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Zeeko Zaki: The First Egyptian-Born Actor to Lead A Major U.S. TV Show

Zeeko Zaki is an Egyptian-born American actor best known for his role portraying Special Agent Omar Adom “O. A.” Zidan on the CBS network television series “FBI.”

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, he immigrated with his parents to the United States at just one month of age. Zaki grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania and references his passion for acting to have begun while performing in his high school’s portrayal of “Seussical,” during his freshman year.

Now starring as the co-lead in CBS’s show FBI, he is the first Egyptian-born Arab-American to be cast as a protagonist in a major US network show.

Zaki has discussed having a clear picture of who he is and proudly defines himself as an Arab-American and has maintained strong cultural ties by speaking Arabic and taking regular trips back home.

He has stated, “I grew up in a very white town where the only other Arab kids were my cousins,” he says. “But everyone was always very welcoming.” He further references the aftermath of his experience after the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks; despite only being 11 years old at the time, it would later become a huge obstacle for Zaki’s acting goals.

“There are Arab actors who have changed their names and hidden their ethnicity, but career-wise I always got behind it,” he explains. The role he plays on FBI was originally written for a different character, and after Zaki’s audition and refusal of portraying typecasting roles, is said to have been a major reason FBI show creator, Dick Wolf not only casted Zaki, but also to re-write the lead character to be both Arab-American and, more importantly, a good guy on the show, which drew weekly viewing figures of approximately 10 million people in its first season.

Photo: AmrZaian, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons