Interviews Movies

Black Adam’s Sarah Shahi & Mohammed Amer Take the Superhero Genre to the Next Level

In ancient Kahndaq, the slave Teth Adam was gifted the almighty powers of the gods, but he used those powers for vengeance and was imprisoned. Now, 5,000 years later, he is freed and once again wields his dark sense of justice onto the world. Black Adam has awakened to modern day Kahndaq, in his time a great kingdom but now a shadow of its former self.

The once storied and wealthy country, the birthplace of ancient magic and the epicenter of the region’s most vital, priceless resource—Eternium—is being pillaged for that precious resource. Leading the charge is Intergang; a villainous organization simultaneously mining the last vestiges of Eternium and destroying Kahndaq’s citizens’ chance for a prosperous future. Unstoppable, Teth Adam is challenged by a team of modern-day heroes known as the Justice Society—Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone—who seek to return him to eternal captivity but as the evils of Kahndaq grows more powerful, Teth Adam just may Kahndaq’s only hope.

For a country and a people who are oppressed, who seemingly have no hope but for the idea of Black Adam, that means something to them. And their pain and anguish are familiar to Black Adam because he has felt it, too. He once vowed to do everything to protect the people of Kahndaq from a king who enslaved them, and who was responsible for the death of his son.

In celebration of Black Adam’s release, The Koalition spoke to Sarah Shahi and Mo Amer about the movie’s themes of redemption, the importance of representation, superhero motherhood and balancing comedy and drama.

Fearless freedom fighter-turned-fugitive Adrianna has lived under the oppression of Intergang for years and will stop at nothing to protect the Kahndaqi people, most of all her son, Amon. Sarah Shahi portrays the Kahndaqi college professor, who works with an underground network of like-minded countrymen to rescue their homeland.

Sara came to the project excited to work with director Jaume Collet-Serra again (having previously collaborated on a television pilot) and the stellar cast, especially the charismatic Dwayne Johnson. To work opposite him in his first superhero role and see firsthand how he approached the multilayered Black Adam the actress found exciting. “Dwayne’s incredible in this role as an antihero superhero,” she states. “There’s a lot of emotional history behind every line he says and as I watched him work, I could see he was bringing this loss and devastation that haunts Black Adam to the role.

“I feel like this movie does a really beautiful job humanizing why Black Adam is the way he is. You learned he was a family man, he was a slave, he was reborn a God and gifted with this ability he did not want. But instead, he went on this rampage because he was trying to make it right; his son and his wife were taken away from him. When you have a story like that, you kind of understand why he is the way he is. The purpose of this comic is to blur the line between good and bad; why he’s the anti-hero hero.”

For Sarah, the role of Adrianna ticked every box. “Adrianna is a freedom fighter. She’s a warrior who still retains her humanity, so I tried to make sure she’s incredibly grounded. She’s a no-nonsense, tough as nails woman who’s very protective of her son. Even amidst these horrible circumstances and her fear and vulnerability, I tapped into her reservoir of strength.”

“I think without a doubt she wants to be the leader, it’s somewhat in her DNA. It’s ingrained in her, she has no choice but to be this opposition against Intergang and I’m really honored I get to play Adriana. With everything that’s happening in the world with women’s rights and the stuff happening in Iran; [as a] Persian, I feel there’s this honor and a sense of obligation to replicate in a way what Adriana did in the present day for myself. It’s not something she was thrust upon, she’s a mother, she’s a single mother, she’s trying to protect her son, she wants to fight for her country for what she knew Kahndaq to be. She just has that Warrior spirit in her.”

Actor and comedian Mohammed Amer portrays Adrianna’s brother Karim who, although he is a caring uncle to Amon, he is happy to lie on the couch watching television or playing video games all day. Like his sister, he is also a loyal Kahndaqi freedom fighter. An electrician by trade, he not only helps circumvent the oppressive occupying militant forces, but brings a key skill set with his welcome sense of humor to their most serious mission.

Mo, who makes his feature film debut on Black Adam, brought his sense of humor to the set, and not just to his performance. “You know, working with [Dwanye Johnson] DJ, I think he was really jealous of my body and my ability to lift naturally way more than him, so there was a little tension between us,” he deadpans. “But after we got over that and he understood how superior I am athletically, we’re able to have a great time, you know? The guy is full of jokes; he’s a comedian, he’s really funny, and I did not see that coming.”

All joking aside (well, most…) the actor felt connected to Karim, noting, “I love the character. I relate to him very much; I think he’s just such a sweet kind of guy that just wants to be at home, live his life, support his family and be there for them. But he also steps up on many, many occasions; when you think he doesn’t have the guts to do it, he comes through.”

“[Even if Karim] didn’t want to be involved with [Black Adam and the fight, Karim] understood why Adrianna was doing it, why my nephew threw himself into it and why he felt like we needed to all come together to free Kahndaq.”

“Karim is definitely the voice of reason or he’s definitely trying to do his best for his family, although he’s trying to talk his sister out of it, knowing he’s not going to be able to do that. [He] understands the family history might be a little shaky and a lot of people were lost to trying to free their own country, trying to find their own redemption and find their own freedom for their own nation.”

[The fight is] something he definitely didn’t want to be part of [originally]. He just wanted to live a normal life, work, have fun [and] find love. He just wants to have his own family [but] his sister keeps dragging him along. He’s very protective. I always describe him as a bear, they look cute, cuddly, sweet and fuzzy, but if you mess with his family, the bear comes out. He’s very protective of his own and protective of his Western [movies].”

An empire from 5,000 years ago, DC’s fictitious Kahndaq required the development of an entirely new country rooted in the rich history of how modern civilizations are born over centuries and generations; contemporary Kahndaq where its ancient ruins have left a physical memory of its past greatness, this landscape may be fictious but is inspired from all over the world to show a forward-thinking, advanced civilization that sprung from the bedrock of when civilization was born.

For Mo, being in Black Adam was an honor. “[Black Adam is] such a beautiful story and to be so inclusive like this in a fictionalized Middle East like this is what it’s supposed to be. To have an opportunity in 2022 to be able to play this out was really a dream. To be of Middle Eastern backgrounds, there aren’t many commercialized movies that put our heritage front and center in a way that this did.”

Black Adam releases in theaters October 21st. Check out our full interview in the video above.

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