The entertainment industry, like society in general, has long been subject to peer pressure; the notion that there is an acceptable way to appear to the public rather than focusing on one’s own values. While that’s humanizing it’s not particularly admirable. Thankfully this trend has altered course. While actors once were counseled that the proper direction was from television to film (avoiding TV once they had achieved a certain status) this delineation has all but vanished. You’ll find Oscar Winners like Matthew McConaughey, Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Oscar Nominee Woody Harrelson, and many of the most renowned actors of film on the small screen. To state the reasons simply, actors are preferring to go where the great writing and great roles are regardless of the venue. Babak Haleky has spent his time on big budget films (as in the soon to be released Wings Over Everest starring alongside Yakusho Koji of Babel and Jingchu Zhang of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) but is also known in his homeland of Canada for roles in TV productions like Rose. Haleky credits Rose as his first taste of stardom, a moment that would lead to his present day international notoriety.
When Rose aired on TV in Canada, it gave Haleky his first taste of public fame. The experience of being recognized on the street as a “star” while he was still working a regular job was simultaneously exciting and uncomfortable. Being asked to take photos and give interviews on television stations was a new experience. The lesson he recalls learning at this time was that you follow your dreams not in search of fame or money but because they are intrinsic to who you are. Babak reveals that he built his character in Rose [Mahmoud] around his own father, an immigrant himself who had created a new life for his family when he moved them to Canada.
Rose is the story of two unlikely friends on a mission to reunite a lost love. Bruce McFee (of Newline Cinema’s Hairspray, starring alongside Oscar nominees John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer) plays Sam, a draft dodger who ran to Canada and fell in love with a girl named Rose. He returned to the US after the war but some thirty years later, he sees Rose as his long lost love and seeks to find her. When Sam gets in Mahmoud’s taxi, they could not be further from each other in terms of culture and their ways of living. Sam’s continually drinks from his flask in the taxi, angering Mahmoud. Still, they become friends when Mahmoud discovers the real reason Sam has returned to Canada and sees honor in this. He does everything he can to help his new friend find the love of his life, including warding off young punks who attempt to rob them. They uncover clues from the past which eventually lead them to the now married Rose (played in the flashback scenes by Christy Bruce of the Golden Globe nominated Orphan Black and Hulu’s Golden Globe Awarded The Handmaid’s Tale).
It’s not often that a taxi driver is one of the lead characters in a film. Oscar Winner Jamie Foxx in Collateral and Oscar Winner Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle are perhaps two of the most widely known versions and display a wide range. Babak Haleky’s Mahmoud is quite different from either of these. What Haleky presents is an honorable, hard working family man who believes in the idea of everyone else having the joy and happiness that love has brought him even in the face of great difficulty. Executive Producers Paul Barkin (Image Entertainment’s The Colony starring Lawrence Fishburne and Bill Paxton) and Paul Scherzer refer to this endearing interpretation which Babak brought as they state, “We offered him the job right there at the audition. He had the physicality, the warmth, and strength that we needed for this character.” While Haleky remarks that this enthusiasm he received during the audition was a first, it was only the first of many in a long career.