Why Saudi Actress Dina Shihabi Should be on Your Radar

By Richard Clune
30 September 2018
“It’s time for Middle Eastern stories to be told by people from the Middle East."

Move beyond the headlines. Beat the stereotypes. Explore the reality. That’s Dina Shihabi’s journey.

She has plotted some heady signposts along the way – culminating in her latest role out front in the new, serialised Jack Ryan reboot showing on Amazon.

“It’s time for Middle Eastern stories to be told by people from the Middle East. And I think that Jack Ryan is a great example because I’m playing a three-dimensional human who just happens to be Arab, and that’s a tremendous gift.”

The circumstances may play to the familiar – the CIA, terrorism, threats against the West. Still, it’s strong to have a Saudi-born woman (raised in Dubai, then Lebanon) holding footing opposite John Krasinski, also seen on The Office.

“I grew up in Dubai and The Office was one of the shows that we were completely obsessed with,” chimes the 29-year-old. “And then to suddenly be on a TV show with John, it felt so surreal. I just couldn’t relax. I was very shy and didn’t know how to say hello to him. Luckily, he embraced me from the first second and was so loving and generous.”

From here, Shihabi returns to her push for broader representation. There’s a pending comedy with Ramy Youssef set to air, as well as a dramedy she’s penned and pitched, exploring the realities of life as an Arab woman in LA. 

“One thing people don’t know about Arab culture is that we have a really strong sense of humour and a really strong sense of taking the p*** out of each other. And it’s important to me to represent my friends and I because at the moment, we don’t feel a part of the conversation or the collective, and we don’t really feel accepted.”

For Shihabi, it’s about a push for something more than individual glory.

“We’re constantly trying to prove that we’re not that different. Having that on TV and showing real stories that my friends and I have experienced – that’s the mission.”

Jack Ryan is now streaming on Prime Video. 

From the October issue of GQ Middle East