'Ramy' actor Laith Nakli says Season 2 will be 'edgy and non-apologetic', hints at special Uncle Naseem episode
When the first season of 'Ramy' dropped on Hulu, the show and its creator and star, Ramy Youssef, earned critical acclaim for creating a show about American Muslims that went beyond the established narrative and helped many feel represented. Youssef even won a Golden Globe award in 2019 for Best Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy for his portrayal of Ramy Hassan.
One of the characters that make 'Ramy' so real is Uncle Naseem, Ramy's racist and homophobic uncle, who is also very protective of his family. Naseem is portrayed by British actor Laith Nakli who spoke to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) on the show and its upcoming season. Nakli tells us he has known Ramy since the latter was 17 years old, saying, "When he created the show, he always kind of had me in mind for a role in the show." Though Nakli was passed over after he auditioned for a different part in the pilot, Youssef wrote another part specifically with Nakli in mind after the show was picked up.
On the show's second season, Nakli tells us that it is "very edgy" and "really non-apologetic." He says that it "goes places where normally you would expect a show like this to be afraid to go to."
He also says some storylines and characters might be called controversial, though Nakli admits that what people say is controversial should be normal. He says, "We can normalize this conversation that people can comfortably start having."
While Nakli admits Uncle Naseem's failings, he acknowledges that "sometimes, we don't even understand where that comes from." He adds, "It's really important and it's going to be very much explored in the second season. When someone grows up in a different culture -- not necessarily just the Middle East -- where they're just closed up and don't know any better, they can say and do things that are perceived as normal but are extremely racist."
He continues, "They don't weigh the consequences of their words and they'd rather be honest, truthful and just blunt, right or wrong."
He also tells us that Uncle Naseem is also humanized in the last person -- he always stands for what's right, he doesn't like injustice, and he's not apologetic, pointing out the second episode in the first season when he stood up for a complete stranger. Nakli tells us the second season is going to top that, adding that Uncle Naseem will have a whole episode dedicated to him. He says, "We really get to see what his life is really like, we get to see his pain and we get to live with him and understand him more. I think it's going it be very powerful and it's going to start an important conversation."
Nakli admits that people will have their own perspective and points of view when it comes to 'Ramy', adding that people have the right to dislike it. He tells us that 'Ramy' is not about Muslims in general, but about one specific Muslim family and their lives.
He adds that people will relate to the story and there will be people who learn more about the religion through the show or be enticed to learn more and be more tolerant. Nakli adds that Islam has been dealt a "really hard card" and has been demonized. Though he has never been "super devout," he has always been a believer. He says, "I find myself now always having to defend Islam, so I can't even have a conversation about it because I am always defending it," adding that he hopes the show makes conversations about the religion easier among its viewers.
Nakli hopes that 'Ramy' brings joy to the viewers, saying, "I really hope it does bring joy, some laughs, and touches their hearts because it is a very deep season, a highly emotional season. I hope it inspires others to create and open more doors for us to be represented. For all minorities to have more representation because you don't have to be Middle Eastern to be inspired by it."
Nakli tells us that Ramy Youssef created an easy atmosphere to work in on the show, adding that almost every person who works behind the scenes -- from the grips to the PAs -- are his friends and family, saying, "Even the extras are treated as part of the family."
He also says Ramy Youssef is "extremely smart," adding that it is very rare for a lot of smart creators at Ramy's get to be at his level of maturity. He says, "He really knows what to do, he really knows he's competent. You always want to work with someone who knows what they want because that makes it easier for you."
Nakli adds that he would hang out on the set all day even when he is not working because he loves being around Ramy. "He's like my little brother, it's a joy. I don't want it to end, but one day we will move on to a new adventure."
Nakli also remembers when the first two episodes of 'Ramy' were shown at the South by Southwest Festival for the first time. The first person who stood up during the Q&A session that followed was a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. He said she was in tears saying, "Thank you, this is my life." Nakli admits that the reactions to the show are incredible and hopes that the show will be able to slowly change the hate directed at the Muslim community.
With 'Ramy' paving the way, Nakli is working on his own show that he wrote called 'Meet the Habibs' -- he is working with 'Ramy' producer Tyson Bidner on this project. Nakli says, "I don't think that this would even be talked about had 'Ramy' not paved the way. I'm excited about that."
Nakli also tells us that he is a proud Syrian Muslim immigrant and is very happy "to be representing and doing this work." He adds that he feels very fortunate to have this opportunity, saying, "I want everyone who as a dream or a goal to create to go out there and do it. Just don't stop and don't let anyone tell you [that] you can't do it, because there have been so many people who told us that and we didn't listen to them and now we're doing it."
'Ramy' Season 2 is available to stream on Hulu on May 29.