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Middle East-born actress Dina Shihabi on proving her mother right: "Acting has taken up my life"

What happens when an army veteran falls for an Iraqi immigrant? It may sound like the premise for a heart-wrenching drama, but the new film “Amira & Sam” is anything but.

Actress Dina Shihabi stars in the film as Amira. She says she was drawn to the script because of her own multi-cultural background.

“It was so exciting to read a script that had two very different, complex characters that were both struggling with the way they were perceived in the world, trying to find in,” Shihabi said. “I was born in Saudi Arabia, born in Dubai and moved to New York 7 years ago so I’ve always felt like an outsider here and an outsider at home.”

In the short 7 years Dina has been in New York pursuing an acting career, she’s accomplished a ton, including starring in SNL digital shorts with the likes of Emma Stone, plus: She’s the first woman born in the Middle East to be accepted to both Julliard and NYU programs.

“I didn’t even know that was the case and then when I found that out it was really humbling,” Shihabi said. “It was more that I was the first person born in Saudi Arabia, raised in the Middle East that had grown up in the Middle East to be accepted into these programs, as opposed to if I was Arab and born here, that distinction was really important. … I couldn’t believe it.”

Looking toward her future as an actress, Shihabi believes strong roles from minorities begin in the writer’s room.

“I think in order for us to share our stories, stories of minorities, people from other cultures…We have to be the ones in the writing rooms, behind the cameras, creating that kind of work,” Shihabi said. “Like Shonda [Rhimes] … I watch all her shows, I love them. She’s created a world for African-American women leading shows. It’s amazing so I think we need more of that.”

“Amira & Sam” hits theaters and VOD January 30.

Middle East-born actress Dina Shihabi on proving her mother right: "Acting has taken up my life"

What happens when an army veteran falls for an Iraqi immigrant? It may sound like the premise for a heart-wrenching drama, but the new film “Amira & Sam” is anything but.

Actress Dina Shihabi stars in the film as Amira. She says she was drawn to the script because of her own multi-cultural background.

“It was so exciting to read a script that had two very different, complex characters that were both struggling with the way they were perceived in the world, trying to find in,” Shihabi said. “I was born in Saudi Arabia, born in Dubai and moved to New York 7 years ago so I’ve always felt like an outsider here and an outsider at home.”

In the short 7 years Dina has been in New York pursuing an acting career, she’s accomplished a ton, including starring in SNL digital shorts with the likes of Emma Stone, plus: She’s the first woman born in the Middle East to be accepted to both Julliard and NYU programs.

“I didn’t even know that was the case and then when I found that out it was really humbling,” Shihabi said. “It was more that I was the first person born in Saudi Arabia, raised in the Middle East that had grown up in the Middle East to be accepted into these programs, as opposed to if I was Arab and born here, that distinction was really important. … I couldn’t believe it.”

Looking toward her future as an actress, Shihabi believes strong roles from minorities begin in the writer’s room.

“I think in order for us to share our stories, stories of minorities, people from other cultures…We have to be the ones in the writing rooms, behind the cameras, creating that kind of work,” Shihabi said. “Like Shonda [Rhimes] … I watch all her shows, I love them. She’s created a world for African-American women leading shows. It’s amazing so I think we need more of that.”

“Amira & Sam” hits theaters and VOD January 30.

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