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[TRANSCRIPT] Dennis Haysbert's interview with AlArabiya.net/English

Q: Several of your recent roles that have to do with terrorism and a lot of those terrorists are Arabs or Muslims or king of this general type of person. I'm wondering what you think about that. I'm sure you heard about some of the criticism of 24 in terms of interrogators in the military and in the police thinking that this is how you do it.

A: No, actually that was more of a 24 thing. I happen to know for sure that generals from West Point actually came to the set and said, "Look, this is not the way we do things. We do not torture." This is something, you know, that happened basically in the Bush administration. And that's what I said. It's time to shed some light on the Arab world and to teach Americans, in particular, and other in the world that not every one that wears a dishdash is a terrorist, that not everyone who wears a burqa is maligned or put upon. These are religious choices. Just as Jewish people have their choices and Christians have theirs. It's time to stop victimizing people in the world and embrace them.

Q: Do you notice a difference… you've obviously cut a very long acting career. You have several pages on IMDB. Do you notice that there has been a shift in the type of roles available after 9/11? You mentioned that you like to play these strong figures. Do you notice there is any sort of shift?

A: Yeah, whatever you’re going to do is going to be topical to a certain extent. And then everybody's gonna fall in the band wagon and they'll ride it goes six feet under the earth. There are very few people who are pushing the envelope and being creative and thinking of different roles and doing different projects. That's what I want to do as a filmmaker, stretch those lines a little bit.

Q: So are you here as a filmmaker… in the Gulf context?

A: Everywhere I go as a filmmaker and an actor, but basically I'm here to relax. And I came out here with some friends from Adbox who I find are very progressive and bright and creative. And like I said, if I can start my company and I can come back here and possibly do a film. I'm gonna embrace that.

Q: Is this your first trip to the Middle East?

A: No, not the first trip.

Q: Ok, so where else have you been? Have you done the USO tour?

A: I did a USO last year in Iraq by way of Kuwait.

Q: Do you really get much out of the US military compounds?

A: (laughing) Well in Iraq, that would be very intense. I went to different FABs. And for people who don’t know what a FAB is, it’s a Forward Operating Bases. We had to take Blackhawks from point to point. It’s like a very elaborate, very expensive taxi service. An just visiting the troops. And what I come to understand is the troops will never admit this and I would never think to speak for them. That's why I come to the USO, to boost their morale.

Q: How did your perception of the Middle East or Arabs and Islam may be shift after you actually visited the countries?

A: Any time you can visit a country and see it first hand it’s gonna dispel a lot of pre-conceived beliefs that you have. As I was saying in the interview before, everyone has their pre-conceived ideas as to what the Middle East is until you actually come out and visit and figure it out for yourself. You see for yourself and interact. I found it very interesting and I found the people very lovely.

Q: Unfortunately, most people don't get to visit. They don’t have the money, the means, the will…

A: That's when it becomes important as filmmakers to write films that are balances. And that happened. Some films, they haven’t gone to deeply into it, but have tried to make this balance.

Q: So are you working on a film right now?

A: My company bought a book that I want to make into a movie. I have a couple of films, actually one in particular that would be be great to be shot.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about it?

A: Not yet.

Q: It sounds like you just started a company, but I didn't see this on your Wikipedia page.

A: No, this is very new. You get the scoop.

Q: So tell me a little bit about this company.

A: Like I said, it's going to be a film, television, and documentary company. A a matter of fact, when I go back home, I'll start working on a documentary about a boxer who’s about to get his shot on an HBO boxing series. I'm working with an occupational therapist who contacted this film man and figured out he's only working at 30% of his capacity and he's been training himself. So, we're gonna do a documentary on getting him healthy and getting him ready before his big boxing champ.

Q: Interesting. So you can't tell me anything about this movie that will be great to be shot here?

A: It's a movie that would be shot in Jerusalem, Israel in the Middle East. And it's biblical and it's grand in its scope.

Q: Difficult and it's grand in its scope.

A: Yeah. And it will be kind of sci-fi action biblical adventure.

Q: That sounds fascinating.

A: Yeah! And that only scratches the surface. You have no idea. It will be huge.

Q: We will definitely keep looking out for that. So, I want to go back a little bit to what you were talking about before about the importance of films being balanced. To what extent is American's perceptions of the Middle East or any other country are shaped by the media. And as you pointed out, there's a blurring line.

A: The news, media and certain films.

Q: What do you think are the most important film or TV series that have shaped the perceptions Americans have.

A: Just turn on the television. I'm not going to pick out one show or another. That is for the viewing public to figure out. I know I see it and I know that people watch a lot more television than I do. Like I said, what we have to do is battle perceptions that are not accurate, and I think it’s incumbent upon news organizations to be more thruthful in how they report the news. I mean entertainment is going to be entertainment. You can't expect movies to tell the truth. The truth they get is from the news media. And their own fear and their own ignorance and in some cases their own arrogance.

Q: There's been more criticism of the news media from the African American side of things. Do you feel their pain? Do you feel an affinity with Arab and Muslims?

A: I feel an affinity for anyone who is maligned and the truth is not told about. That could extend to Ireland. That could extend to people in Great Britain, in China, in Japan, you know? Everywhere where there's imbalance, for lack of a better word.

Q: And how about speaking out as an activist. Have you acted in any causes?

A: I'm active in causes that promote health. Being active and political is not something that is a requisite. Some people speak out against Darfur and crimes such as that. I agree. A there are a lot of people speaking about that and I do support that. Peace in that area. But what I am concerned about is environmental concerns primarily, health and nutrition.

Q: Do you know that the average citizen in Dubai has a carbon footprint 7 times bigger than anywhere else in the world?

A: I can see that with the big vehicles and everything I see here! But I also have faith that this country, in particular, the UAE, is so advanced and that I fully expect them to reduce that and start looking into electric cars and hydrogen cars even to water powered cars. Once we get an infrastructure set up that people can make a living and make money off of it, solar power, wind power. It just makes sense to use the earth and the climate of the earth to power us. Nobody gets more sun than the UAE! So, it's about time to get serious, and I’m sure some great minds are already working that out.

Q: What news media do you watch? Let me rephrase that. Not watch, but how do you get your news?

A: I get my news from newspapers. Time, Newsweek, CNN, to a certain extent Fox News, just to see how imbalanced their “balanced” news is. I look at them all. Not to sound like Saraah Palin at all but I do come up with concrete choices.

Q: And did you get the chance to watch any news here at all?

A: I haven’t had a lot of time to watch the news here. I’ve seen a bit of al-Jazeera English-speaking news, a bit of BBC news and CNN. I live on CNN when I'm out of the country.

Q: I'm sure you heard of al-Jazeera being accused of being a “terrorist channel” in the U.S….

A: This is what I'm talking about in terms of people not understanding what a news organization is and what their mission statement is. Someone has to report the news in this area, and because you report the news in the Middle East, all of a sudden you are attached to something evil. That's just not true. That's ignorance compounded by arrogance. That's why I’d love to see change in the world. In America, especially certain parts, the central part of America, they just have this view that is unsubstantiated.

Q: To go back to what we talked about in the beginning, I brought this New Yorker article that mentions that some actual police officers and interrogators have referred to 24 as a show… as this is how it's done. Maybe more of the rank and file. How does that make you feel?

A: Ignorance never makes me feel good. And that's an excuse and they should know better. It's a TV show. And if they're getting the information of what to do or what not to do from a television show, shame on them.