5. Softness I had a professor at NYU, Orlando Pabotoy, and I don’t think my career, or life, would be where they are were it not for him. He came up one day and said, “Abu, not this [clenching a fist]but this [extending the arm].” I fully recognize that it’s a privilege to be able to allow yourself to feel, but we live in such a jaded, hardened world that I like to remind myself to connect to a softness and openness.
Billy [Porter] is very much an actor’s actor, and I was fortunate he trusted me with this character [in “Anything’s Possible”]and allowed me to make the stupid acting choices, to be a little dumb in the best way. The main thing I stuck to was the character’s sort of lankiness. You don’t see that in most romantic leads, that softness.
6. Sabry’s restaurant in Queens It’s this Egyptian seafood restaurant in Little Egypt, where I will very likely be going to tonight. It’s a great place, with amazing food, that reminds me of home a lot: You can order and kind of talk casually in Arabic with everyone; they’ll have a soccer game playing in the background. What I love about it is that it’s very much like Egypt, in its approach, where the waiters are chilling and you really have to tag someone down — and I say that with all the love in my heart. That’s how it’s over there. You can get fire seafood and it’s unbelievably cheap. They have the fish sitting on ice, you pick the one you want, and walk out with a $40 bill. Which, for New York seafood, is wild.
7. His Yale classmates There were so few of us, and I think something happened with my class where we were really keen on challenging everything around us and having conversations about how to move the industry and form forward. Every single one of them are people I will forever be grateful for, because they gave me a voice, in a way, in relation to my work. Before school, I’d always been kind of, “I’m an actor, I’m here to play a role the best way I can.” Working with them taught me to have something to say behind everything I do, to speak from where I am within my identity.
8. Smuggle candy into the movies The candy you can actually stuff somewhere before going in. I’ll always get one of the more niche M&Ms, like caramel or peanut butter. I don’t mix them with the popcorn because they always get lost in there, so I’ll try to scoop them separately, but at the same time. The whole order is genuinely disturbing to watch. If I ever have the money to do it, I would get one of those Coca-Cola Freestyles where you can pick a billion different options, and just go to town.