The UAE is famous for its sun-kissed climate, business opportunities and luxury hospitality. It is not, however, a place that many would associate with film or the creative industries.

But Emirati actor, entrepreneur, yoga teacher and former professional footballer, Mohammed Faisal Mostafa is on a mission to change this.

Part of the cast of action thriller Hijack, currently the most watched show on Apple TV+, he has made history by becoming the first Emirati to act in an international hit series alongside Hollywood stars.

Telling the story of a plane that is hijacked whilst travelling from Dubai to London, the seven-part series sees Idris Elba, aka Luther, take up the lead role.

Meanwhile, Mohammed plays a likeable Emirati air traffic controller who is one of the only ones on the ground to notice that all is not right.

As the show continues to gather momentum and receive rave reviews, the 32-year-old hopes that his success will inspire other local actors and creatives to pursue a career in the film industry.

“I want to show the world what this region has to offer when it comes to creative talent,” he tells the Khaleej Times.

“We have so many tremendous actors, directors and screenwriters here in the UAE, and they all deserve to be given a chance to showcase their skills on an international level. I want to give them self-belief and let them know that they too can go on to work with elite actors, production companies and platforms. If I can do it, they can too.”

Whilst Mission: Impossible, Dune, Star Wars and many other huge Hollywood movies have been filmed in the UAE, Mohammed believes that our own productions and talents deserve more attention.

“As well as seeing more Emirati and UAE-based actors excelling in America or Europe, it would be great to have more local talents involved in these big productions that film in the UAE. It would be a great experience for our actors, and we have so much to give in return. These overseas production companies can learn just as much from us, as we can from them,” explains the 32-year-old.

“We also need more acting agencies. Most agencies in the UAE are focused on commercials and modelling. We’re just at the beginning of what the UAE can achieve in film. But to grow, we need to gain experience and provide more opportunities for our home grown talents.”

A passion for film runs through the Mostafa family. Mohammed's older brother, Ali, is the renowned director behind City of Life, the world’s first Emirati feature film.

Mohammed says: “I’ve been appearing in my brother’s films since I was five years old. He taught me how to act and City of Life is honestly one of my favourite movies ever. If there was more investment in local films and talent, the industry would flourish. Our productions are just as good as the Hollywood ones, people just don’t know about them. We have the talent and we have the capital, and now we just need to put the two together.”

As one of the UAE’s only male Emirati yoga teachers, Mohammed is constantly striving to break stereotypes.

“I would like to see the whole conversation around acting change. A lot of Arab families still don’t see acting as a serious profession. It’s similar to how I’m trying to portray that yoga is not just for women, and that men are allowed to be interested in mindfulness and talk about their feelings. I want to step out of the norm and do things differently,” he adds.

Along with pursuing his acting career, Mohammed will continue to focus on his family’s company, Mostafa Bin Abdullatif Investments, and his own digital transformation agency, Versatile Synergy.

A licensed skydiver and adventure sport enthusiast, he would eventually love to star in an action film and do his own stunts.

He says: “Acting has really helped me grow as a person. It teaches you how to work with people of all different backgrounds, and how to understand the psychology of different characters. It adds a lot of value to you as a human being,” he says.

Mohammed notes that Idris Elba helped him feel more confident about his acting.

“Idris is such a nice man and he is extremely down to earth. At the premiere he told me that I’d done a great job, and coming from him, it really meant so much. In fact, everyone in the cast and crew made me feel so welcome. Being on set gives me the same drive and energy as football did. It's amazing."

“I’m currently in talks with a couple of acting agencies in LA. But there’s no guarantee that anything will happen yet. I honestly just want to keep acting and making my family and country proud. I’m so excited about the future,” he concludes.

Hijack is currently available to watch on Apple TV+.

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