From the mind of Dick Wolf, the executive producer who’s brought us the long-running Law & Order series and its numerous spinoffs, comes FBI, a close-up look at the United States’ frontline against terrorism and other threats.
Starring Canadian actor Missy Peregrym as agent Maggie Bell and Zeeko Zaki as agent Omar Adom Zidan (“OA” for short), FBI follows the pair as they work the mean streets of New York City and beyond. Right from the beginning, the show starts off with a bang, and it certainly does not let up from there.
Global News sat down with Zaki to discuss his first leading role, working with Peregrym and the pressure of delivering on a Dick Wolf show.
Global News: This first episode is very intense. Is this what we can expect from this show going forward?
Zeeko Zaki: Yes. Even just reading the script, I was like, “What are they doing to us?”
There is no delay. You’re thrust right into the action.
I think that’s great. You’re hooked right after that. Wolf has his equation, he knows what he’s doing.
The chemistry between you and Missy is apparent, right from the beginning.
Offscreen, Missy and I became great friends, and it was so nice to have 18 days to bring it to screen. After I watched , even I wanted to know more about these characters! I couldn’t wish for a better partner.
This is my first lead, and of course she’s come from a long line of shows and leading roles, so it was nice to check myself off of where she’s at. If I got in my head about something, she would know exactly what to say to bring me back down to earth. I’m grateful to you, Missy, if you’re reading this!
How does it feel being in your first lead role? This is a Dick Wolf show, so is it nerve-wracking at all?
There’s definitely pressure to honour my agency and Dick Wolf… by the time you get to set, there are so many people who’ve signed off on you that it’s not really your fault anymore if anything goes wrong. Dick Wolf changed the role from a Latino to an Arab for me, which is an absolute honour. It’s the dream.
It’s almost the biggest dream possible. I never dared to dream this big. I’m trying to stay grounded and focused.
Tell me more about this role change.
It was originally a Latino character, so when I got the audition I wasn’t even being looked at. They called me in, and the room was filled with Latino actors. They asked me some questions about Egypt (I was born there), stuff like that, but I went to the real-life FBI… all ambiguous-looking, from all different races. I was like, “Wow. This works.”
Obviously FBI deals with serious topics, but in the down moments of emotional personal stories, there’s a softness. Does the series continue in this vein?
For sure. I came into this role very stern and serious, but that’ll kill you, walking around with that weight. When I met the FBI agents, I realized that is their job. They have to separate from it, or it’ll get dangerous. When I met them, they were bubbly, outgoing, laughing, smiling. It’s the job, so you have to put boundaries on yourself and leave things at work. When nothing crazy is happening in the world, it’s a 9-to-5. They go home on the weekends. When something is going on, they’re there until it’s over.
WATCH BELOW: Missy Peregrym, Zeeko Daki on their ‘FBI’ ‘relationship’
How deeply do we delve into Omar’s character?
I’m not totally sure yet, but in Dick Wolf’s world, you get tidbits and treats. It’s a little spoon, not a ladle of character development. It keeps it exciting, and makes each bit that much more valuable. It also lends itself to the longevity of his shows.
There has to be — has to be — the potential for romance between yours and Missy’s character.
We’re definitely moving into a friendship… sort-of team situation. I don’t know. In my life, Missy has become a big sister to me, so I’m like “No, please, anything but that!” Romance is gonna happen, hopefully with other people for now.
How does FBI differ from all the other cop shows out there?
The reason this show is different from any other procedural cop show — Law & Order, the Chicago shows — is that the FBI does different cases. There is a hard line between what the FBI does and what the cops do. There’s this cliché scene that happens in nearly every police-oriented show, where an FBI agent shows up at the scene of a crime and says, “It’s ours now. We’ll take it from here.” That never happens on our show.
It’s going to be stuff you see in movies: Mafia stuff, terrorists, kidnappings. We’re not going to do anything you see on cop shows.
It’s interesting that prime time TV hasn’t really tackled this upper level of crimefighting before.
It’s crazy because we’re at a time where everybody knows everything, and everybody has access to everything. Knowledge is power now. There’s a reputation being created about the FBI — it’s not fair, it’s not right, what these people do to sacrifice our safety… it’s definitely time to get a good dog in this fight for them.
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]Follow @CJancelewicz
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