Mo Amer couldn’t help getting a little emotional when he first walked on the set of Black Adam.
Set in the fictional Middle Eastern city of Kahndaq, the latest DC blockbuster tells the story of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. After using his superpowers for revenge, Adam is imprisoned for 5,000 years. Once he’s set free in the modern version of Kahndaq, Adam uses his immense powers blithely, until the Justice Society of America’s gang of superheroes tries to get him under control.
This is where Amer’s character Karim comes in, as he is the brother of archaeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi), who wakes up Adam from his forced slumber.
“It was emotional for me to walk on set and see a fictionalised Middle East being essentially war-torn. It was surreal. It was tough emotionally because I know that my people, and people from all backgrounds, have gone through this,” Amer tells The National.
At the same time, though, Amer instantly recognises just how important it is for a film of this size and scale to be set in the region, even if the country is made up. “It's special. It's history. No matter what the movie does, it's planting a seed for the future," he says. "Hopefully Black Adam will give birth to a lot more opportunities.”
Throughout his career, Amer, who is Palestinian-American, always strives to improve Arab representation across a number of different mediums. Born in Kuwait, at the age of 9, Amer fled the country during the Gulf War along with his brother, sister and mother, emigrating to the US and eventually settling in Houston, Texas.
Scroll through images of 'Black Adam' below
After graduating high school, he started performing stand-up comedy across the city. Almost immediately it became his profession. “Stand-up is my number one outlet," he says. "That’s my baby. That’ll always be there. Telling stories is why I got into this business to begin with.”
Over the ensuing years, Amer consistently worked as a stand-up comedian, performing tours across the globe, as well as on TV specials. It was far from easy, though. At times, Amer was even advised to make drastic changes to get more opportunities.
“I was encouraged to change my name so I could get work and basically rid myself of my background. Which is absurd,” he says.
Amer turned down these requests. Then, in 2019, his popularity finally flourished thanks to his starring role as Mo in the hit series Ramy. Amer was so popular on Ramy that he was soon working on his own series, Mo, which went live on Netflix in August, inspired by his own true story of waiting nearly 20 years to become a US citizen.
“My show is grounded in my life. It’s in my DNA. That doesn’t make it easy to write, though,” Amer explains. “We probably write 200 pages for each episode and then use just 27. We have to chisel it down. It requires a lot of effort.”
Even though Mo’s first season has only been on Netflix for less than two months, Amer has attracted praise from viewers who recognise him on the street, as they feel like they’re being represented on screen for the first time.
“Whenever I'm walking around, and people recognise me, they are very emotional, because they connect to the storylines so deeply," he says. "I think very few things do that, honestly. That is one of the most incredible things. That to me is everything. That’s the feedback I want and welcome.
"I want to know what people think and what we tapped into that makes them feel so emotional. Because you’re trying to reach as many people as possible. I think it’s really important.”
With the release of Black Adam, Amer believes that it’s a “beautiful time” for Middle Eastern representation on screen. Although he also believes that it’s “about time that this happened", adding: “This could have been years ago. It's wild to me that an ancient people like the Arabs are just now being able to tell their stories that are relatable and real.”
Amer still hasn’t found the time to process his recent success; not simply because of how busy he is, but because he needs some extra years behind him to reflect on how far he's come.
“I think it will take years and years to unpackage the historical nature of what I'm doing and what’s happening," he says. "I've always felt it would, just because of how long it took me to get here and how big of a struggle it was to get here.”
Now that he’s in such a prominent position, Amer has no plans to slow down. In fact, he just wants to continue to do what he’s always been best at: telling stories. But while busy writing and developing scripts, he also wants to make sure that he helps out those close to him, too.
“I want to produce projects for my extremely talented friends. There are a lot of opportunities. It’s about organising them and seeing what’s next," he says. "I just want to tell really unique and special stories that are grounded, real and honest that have the opportunity to make an impact. In the end, that's really what it's all about.”
Scroll through images of Mo Amer's acclaimed series 'Mo' below