Actor Is Typecast As Satan

by Bob Schwartz

The media is all atwitter over the observation that the actor who plays Satan in a new Bible series looks a lot or something like President Obama.

The Associated Press got a response from the producers:

Mark Burnett and Roma Burnett said Monday the Moroccan actor who played Satan in the History channel series has played Satanic characters in other Biblical programs long before Obama was elected president.

First, separate from any questions about motives or about whether Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni does look like Obama, let’s quickly get past a gap in this reply. If an actor looks like the President, and you have some creative notion that this helps make it a good casting choice (for artistic, political or publicity reasons), his having played Satan before just might be a bonus. Or if his experience as Satan is the driving reason, then the look-alike feature might be a bonus. The earlier Satan experience doesn’t fully dismiss any possibilities.

Beneath all this is a commentary on the craft and business of acting. From the producers’ comments, it appears that Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni is, or is on his way to, being typecast as Satan. He played the part before, he is playing it now (and getting lots of attention for it), and may then be asked to play it again. If Charlton Heston had done a few more Moses movies after The Ten Commandments, what would his later career have looked like? Would he have been waiting around for the next Moses movie, instead of giving us Ben Hur, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, etc.? No major actor has ever reprised the role of Jesus, either, because besides the fact that there is no sequel to the story, it is the kind of part that is hard to shake.

There is a silver lining, though. Whether or not there are other Satan parts in this actor’s future, there is no doubt that in years to come, we will be seeing all kinds of films about Barack Obama. Some will even cast Obama as a metaphorical devil—a part he already plays in lots of political punditry. When those films are finally made, there will be a call for actors, and maybe having played Satan will be a real qualification.