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Controversy erupts over Khaled Abol Naga and Basma's participation in US TV drama 'Tyrant'

Some are criticising the two Egyptian actors for affiliating themselves with a production that has an Israel-born writer on board

Ahram Online , Thursday 11 Aug 2016
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Controversy has erupted on social media over news that Egyptian stars Khaled Abol Naga and Basma are currently starring in the American TV drama series scripted by Gideon Raff. According to The Guardian, Raff is an "Israel-born [writer and director], living in Los Angeles, where he attended the American Film Institute."

Some social media users criticised the actors for affiliating themselves with a production that has an Israeli as part of the crew. 

The story began when the Israeli embassy in Egypt shared an article originally published on almughared.com via its Facebook page on 9 August, with the headline “Egyptian actress Basma returns after an absence with an Israeli TV drama series.”

The post also included an excerpt of the article that read, “After a long absence from the art scene, Egyptian actress Basma comes back with a role in the third season of the TV drama series “Tyrant”, a political drama screened on the US Fox Channel, thus joining actor Khaled Abol Naga, who has already raised suspicion because of the nationality of the series’ scriptwriter.”

The post quickly created controversy online, with users condemning the news, and others, especially fans of Abol Naga and Basma, expressing their support for the actors.

Created and scripted by Israel-born director and writer Gideon Raff, and produced by Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions, Tyrant’s first season premiered in June 2014, drawing a huge fan base. The show’s success was further affirmed in Season 2, which garnered over 2.47 million views.

Episode 1 of Season 3, which is currently screening on Fox Channel, premiered 6 July.

The head of the Egyptian Actors Syndicate Ashraf Zaki immediately commented on the issue, asserting that the syndicate would immediately look into the matter, and try to reach both Basma and Abol Naga for clarification.

Speaking to TV anchor Youssef El-Husseiny on ONTV yesterday, 10 August, Zaki stated that he spoke with both actors who “confirmed that the TV drama is an American production, in terms of the directing, writing, and production.”

Zaki added that both actors, “sent me copies of their contracts via email and also affirmed that they know nothing about statements made by the Israel(i) (embassy).” He added that he would check the details of the contracts the following morning.

Answering to whether it is inappropriate to participate in a production scripted by "someone who is Jewish and has Israeli nationality," as El-Husseiny described Raff, Zaki asserted that “normalisation with Israel comes in the form of the intentional participation in an artistic production with Israel.”

“However, for example we have the precedent of an actor who participated in a production not knowing that it was [an Israeli one] … so this is always hard to determine."

“But if someone does it knowingly, we immediately suspend those who intentionally collaborate with the Zionist entity, which has happened before,” Zaki added.

Tyrant stars Adam Rayner, Jennifer Finnigan, Ashraf Barhom and Moran Atias, and tells the “story of an unassuming American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation,” reads the synopsis on the series’ official Facebook page. 

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