Pursuing an acting career is easier from a foundation of love; Sonya Khazaal is seeing a successful second act
Growing up as the daughter of a chef prepares you for many paths, even becoming an actress.
As Sonya Khazaal knows very well, both the restaurant business and acting require understanding people, reading their moods, and bringing them something that nourishes both their heart and mind.
Her parents, Inaam and Hussein Khazaal, owners of the Phoenecia Restaurant on Alki always encouraged their children to pursue their dreams, Inaam making costumes for Sonya's early school days acting efforts, her father emotionally supportive and happy to see their daughter grow. She appeared in many school productions her sights set on becoming a professional actress.
Hussein,"Took me to my first TV audition in Seattle for Bill Nye the Science Guy and I booked the role of Exosphere the super hero. I still get Disney residual checks for that!" Sonya said.
At the same time she got to know the restaurant industry from the inside.
Sonya's career got off to a fast start in Hollywood in 2002 when she was cast in the Elton John video featuring Mandy Moore Original Sin playing the part of Cher in a fantasy sequence. She appeared in the Robert De Niro/ Eddie Murphy film Showtime that year too. But her boyfriend (now her husband) Maher who drove her to the auditions also wanted a family and Sonya agreed it was time. She and Maher had two beautiful and talented daughters and as they watched them grow into young women, Sonya's dream was put on hold.
Hussein was widely known for his habit of "doing a character reading" Sonya said, and then hustling back to the kitchen to "make you something very special." "He was an artist with food," said Sonya, "and a huge inspiration to me."
When Hussein passed away in 2009 it was obviously a huge blow to his wife Inaam and their family. They considered selling. Inaam said they would only reopen for three months.
But it was always Hussien's vision to remake the restaurant into a more casual version of itself, add gourmet quality pizza and appeal to a younger crowd. Inaam, and her children, Sonya, Nadia, and William all played a part in making his dream a reality. So hard work and helping family members pull together is in their blood. "My realization is that one must always be studying the craft, because without preparation and hard work the opportunities do not come. However when they do come they are magical," Sonya said.
To that end she is studying with Angela DiMarco, of Mighty Tripod Productions (see their IMDB listing here) who, as many do in the entertainment industry, wears many hats. She's a Coach, Actor, Director and Producer. She said of Sonya,"As a coach I try to get my actors to set six month goals, and this woman, she has surpassed it and then some."
Sonya is also a student of Casting Director, Nike Imoru who said to her, "Stop being an inspiration junky and start doing it yourself because there is no reason YOU should not be booking roles!"
Fast forward to today and Sonya with her reawakened acting aspirations is finding acting jobs pretty readily. She appears in the short films Finding My Sunshine, by CreateASpark Productions and David from Laser Cat films.
She's featured in a film that was part of the 48 hour Film Project, the largest International Filmmaking competition and is up for a variety of other film roles that are being shot here in Seattle.
She plays the Senator's wife in We Take the Low Road a film set for release next year.
Sonya is represented by her agent Sheena Jewell with TCM Models and Talent.
The success of shows like Big Little Lies on HBO, produced and featuring women in roles with meaning and depth, represents something of a breakthrough for women in Hollywood.
Sonya now sees a brighter future for female roles and roles for women of middle eastern descent. With the new "golden age" of film production being driven by major investments by Netflix, Google, Apple Amazon and others it's clear that the world of film is changing and many of the stereotypical ideas that used to exist, are crumbling away.
Film production in the northwest is on the upswing again recently with Z Nation, and Grimm filming nearby and Vancouver B.C. often referred to as "Hollywood North" playing host to dozens of film and television productions. Even as the State of Washington de-emphasized the film industry, the baton was picked up by http://washingtonfilmworks.org/ who maintain an active information resource.
"I want to be part of something that will break down stereotypes. How powerful would that be?," Sonya said. More roles are in the offing for Sonya, some that can't yet be revealed since they are still in production. But if the stars align she too will find roles that help her "make something special" for all of us.