Leo Manzari – Homeland

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By: Jamie Steinberg


Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?

A) I am currently working on a conceptual album with my band, AllBe, and doing performance showcases of our latest album Corners. I’m the lead vocalist of the group and we work to combine our favorite elements of R&B, Hip-Hop and Jazz into one approach to sound.


Q) How was your character on “Homeland” originally described to you?


A) Saad was presented to me with very little backstory. Pretty much all of the information there was to know about Saad was limited to what was in the script. My first day on set, I sat down with writer/producer Alex Gansa and director Keith Gordon briefly to explore the different colors Saad had as a character- there were many…But a lot of the development came from the imaginary work I did on my own before I stepped on set.


Q) What was your audition like for the series?


A) The audition was very quick. My acting studio (Susan Batson Studio) recommended me to the casting director on Thursday, I received the sides that night to audition Friday morning, landed the role later that day and then was on set by the following Wednesday. Quite a rare and exciting experience!


Q) What did you find challenging about your role?


A) The most challenging part of the role was identifying what made Saad tick and how that informed his exterior behavior. He is highly emotional, yes, but Saad is also a very secretive guy. He’s learned that the world does not care for his feelings so why should he care about other people’s? He’s the epitome of two-faced.  I’d explore questions like “What type of environments call for his charming side? What types call for his menacing, cut throat side?” Riding that juxtaposition without giving away the reveal was probably the most challenging part, but also the most fun!


Q) The cast consists of Claire Danes and Rupert Friend. What is something you learned from working with them?


A) I had the honor of working with Claire Danes. Claire is a very generous actress, even when we weren’t taping her coverage. She gave 100% every run through of the scene. She is most definitely an actor’s actor and I learned that Carrie Mathison doesn’t take any prisoners. It’s like being in a boxing ring with the gloves off. That’s my favorite type of energy to feed off of.


Q) What were some of your most memorable moments from filming the show?


A) Filming the scene where Carrie and Saad go toe to toe was definitely the most memorable moment for me. I personally feed off of intense energies and to have Claire giving me so much to bounce off of was something to remember.


Q) What kind of reaction did you receive from friends and family from seeing you on the season premiere?


A) The response from my friends and family has been nothing but love.  I’m truly grateful for the turnout of support. For the people who have followed my career, they know me primarily as one half of The Manzari Brothers—the tap dance performance duo and the LLC my brother and I have built over the past few years. I’m happy with the love I’ve received from the tap community and everyone surrounding me.


Q) Is there anything else you want to be sure fans know about your time on “Homeland?”


A) All around I’m humbled to be part of a show that speaks to the truths of the world we live in. I encourage people to not just watch the show, but educate themselves on the subjects the production touches on – as they draw from very crucial moments in our history.


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