INTERVIEW: Walid Chaya

Meet actor/filmmaker Walid Chaya! Walid is an award winning director-actor and celebrity acting coach based in Los Angeles. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA, the Stage Directors Choreographer Society,  and an alumni of The American Theatre Wing’s, founder of the Tony® Awards, SpringBoardNYC directors program.

As an actor, he can be seen on TV in “Madam Secretary” (CBS), “Blacklist: Redemption” (NBC), “The Looming Tower” (Hulu), opposite Jamie Bell in the feature “Skin” directed by Oscar-Winner Guy Nattiv, and more.

Walid is a content creator and has headlined in diverse industry panels, his favorite titled “The Future of Acting: Creating Your Own Content” produced by Actors Pro Expo. He speaks English & Arabic fluently. Walid was awarded the “Diversity Scholarship Award” from Upright Citizens Brigade LA for his work in original content, improvisation and sketch comedy. 

Walid also coaches and connects emerging actors with the finest casting directors, talent agents and personal managers in the industry through Studio for Performing Arts. He is a keynote speaker and teaches master classes at various studios and international schools and universities. His clients can be seen in commercials, major films, television shows and theater nationwide.

Walid has directed New York and Regional productions including the Off-Broadway premiere’s of Law & Order: NRU (2017), We Are Monsters the Musical (2015) and the DC premiere of Disney’s “High School Musical” Live on Stage (2008).  He is also the founder of DC’s Moonlit Wings Productions (voted “Best for Families” by Washington Family Magazine) and CEO of Broadway in Beirut, enhancing the entertainment scene and production value in the Middle East. In 2020, Walid won the grand prize of Ermantourage’s Hollywood Chills acting contest for his short “Driving Ms. Saudi.”

Briefly describe who you are as a creative! What got you into pursuing a career in entertainment, and why your field specifically?

I am an Actor-Director and Creative Consultant. I make movies, teach acting/business and love to travel. I was born in Lebanon and am now based in Los Angeles. 

At age three, my parents immigrated to the United States with me, a few bags and barely $1K to their name. From there, I watched their journey unfold as they attended various trade schools and found work, had my sister a year later, opened and closed various businesses, put my mother through college, all leading up to my time to do the same. I owe my entrepreneurial spirit to them and the “American Dream” that’s made my work today a reality, and for that I am eternally grateful. 

As a child, I would return to Lebanon to spend summer breaks with my grandparents so my parents could work and save money. One summer at age five, my grandparents took me to watch an Arabic musical adaptation of “Romeo & Juliet”. After the show, I was taken backstage. There I discovered “behind-the-scenes” of a theater for the first time. It was a life-changing and magical moment; a cultural dynamic that has shaped me into the artist I am today. Since then, I have had a growing love for storytelling, from school plays and receiving my BFA degree in Performance (with honors!) from VCUarts to working with major networks and productions in New York and Los Angeles. My favorite quote is “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

-Can you think back to your first piece of work and what you learned most from it? How much of your voice has changed since you began?

One of my first amature pieces of work was playing a Juror in my middle school play “12 Angry Men”. Professionally, my first major co-star was a few years ago on NBC’s “The Blacklist: Redemption” opposite Ryan Eggold. What I learned most in both productions was the importance of preparation and dedication, and that remains true. My voice has definitely changed since I began acting because I started as a kid. Now, as a young adult, I have more solid opinions on situations and have gained more life experiences to pull from when expressing my voice and telling a story.

-Do you feel you are still finding your voice? What can you say your voice is right now?

Absolutely! I am constantly finding my voice and seeking my greater purpose in this world. I am constantly evolving and trying to be a better person, always working on my patience and discipline. Right now my voice is committed to projects that illuminate the stories of migrant children and human rights. As an Arab American filmmaker, it’s important for me to use my voice and platform to support my community. I like to tell stories that encourage a thoughtful and dynamic dialogue that brings people closer together.

-What do you hope to be known for during your career?

I hope to be known as the filmmaker that brought light to underrepresented stories from artists of color. Stories that wake people up and call for positive action. And the guy who made you laugh!

-In what ways do you plan on utilizing your platform to better the world?

I have several projects for and about BlPOC in development and am excited to share them with the world. These stories feature popular topics that I have experienced as a Middle Eastern male, including human rights and equality, displaced people/refugees, traditions/family values, arranged marriage, coming out and “the American dream” in today’s climate.

-What do you have in the works at the moment?

There are several exciting projects in the works so I’ll tell you about two features I’m developing at the moment! One is an action drama called “Breaking The ICE” about Kareem, a displaced Syrian lawyer who is on the run for refuge in Los Angeles and must save himself and his friends from deportation when ICE Agents come knocking on his door. The other feature is a musical comedy/parody called “The Barent Trap” where I play both Omar and Yosuf, identical Lebanese twins separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents. They discover each other for the first time at a Los Angeles falafel shop in their late 20’s and together make a plan to reunite their stubborn parents and be a family again.

-Where can folks find you on social media!

I love connecting on social! Let’s get in touch at Instagram.com/walid.chaya or Facebook.com/walidc.

by Erman Baradi

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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