You've seen actor and filmmaker Sayed Badreya in dozens of big-name films and TV shows, though you may not know his name. He's broken barriers in Hollywood as the first Muslim to actually play Muslim characters back in the 1980s. Prior to that, recalled friend and fellow Hollywood screenwriter Kamran Pasha, "Most of the Muslim roles went to Greek guys."
The actor, who grew up in poverty in Egypt, turned to films as his only escape from the political turmoil in his country during the 1960s and 70s. After moving to the U.S. to attend New York University's film school, Badreya left for Hollywood and began appearing in typical "foreign" and "terrorist" roles on television and film. His big break came in the late 1990s, when he scored roles in "The Insider," "Three Kings," "Independence Day," and "Stargate." He was most recently seen in "Iron Man" and "You Don't Mess with the Zohan." But for Badreya, his true dream is to tell the stories of real Arabs. For that purpose, he formed the production company Zoom in Focus, which has put out a number Arab- and Muslim-centered short films. As the king of Muslim and Arab character roles, Badreya has been a Hollywood mainstay for three decades.