Toronto-raised Aladdin actor Mena Massoud knows Canada prizes diversity as a strength but insists he didn't get much help from the Canadian entertainment industry in landing the titular role in Disney's recent live-action remake.
"When I was first coming up in the industry — and I feel I'm still coming up in the industry — there was nothing to support ethnically diverse artists," Massoud, an Egyptian-born actor who moved from Toronto to Los Angeles three years ago, tells Samaritanmag on the phone from North Carolina, where he's shooting the Hulu drama series Reprisal.
"Even though I'm very fortunate and grateful to have played Aladdin, there were still four, five casting directors who never gave me a shot in Toronto."
So Massoud wants to support emerging artists through his newly-launched EDA Foundation, or the Ethnically Diverse Artists Foundation, which aims to help underrepresented talent in Canada with financial assistance and guidance to realize their dreams.
Though Canadian film and TV funding agencies have committed to on-screen diversity, Massoud says the industry has a "glass ceiling" because lead roles for Hollywood films and TV series shot north of the border are cast in Los Angeles.
And the Canadian industry has too few casting directors and shrinking film and TV budgets to allow emerging diverse talent to be fully tracked for possible gigs. Massoud recalls never auditioning for top Toronto casting directors because he believes they didn't have time or the will to see different actors, so "they cast the same performers over and over again."
His EDA Foundation is eyeing structural industry changes by giving emerging talent much-needed tools to reach key casting directors, agents and managers to break into the industry.— Continue reading Etan Vlessing's feature interview with Massoud on the Samaritanmag website.