Breakout roles are a dream for most actors and actresses. Frankly, they are hard to come by. Every performer wants that role that will bring them instant recognition and take their career to the next level. Oftentimes, it could even take an entire career to even find that character at all. But for Syracuse native Behzad Dabu, his big break came early on during his transition from stage to film. For fans of the hit show How to Get Away with Murder, Dabu is immediately known as the student that everyone loves to hate; Simon Drake. Making his first appearance in the beginning of Season 3, he has quickly become a recognizable and recurring role within the show. But despite the audience’s consensus on the character’s likeability, Dabu likes to look at Simon from a different point of view.
Photography: Ian McLaren
He explained, “I just thought he was always sassy and kind of a jerk and obnoxious…yeah, the audience is with the Keating 5, but maybe the rest of the kids don’t like the five or the special ones. Maybe Simon Drake is sort of a representative of the other 45 kids in the class…we think Simon is a jerk, but really Simon represents how everybody else feels about these five because they are kind of the teacher’s pets. So that is how I approached it.”
After a thrilling season finale last year, many fans are wondering if Simon will be involved in the upcoming season being released later this month. But at this point, audiences can only speculate until the premiere. “I really can’t say much…Simon Drake will be seen again in the fourth season,” he admitted.
Photography: Irvin Rivera
But just as Simon is an outsider trying to join a group, Dabu compared this quality of his character to that of his own experiences as an actor in Hollywood. It is a difficult journey for an up-and-coming young actor of color to find his footing in the industry. For this reason, he has stuck to his Chicago roots and continues to work on stage where he gained his formal training as a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. Because of his feelings towards the lack of diversity in the entertainment business, Dabu decided to co-found an opportunity for all performers of various color, gender, sexual orientation or with disabilities known as the Chicago Inclusion Project.
“In Chicago, it’s possible to be a professional actor and make a living and do good work and experience is strong and we really care about improving society through theatre… I thank Chicago for my entire career. Chicago, like New York, like LA, like Hollywood still has disproportionate representation for people of color or LGBTQ and people of disabilities. In order to level the playing field, there has to be a resource for theatres that really want to get better. So we wanted to help…” he said.
Tastes of Behzad
Photography: Ian McLaren
What’s the most important thing in your closet?
“A nice fresh pair of kicks. It’s all about the shoes for me…I love rockin’ a nice pair of shoes but with a nice splash of color. If I am going out for a summer day and I got shorts on, my sneaker game has to be on point. It’s always about the sneakers.”
Is there a hometown hotspot you love to visit?
“The Dinosaur BBQ; the original one in Syracuse, New York. When I go home within five minutes of hugging my mom and dad, I’m like ‘Alright, I’m going to Dinosaur.’ The Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse, New York is the real deal. They got a chain that goes to Chicago, but that is not the real deal…you gotta get the pulled pork sandwich with the baked beans and the corn on the cob on the side. That’s your meal.”
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