never been a narrative sitcom, native series filmed out of Houston, which is absurd to me knowing what Houston has to offer,” he defined. “Everything is deliberate from the music choice… to the attire, to the accents, to the feel, the picture, the cinematography. There’s nothing that we didn’t think really about.”

“Mo” has change into considered one of 2022’s buzzworthy and binge-worthy reveals, attracting viewers from all backgrounds and a deep respect from many Middle Eastern Americans. But he emphasizes the present has been a very long time within the making.

“Netflix drops everything all at the same day and it’s just like, ‘BOOM! Here it is.’ But those episodes are many, many years of really thinking this through,” he mentioned. “You hope it resonates in that way, and it’s such a relief when it does. It’s like, ‘They get it. I didn’t screw this up.’”

In 2019, Amer joined KHOU 11’s Jason Bristol for a journey round Houston:

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