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Interview With Rami Malek
by Josh Aterovis, February 22, 2007
Rami Malek Kyle Sullivan and Rami Malek in The War at Home

If you haven't been watching the Fox sitcom The War at Home over the past several weeks, then you've missed a surprisingly sweet and sensitive story of a young man's coming-out. The young man in question is Kenny, the next-door-neighbor of the show's main family, the Golds.

When Kenny first revealed he was gay, his Middle Eastern parents reacted by throwing him out. The dysfunctional Gold family, led by the often crude father Dave (Michael Rapaport) came to Kenny's rescue by taking him in. In a three-episode story arc, Kenny found his first boyfriend and Dave hilariously explained to him the gay birds and bees.

In last week's episode, Kenny and his new boyfriend, Dylan, tried to attend their school's Sadie Hawkins dance together, only to be told by the school that they weren't allowed to participate. Dave stood up to the principal, only to inadvertently draw attention to the fact that Kenny no longer lived at home with his parents. When social services stepped in and threatened to place Kenny in a group home, Dave and his wife Vicky (Anita Barone) implored Kenny's parents to take him back. At the last minute, they relented, but it wasn't the warm and fuzzy ending you might expect from a typical sitcom.

AfterElton.com recently talked with Rami Malek, who plays Kenny with a wonderful quirkiness that makes him entirely believable and extremely endearing. During our interview, I found Malek to be every bit as sweet as the character he plays. In fact, I had the pleasure of interviewing him twice in two days. After our first interview, I realized the entire conversation had been lost due to a malfunction of my recording equipment. Fortunately, Malek was kind enough to do a second interview. Although he swore he couldn't remember the questions I'd asked the day before, he was just as well-spoken and thoughtful the second time through.

AfterElton.com: Thanks so much for giving us a second chance!
Rami Malek: No problem. Thank you guys for everything you've done and for bringing this positive attention to our show.

AE: When you took the role of Kenny, did you know he was going to be gay or did that come about later?
RM: It was pretty clear at the onset that he was a gay character, that his thoughts were censored, and that they would be crafted through a confessional rather than revealed to the rest of the cast on the show.

AE: So you knew from the start that he was going to be gay.
RM: From the audition, from the very first time I read the script, it was made very clear to me that this was a gay character.

AE: Was it always planned for there to be a coming-out story line, or did that develop along the way?
RM: I think it developed along the way. I think there was a feeling of wanting to keep it a secret in order to play off the joke as long as possible, but then I think as the character developed and the writers saw how genuine and honest the story line of this character was, it felt like the next step would be to reveal.

AE: The War at Home is sort of a broad-strokes kind of sitcom, but it handled Kenny's coming-out with a fair bit of subtlety. Did that surprise you?
RM:
Not at all. Well, let me think about this. I've been so used to the way we've handled certain situations. I think when you have a gay writer helming the show, there are definitely some precautions that are going to be taken. But the humor was never lost in telling the story in a truthful manner, in a manner people could identify with, without being too crass. I think they did it very genuinely.

AE: It was clever using Kenny's coming-out to humanize the boorish Dave a little bit. Anything you can tell us about how that came about? Was that planned or happenstance?
RM: I think it just happened that way. Juxtaposing this character, Kenny, against someone who has such authority and can be so crass at moments just played so well. To have his really warm human side come out and kind of shepherd this young individual through this trying time in his life, it just showed him off as such an endearing man.

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