I recently got the chance to have a quick interview with Tony Yalda about his role in new film, ‘The Taqwacores’. Here, Tony talks about his controversial character and what it was like working with the cast and crew….
Hey Tony. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Taqwacores’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The movie is about Muslim punk youth in America. It is about a group of young individuals who are self-proclaimed outcasts and are trying to find a balance in their approach to faith, their cultural background, and being American.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
The character I play is “Muzzamil” aka “Miss Muzzy.” He is the cross-dressing queer punk from the Bay area who is invited to the east to participate in prepping the big punk bash Jehangir is putting together. Muzzy was originally supposed to be more of a subdued closet-case, but I presented my concept of the character to both Eyad (director) and Michael (writer), and they couldn’t have been more supportive. I found the character ground-breaking and wanted to push the envelope a little and see what they would let me get away with. So, I introduced Miss Muzzy, the young soon-to-be MTF transgender, who loves the Koran, loves his faith, and is battling his own demons of masculinity/femininity to find a place in his religion.
I’ve heard from a few sources that – “The Taqwacores deals with the complexities of being young and Muslim in modern-day America” – would you describe this as accurate?
That’s a quick some-up I suppose, but I see the movie as a little bit more. I don’t see it as only being Muslim, but more of a voice for today’s youth who are seeking and questioning faith, myself included. Youth who are seeking some kind of peace and understanding as to who they are, what their potential may be and to why the rules are the way they are. And I think these particular characters just wanted to be heard, so they dressed up and made a lot of noise to get some answers.
How did you get involved in the movie in the first place?
Noureen DeWulf (Rabeya) brought the project to my attention. We were jogging up Runyon Canyon in LA, and she asked if this would be something of interest. She said it was an indie and would shoot in Ohio. I was like, “No thanks.” I had just come off of a couple of projects that were on the low-budget end and I’d had my fill. But when we talked about the story, and what it would mean to so many, I asked for the script. It really didn’t take much convincing after I read it. I was in.
The film stars Bobby Naderi, Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains and Denise George – what was it like working with the cast on the film?
Noureen is one of my favorite people in the world. I love her as if she were my sister. The rest of the cast became like family not too long after stepping on set. We all kind of just found an odd comfort in one another. Everyone kept describing the energy as a constant feel of love and support from each individual. It is still one of the best experiences for me. Not only do I feel I gained some amazing people in my life, but the film /cast changed me for the better.
Let’s talk a bit about you Tony. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I love stories and I love people. I’m always curious to see what exactly makes people who they are. What makes them tick. Acting allows me to explore that, and shows me what my own limitations are, and how to push past them.
You’ve been in a number of shorts and indie movies – how important do you think the indie industry is at the moment?
For me I actually think it’s very important. Sometimes I’ll bitch about it, and wonder why am I not the new J.Lo yet. But in all honesty if it weren’t for the indie route, I don’t think I’d be allowed to showcase myself in a different light. So to all of y’all indie folk, call a ho!
Who has been your favourite actor to work with and who has given you the best advice?
My favorite thus far is Noureen DeWulf. I’m not just saying that cause she would beat me if I didn’t somehow repeatedly mention her name. But in all seriousness, I feel very free and encouraged when working with Noureen about the choices I make as an actor. To an artist, I think that’s everything.
If you could have a dinner with three historical guests, living or dead – who would you choose?
Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and Amy Winehouse (RIP my love). My three favorite black chicks.
What is coming up for you in 2011?
There are a couple of projects in the horizon, but nothing is set in stone as of yet. I also have an amazing 60’s rock n’ soul band called “The Hollabacks.” Think Winehouse and Chilli Peppers having a bastard lovechild. That’s “The Hollabacks.” Our music is in indie flicks (yay indies!), and we were the face of Slurpee for a few months. We play all over LA, and soon the east coast. We’re pretty damn sexy, I’m not gonna lie.
Thanks for the interview!