I’m sure we have all heard the 3 options our parents present us with when they ask what we want to be when we grow up. The question goes is as follows:
So, tell me, what do you want to be when you grow up, a doctor, engineer, or lawyer?
But the reality is that as we all have dreams, and it is normal for not everyone to consider these 3 options as their dream, passion, or even career opportunity. Arab parents need to understand that this is normal and that their child is not rebelling.
We have yet to figure out why every normal discussion is viewed as us rebelling against our parents. Here at Yalla! Let’s Talk, we have highlighted incredible Arab voices in medical, engineering, and even law career paths. However, we have equally pushed forward the voices of Arab individuals in the creative art career. We have listed several singers, dancers, musicians, artists, actors, writers, and well…we can go on forever.
I’m sure all of these incredible individuals who are in the creative industry do not come from supporting parent backgrounds, in a lot of ways their upbringing has been just like ours. We love our amazing parents, but sometimes we need to understand that we know what is best for us. While an Arab girl does face more challenges when wanting to pursue and follow her dreams, but once she is set on her reality vision, there isn’t anything stopping her from making it happen.
We recently had the best afternoon chat with Fady Ghali, and Rob Michaels who are writers, filmmakers, actors, and the mastermind behind the YouTube Channel, Wishful Genies. *That creative title gets me every single time, but we will get to that soon. But before, that we dove deep into various topics regarding their backgrounds, how they got into Wishful Genies, and some interesting projects they have worked on specifically one related to superheroes.
Most importantly we learned that although there is still a long way to go, they both are still passionately chasing their dreams, and we are so glad that their work truly shows all their efforts.
Reflecting on Arabs roles and beginning of Wishful Genies
What inspired you guys to start Wishful Genies?
Fady Ghali: "Rob and I studied similar things in University, we both studied business. I always knew I wanted to get into acting, but my parents told me I had to get a degree. So, I got a degree for the sake of having it and making my parents proud, and then I went straight into acting. Around the time I graduated when I was getting into it, Rob was working on his writing, and I thought it was the perfect time to pair up and start the channel, and basically have our faces appear on the screen." Rob Michaels: "I was able to write, and both Fady and I can act, and this channel could be our portfolio of work. But we were not expecting the attention, and views that we received. Initially, it was just to send our work to companies and agencies, but the views have definitely been a bonus." Fady Ghali: "When I would audition to get into specific roles, the ones that were fit for me would be quite stereotypical Arab roles. It was all limited to what I could audition for, for my demo reel, so this channel was a door open to really explore more content." Rob Michaels: "A lot of times when you are a person of color especially in the acting or writing industry you often get pigeonholed into doing specific roles, tasks, or types of work produced. Sometimes it is hard to be asked to play the role of the lead because they are only giving you POC roles like the terrorists, or immigrants. This channel lets us showcase that we are capable of anything and everything."
Did you guys get straight into acting first? Or get regular jobs? How did your parents react?
Fady Ghali: "I got a job afterward because I needed money and was doing acting at the same time. The job that I had was horrible, and I knew after the first day that I had to quit." Rob Michaels: "During my program, I had four co-op placements in office settings, and I knew that wasn’t where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to work for a company that I didn’t care about. As a kid, I always wanted to be an actor and writer, and I would tell my parents that’s what I wanted to do, but I suppressed it because they never supported it, because it isn't a real job in their heads. I got a job as a consultant and took classes at night to get myself into the entertainment industry full time."
The creative name formation: Wishful Genies
Where does the name Wishful Genies come from?
Fady Ghali: "The name took us a while because we knew we needed a cool name. We wanted something that could relate to our Arab background, and we thought of Aladdin and genies." Rob Michaels: "I liked the idea of an oxymoron because I think they’re comedic. So, we took the idea of genies, and thought it would be funny if we were Wishful Genies because we like to believe that we can make magic but also wish that we get discovered."
The story behind the superhero skit and Arab misrepresentation
You guys did an amazing skit on an Arab superhero, why do you think that was a necessary skit?
Rob Michaels: "I wrote it purely because of representation. Most of the superheroes we do see on screen are not people of color. The fact that we got so much attraction on that video shows that there is a demand for that. Finally, people were able to see an Arab superhero and not be portrayed as the villains. I thought we don't have the budget to create Arab superhero movies, but we do have the budget to create a sketch or a trailer, so that's when we created that video."
Do you project some of the misrepresentations of Arabs and especially Arab actors in your work?
Fady Ghali: "We did a sketch last year which was Hollywood's toughest game show, it was about naming Arab actors in Hollywood and the joke of the sketch was that nobody could do it and the game show only lasted one episode." Rob Michaels: "That idea came from my inability as an Arab to name more than 3 famous Arabs in Hollywood., which stemmed from the lack of Arab representation in Hollywood. So, I used my frustration to write the sketch."
Fady Ghali: "But we wanted to be able to also create sketches that are universally relatable, that doesn’t always have to do with being Arab. This shows that we’re able to produce any type of content." Rob Michaels: "In the beginning, we didn't want to do Arab content at all to not be pigeonholed, but within the last year we realized that Arabs really don’t have a voice in the media at all, and we have a platform where we can make comedy and that's why we wanted to start creating that. So it quickly became all about elevating Arab voices and addressing issues that haven’t been addressed before while also making silly and universally relatable content in between." "We also generate a lot of material from our own lives, going back to the superhero it was also about if your parents would accept your career choice as a superhero and the humor behind it was that they wouldn’t because you're still not a doctor."
Do you guys have plans to break into Hollywood?
Fady Ghali: "We’re always auditioning, and it’s always been the dream to be in big production movies and sitcoms on television." Rob Michaels: "If in any way we’re able to make Wishful Genies its own show, that would be amazing. But I’m also currently working as a writer in the meantime. I’ve been in the writers’ room for multiple network comedies over the past year – including the shows The Parker Andersons, Amelia Parker, and Roast Battle Canada, and so I plan on breaking in one way or another. I have a few projects in development – and that’s all I can say for now. I’m definitely hoping my writing will help create a lot of opportunities for myself and other artists."
Any future plans for Wishful Genies?
Fady Ghali: "If we get Wishful Genes on Netflix, and HBO max that would be amazing."
“We both love creating and we hope to continue that.”-Fady Ghali
Rob Michaels: "My dream is to write and create shows, and if that’s Wishful Genies, then great. If it's not Wishful Genies then it’ll probably be something else."
That wraps up the amazing interview that felt more like a chat with Fady Ghali, and Rob Michaels. We strongly recommend you all to check out their content and continue to support these artists, and with best regards, we are so excited to see what holds for Wishful Genies, so keep an eye out for their amazing content, you definitely don’t want to miss out on it. Check Wishful Genies: website, Instagram, Tik Tok, and YouTube.
After this interview it really makes us want to start working on the things, we were passionate about as kids, and really reactivate our inner child. It’s what they always say: the difference between you and others is you need to be the one to at least try and start chasing your dreams.