Exclusive Interview with Damien’s Omid Abtahi


Being besties with the antichrist is no cake walk! Talk Nerdy With Us sat down with Damien‘s Omid Abtahi, the man behind the character Amani Golkar – Damien Thorn’s close friend and voice of reason. Join us to hear about what you can expect in the second half of the season, exciting changes for Abtahi’s character, and some insight on Amani and Damien’s relationship.

Now that we’re at the midpoint of the season, what are you thoughts on the show so far?

I think from the beginning – when I read the pilot, I really appreciated Glen (Mazzara)’s approach to how he wanted to tell the story. I think the show starts off a little slow, and it’s about getting to know Damien as he’s finding out who he is. I think it’s really compelling TV! That’s how the audience can feel like they’re in his shoes, and I think that the payoff at the very end is worth it.

We’re at that mid-way point where things are about to get really, really intense! So – so far, so good. I’m a fan!

Are you finding yourself enjoying your role in a horror-genre series for the first time?

Yes, very much so! To be honest with you, I don’t think my character quite comes across the horror aspect of the show until later on, so I kind of approached it as a regular TV series. When he does, it’s definitely been a learning experience because I’ve never done it, like you said.

As an actor, you sort of want to draw upon real-life experiences and I just don’t have anything in my life where it put me in a horror-related situation! (laughs). It’s definitely been a learning experience.

Well, it’s probably good that you haven’t had any horror-related experiences in your life!

(laughs) Yeah!

Another aspect I’m enthusiastic about is how it’s so refreshing to see a character of Middle Eastern descent being portrayed without harmful stereotypes! What do you think of Amani as a character?

I’m glad you appreciate it and I appreciate it even more because I’m used to playing a lot of characters that either are terrorists or have something to do with something political. (laughs). When I first booked the role I asked Glen, “Does this have anything to do with the role? Are you going to make me speak Arabic or– why is this guy Middle Eastern?” He’s like, “He just is!”

Other than the quick background we hear about how he and Damien met, there’s really no reason he should be Middle Eastern, but he is and it’s great! I’m really enjoying playing that.

There are a few other POC characters in Damien and it is something that I am grateful for!

Yeah! Credit goes to Glen for that! Usually, when a person of color is in a horror genre you’re like, “Aww, that person’s gonna get killed off first!”  (laughs). I don’t think he approaches it that way. Me and Megalyn (Echikunwoke) were looking at each other like, “Okay, who’s gonna go first?!”

Has any of your own personality come out in Amani or are you nothing alike?

Yes, it has. Originally the way Amani was written, I didn’t have too much in common with him. He’s very much a womanizer and I’ve never been good with women. (laughs) I’ve always been very shy! Thankfully Glen allowed me to bring my personality into it and he’s gotten a lot closer to who I am. I like to think of myself as a loyal friend and a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and I think that’s Amani for you. He does get in a lot more fights than I do in real life, but other than that he has a lot of my personality!

Appropriate for their work environment, Amani and Damien have displayed a “brothers-in-arms” sort of camaraderie – what are some of your favorite aspects of your character’s relationship with Damien?

I really like how they met. Amani’s a very loyal guy and I think he genuinely cares for and loves Damien because Damien saved his life and he’s indebted to him. I don’t think it matters if he’s the antichrist or Santa Claus (laughs), he’s gonna be there for him. It’s just a quality that I really like about Amani, as I would like with any human being.

Absolutely! Also, I don’t know if it was intentional but an anagram for Santa is Satan!

Is it really?! I didn’t know that! (laughs)

Just on last week’s episode, we saw Amani ignore a phone call from Damien- one that could’ve been potentially life-saving. What kind of reaction or repercussion might we see from Amani’s actions?

Yeah…about that. We’re definitely going to address it! I think you can see that Amani did hesitate, he wanted to pick it up and he didn’t because he wanted to get some action and you can’t blame the guy. ‘Cause I don’t think he knew – it could’ve been a call about work, who knows? He definitely is not gonna feel great about it.  

We also saw Amani walk away from what seemed like a potential relationship with Simone – will that be the last we see of those two?

Everyone’s fair game to Amani! (laughs) You know he tried, and you can’t blame him for trying, but I don’t think the avenue is really open to him.

Simone and Amani will have a friendship or some sort of relationship going forward. It may not be romantic but they’ll definitely be together. More screen time together! 

What kind of changes might we see in Amani in the latter half of the season?

Amani from the get-go has tried to be the reasonable voice in Damien’s life by trying to get him to not overreact to things. You know, “There’s no such thing as the antichrist.” In the second half of the season, that ‘dark cloud’ that follows Damien? Amani starts getting entangled with. He definitely gets involved with Ann Rutledge and John Lyons – those two worlds of Damien’s start to collide.

I did notice that in the midst of Damien’s growingly bad situation, Amani has managed to avoid a lot of it. So now we will see him in a bit more danger?

Absolutely, and that’s pretty much the second half of the season. It’s exciting!

Are there any moments you can’t wait for fans to see?

It might be a boring answer, but I can’t wait for fans to see the second half of the season. We might start off with a walk, but we end up in a hard sprint. Everything comes to a pretty dramatic season finale, which I think fans will be happy with! I have never – as an actor or a fan – wanted to see the second season so badly because I want to know where the story goes. I’m just excited for fans to see the pay-off!

I’m glad to hear that some of the actors involved are gunning for a second season – when I spoke with David Meunier, he said the same thing. It feels like there’s so much to tell that can’t be contained into one season!

Absolutely not, there’s so much story to tell! I don’t know what that story is, Glen does, but I’m just as curious as everyone else to find out.

How is it working with Glen in terms of learning his vision for the show?

I love Glen – from the beginning when I got the part he sat me down and went over what he wanted, what he envisioned in the character, what the storyline is, the background, etc. Then he asked me what I wanted in the character. It was a very collaborative effort to make Amani.

He just has a lot of heart and for someone with a lot of heart he’s also a little twisted in the head! (laughs). A lot of the scripts, you’re kind of like, “WOW, you’re really gonna do this?” I think he’s an excellent showrunner and I hope to continue to work with him.

How about working with Bradley (James)?

Oh, it’s so much fun! What you see on camera is pretty much how we are off camera. We’re really good friends and we get along really well and we love hanging out with each other. From the get-go, the first day, me and him had a dance-off! We’ll go do karaoke, we’ll play FIFA together- but as an actor, he gives so much. I feel so comfortable with him on-screen – he’s a fantastic acting partner.

Your scenes with Bradley are so convincing and compelling! In watching the pilot and seeing Amani give Damien his birthday present, you could see that these two did have a strong bond that was not only very important but would be put to the test throughout the show.

Thank you so much – you hit the nail on the head and you’ll see more and more of that!

Damien airs Monday, 10/9 Cental on A&E Network. Be sure to follow Omid on Twitter, as well!

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