Mish’al Samman. Aka “Meesh” (his nickname) Is a true "Jack Of All Trades". He is a Saudi Arabian Actor,Producer and DJ. He started his entertainment career in 1992 as a DJ in college, then Japan and Los Angeles. In 2005 he actively became an actor while getting his Masters Degree in Tokyo, and working for an IT firm. Later on, in 2008 while doing his PhD, he quit everything to make acting and producing his full-time career. After graduating from the Second City improve comedy in 2011. He returned to Japan to perform at Universal. He than returned to Los Angeles in 2016 where he works as a flight attendant as well as an actor. His recent appearance on the James Cordon Show, brought laughter to millions and put him in the spotlight. Today we have a conversation with Meesh on his beginnings and what is next for him.
What got you into entertainment?, is it a passion of yours, was it you’re dream as a kid?
That’s a hard question to answer. I’ve been a story teller since 5th grade. I used to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings in America. And when I went back to Saudi, I’d spend all year telling those stories to my classmates. Then from 7th grade onward, I would watch movie trailers on television during vacation. And even though I never got to watch the movie, I’d make up the story based on what I saw.... I will say I had a very active imagination. I never really had a passion for it. I think as Arabs, telling stories is in our blood. We love it. To the point that we exaggerate reality sometimes a little too much. But like I said it’s in our DNA. The best stories in the world are from 1001 Arabian nights. But no it wasn’t a dream. My dream was to be a superhero. Then I got older and reality was that I was going to be an engineer. But I became a DJ. And then in japan the opportunity and support was available to me becoming an actor and I tried it... that’s when I fell in love with it.
What was that first time as an actor like?,And what made you fall in love with it?
The first time I considered me “acting” was in a play called “the cherry orchard” by Anton Chekhov. I’ve never actually been in a play before that. I performed a lot in Riyadh School, and I hosted events in college, but never ACTED. When I auditioned with a friend, the director liked my style in delivering the character, I admitted to the director that I never acted before. I remember he looked at me and said “Then get ready to play”,I never imagined what that meant, until he personally started coaching me the basics of classical acting. And it was so different than what I imagined and what people THINK acting is.
It is truly an art and a dance you do with the other actor, the writer, their words, as well as incorporating your art with the vision of the director. And it’s LIVE. I started on stage. The hardest to jump into with zero experience. And I ended up doing it every chance I got.
The level of concentration for me to stop shaking made my blood pump hard.
What do you think about the film industry in the KSA?
I think the film industry as a whole is in its infancy and people in KSA are still trying to find Their voice on what is entertaining. The KSA “film” industry is practically still non existent in my point of view because, it is focused on new-media and social media outlets as the basis of the entire industry. I think KSA film makers are still trying to find their voice in general, and this is all fantastic! But I also fear it may be a temporary trend. Saudis are still trying to find their voice. They want to be Hollywood, but they may end up being" SaudiWood". Meaning an industry only for Saudi and Middle East consumers. Which is great. They just need to find it and not be afraid to put themselves out there and learn from their creations, because art in general should never be what you “think” people will like. It’s what “you” like. And that is why we have Star Wars etc.
Who are 5 actors,directors,etc.. that you would like to work with?
This is such a hard question, but first and foremost I would LOVE to work with Kuwaiti director Zeyad Alhusaini. And Saudi director Ali Alkalthami. These are two talents in particular I would really like to work with one day. I would also like to wok with Ron Howard , Betty White, and Keanu Reeves. I think I gravitate towards talents that are known to have fantastic personalities along with talent.
So we all saw you on James Coeden’s show doing you’re thing,Could you tell us how that came about?
Honestly the events leading up to the studio is where the interesting story is.
A Friend I was performing with in Japan was visiting from Australia, and invited me and other performers to the show, but I couldn’t go, because I had to be in Dallas for work. 15 minutes before leaving I was notified that someone wanted to take my shift. So I let them take it, cancelled my trip, and called my friends to see if I could still come. They said yes, and I got changed and hurried to the studio. The rest was honestly being myself and chance. I will never know why he chose me. It was all chance... never rehearsed. Never told I will be chosen. Never knew what the question was. It was my first time at the show. And God knows how it all happened the way it happened. I know it’s not a very interesting story, but my crazy life is set in the journey of how things come to be.
I believe in signs. And this was a big one for me. And thank God every day.
Watch Meesh's Appearance on the show below: (Starts at 6:55)
As A Saudi Creative Working In Places Like The United States And Japan, How Did People React When Knowing Of Your Nationality?
The honest truth... surprise! That’s just what they respond with, because they never have met an actor from Saudi Arabia. And if they have, it is super rare. Then they treat me like a gem. But watch me like a hawk. Not because I’m Saudi but because they think it’s a mistake, or it’s not true. Exactly like how many Saudis responded to my interview with James Corden. First things Saudis said was... no way. Then they said, he’s not really Saudi originally. Then they said OK, he’s Saudi but he’s not 100% Saudi. It’s as if our Arab people don’t want to believe they have any talent beyond the stereotype, and that stereotype translates outside. But 90% of the time. They are always very supportive towards talent in the US and Japan. And the fact that I’m Saudi makes it even more special. Embracing who you are is very special to me and unfortunately came to me in my mid 20's. When I was far away from the negativity of the stereotypes. I mean the sad fact is I don’t look Saudi. But it’s also a blessing because I’m not typecast. But I also have that unique opportunity to do things not every ethnic actor can do.
So being proud to be Saudi has a big advantage. But also as any actor paying dues, you must swallow that pride and do the work.
So, where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
In 5-10 years I’d like to see myself on a TV series, on a directors chair, and eventually in a studio surrounded by the amazing talent we are seeing in Saudi. Eventually i would like to be a mentor for everything creative, because that is what I truly believe life is about. The love of what you create, and the love for life.
Every visionary goes through trials and tribulations, what are were/yours?
Mine is always going to have strength to move on and not to give up. Especially in an industry where your talents rarely speaks for itself. Money drives your success rate. And it can be a very lonely life.Thank god I have a close family who I know will always love me no matter what.
Mishal's Advice For You:
Do what you love, and do it with passion because if you do it for anything else it won’t be what you want. And listen to “constructive” criticism, because not everything you do will be perfect the first time. This is a journey... not a destination, and great artists get better with practice, so if you never do anything, you are just starting and you are half as good as you can be. So go for it.
“Do, or do not... there is no Try.”
-Yoda. (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)