Comedian Dave Merheje dishes on life with ‘Ramy’
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Dave Merheje says he wasn’t surprised when “Ramy” star Ramy Youssef won a Golden Globe earlier this year, beating out the likes of Bill Hader and Paul Rudd.
“The show is so well done from the writing to the filming,” says Merjehe, 39, who plays Ramy’s friend Ahmed in the Hulu series. “Even if I wasn’t in it and just watching, I would be like, ‘This is such a great show.’ ”
Now in its second season, the show’s slice-of-life narrative follows Ramy Hassan (Youssef) a first-generation Egyptian American millennial living in New Jersey as he navigates the ups and downs of balancing family expectations with dating, work, and his Muslim faith. It’s considered to be the first mainstream Muslim American sitcom.
“I’m only speaking for myself, but we’d see [available] roles of terrorists and bad people, where it’s not fun [to audition],” says Merheje, a Lebanese-Canadian standup comedian. “You’re not like, ‘I’m not really excited.’
“So when you see other representations [of Middle Eastern people] that are positive, or where you like the way it’s depicted, you’re thinking ‘I want more of that!’ ”
In “Ramy,” Merjehe’s Ahmed is a kindhearted doctor. Like the lead character, he’s a fellow Muslim. Merheje grew up Christian, but says he didn’t need to do much research for the role.
“My hometown is Windsor, Canada, on the border of Michigan,” he says. “We had a huge Middle Eastern community. There was a large Christian and Muslim population there, so I had friends who would go to the mosque. You hang out with your friends from different religions and they share things with you and you see what they do. I had that information growing up.”
Merheje met Youssef about ten years ago in New York’s stand-up comedy scene and they kept in touch. When Youssef started developing “Ramy,” he reached out to Merheje. “I felt it was interesting and I felt it was going to be great,” Merheje says. “I wanted to be a part of it.”
Merjehe didn’t have much screen experience before “Ramy” apart from the Canadian series “Mr. D ” — so it was a big deal for him to share scenes with Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, who guest stars in Season 2 as Sheikh Ali Malik, a Sufi leader who runs a mosque with a “cool” reputation.
“I remember watching ‘True Detective’ and I was like, ‘Oh that would be wild to work with somebody like [Ali],’ ” he says. “He’s such a brilliant actor … and it just happened. His energy was great — he was kind and he put you at ease. Just being in a scene with somebody whose done so well in his field was awesome.
“As someone who wants to get deeper into acting, it was a great experience.”
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