Haaz Sleiman: Jackie's Strength

Haaz Sleiman is just what the doctor ordered as a gay Muslim named Mo-Mo in Showtime's Nurse Jackie.

BY Brandon Voss

June 14 2009 11:00 PM ET

As the old adage goes, behind every overworked, adulterous, pill-popping nurse, there's a great Muslim gay confidant. Five years after playing a flirtatious hunk in The Ski Trip, Haaz Sleiman returns to his queer roots as Nurse Mohammed "Mo-Mo" De La Cruz in Nurse Jackie, which recently debuted as Showtime's most successful premiere this season. Also known for his dramatic turns as an immigrant squatter in The Visitor and a terrorist suspect on 24, the Lebanon-born actor shares his high hopes for Mo-Mo's love life and his newfound appreciation for George Clooney's manhood.

Advocate.com: You have terrific chemistry with costar Edie Falco. Was it intimidating to find out that most of your scenes would be opposite a three-time Emmy winner?
Haaz Sleiman: I was a big Sopranos fan and a big fan of hers, but I was more excited than intimidated. Rather than nervous, I was sort of like a little kid because I admired her. She was one of the main reasons I wanted to be on the show. The first day I met her there was just something immediate between us that I can't explain. I had a feeling that we would connect and bond as actors, and we did. A similar experience happened between me and Richard Jenkins for The Visitor, but with her it was even stronger. Our frequencies just clicked.

Would you be friends with someone like Mo-Mo?
Absolutely. I'd like to be a lot like Mo-Mo. I have a few friends in my life that are really close, but I'd love to have the friendship that Mo-Mo and Nurse Jackie have. Jackie has her issues and there are certain things she has not yet told him, but it doesn't take away from their friendship, which is universal in the sense that it's not about who they are but how they connect. They don't judge one another, they're there for each other, and they just get each other. Mo-Mo is smart, compassionate, trustworthy, works hard, great at what he does, and I don't know if you can get more honest than him. He also has some issues in his personal life, but who doesn't?

Playing a gay character, do you feel any pressure to represent the gay community respectfully?
It's definitely my responsibility not to stereotype any character, but especially a gay character because of the misperceptions people still have about gays. I really struggled in the beginning with the character because I was trying to find balance and be as authentic as possible, but the way I finally saw it is that he's just a guy. Even though he's gay and Muslim, which is a really interesting combination, that doesn't define him. It's just a part of who he is. I interviewed a lot of nurses, gay and straight, because you don't want to offend the people that you're portraying, and hopefully they'll feel proud that you're showcasing a positive but still human image. I feel lucky to be portraying this character, and it's very flattering that I'm even allowed to represent this type of person.

Tags: television

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