Roseanne Barr's on-screen Muslim neighbor says he was shocked and hurt by her racist tweet
The latest season of 'Roseanne' explored a lot of culturally relevant issues but was stopped dead in its tracks after its sudden cancelation.
Alain Washnevsky is an Iran-born, Vienna-raised actor who has appeared in roles in Academy Award-nominated short film 'Day one ONE,' 'Homeland,' 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' 'NCIS: Los Angeles,' 'Aquarius,' and 'SEAL Team,' but the actor wrote in Hollywood Reporter how 'Roseanne' was the show he was the most excited for and how Roseanne Barr's racist tweet, as well as the show's cancelation, hurt him on a deeply personal level.
Washnevsky reveals how he had watched ABC's iconic sitcom while growing up and how, after he'd landed the role of Roseanne's Muslim neighbor Samir Al-Harazi in the show, it had felt to him like a 'childhood dream come true.' He termed it as 'a big opportunity to represent a demographic that is often not well-portrayed on TV.'
Furthermore, the story behind Washnevsky's character was racially-charged and carrying significant political undertones: he, along with his on-screen family, made their bow in episode seven and would address the stereotypes that Muslims are a victim of in the country. It was supposed to spark and incite debate and preach tolerance and understanding and arguably did a good job at it too. But that would be as far as the show went in exploring the topic.
ABC was forced to ax the show after Barr made racist comments on Twitter in which she likened former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett to an 'ape,' writing: "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj." When it was pointed out to her that her tweet was offensive and racist, Barr doubled town and tweeted: "Muslims r NOT a race" and "ISLAM is not a RACE, lefties. Islam includes EVERY RACE of people."
Despite the narrative and the vitriol that has been spouted against the actress in the past few weeks, Washnevsky says that Barr was the most welcoming on the sets and she greeted him with a big smile on her face, open arms, and a warm, genuine hug.
The actor also said that Barr introduced him to the other cast members and crew members and offered to help him with anything he needed, adding that he hung out with the actress on several occasions and that they had numerous interesting conversations; including ones where she politely inquired about his background and upbringing. He called her a 'funny, helpful, and real person.'
So, understandably, Washnevsky was one of the most disappointed in her tweets and the show's subsequent cancelation.
He wrote: "I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked, angry and hurt. Her words go against everything I believe in and everything that our episode represented, or so I thought. I was extremely disappointed not only by her words, but also by the cancellation of the show which shined a light into many dark spots of our society — corners of society we don’t like to look at, see or talk about at parties."
While he confesses that he still experiences racism on a day-to-day basis and has so his whole life, he says it's like being in a gutter; that if you stand in it long enough, you get used to the smell. But he says it's not an American problem but one of the human condition.
Washnevsky admitted he wished his character would be recalled for another season and that "storytelling has the power to connect and build bridges, open dialogue, build understanding, create awareness and change perspective."
It may not be too late, however. ABC's talks to reboot the series around Sarah Gilbert's Darlene Conner-Healy is reportedly going well and 'Roseanne' may indeed get a third life. Alongside it, hopefully, so does Samir Al-Harazi.