On Sunday, Rami Malek scooped up the Best Actor award at the 2019 Academy Awards for his critically-acclaimed portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, becoming the first actor of Arabic descent to take home the prestigious award. During his acceptance speech, the Egyptian-American actor lauded the biopic for telling the story of an immigrant who lived his life as “unapologetically himself.” Malek noted that he himself is the son of immigrants, from Egypt. “I’m a first generation American. This is something I will treasure for the rest of my life,” he shared.
After accepting his award, the Mr. Robot actor went backstage to speak to press and show off his Arabic speaking skills when a reporter asked him what he would say to the young Arab talent that look up to him (in his native tongue). “Well I’ll begin by saying ahlan wasahlan,” he said in his broken Egyptian dialect.
— Variety (@Variety) February 25, 2019
He went on to share that while his older sister was born in Egypt, he never felt like he truly belonged. “When I grew up as a kid, part of me felt like I needed to shed some of that. I didn’t feel like I fit in, I definitely felt like the outsider,” he revealed. However, he explained that as an adult, he grew to love his rich culture. “As I got older I realized just how beautiful my heritage and my tradition is,” he shared. “The wealth of culture, magic, music, film, and just pure art that comes out of the Middle East,” added Malek.
Malek was born in Los Angeles to Egyptian immigrant parents who left Cairo in 1978. The 37-year-old grew up speaking colloquial Egyptian Arabic at home until the age of four. Although he is no longer fluent in his native tongue, Sunday’s Oscars weren’t the first time that the actor brushed up on his Arabic speaking skills. Last year, an old BBC Arabic interview with Husam Sam Asi and Malek went viral as the Mr. Robot actor spoke in his parents’ mother tongue, charming fans with his Americanized pronunciation of words like “shukran” and “Alhamdullah”.