Hollywood got a taste of newCanadian TV hit Little Mosque on the Prairie Wednesday night, amid potential deals to bring the Muslim-themed sitcom to U.S. audiences.
Some of the cast, crew and creative minds behind the new CBC-TV show took part in a screening of the Little Mosque pilot and a moderated panel discussion in Los Angeles Wednesday at the Museum of Television and Radio.
In addition to picking up a bit of Canadian geographic knowledge — like how to pronounce Saskatchewan and Regina — the audience got a chance to see a portrayal somewhat rare on U.S. television: Muslims who are not villains.
Canadian actor Carlo Rota was in a unique position on Wednesday night's panel: in addition to his role on Little Mosque, he is one of the ensemble stars of hit U.S. counter-terrorism thriller 24 — a show that has drawn criticism for frequently portraying Muslims as terrorists.
"For people in North America, the only voice that they hear from Muslims is a radical voice," Rota said.
"I think that moderate Muslims need a voice and, you know, this is a great start."
Even before its debut, Little Mosque was attracting attention worldwide, with media outlets from the New York Times to the BBC covering the fledgling program created by Regina-based writer, broadcaster and filmmaker Zarqa Nawaz.
U.S. network representatives as well as television executives worldwide have also expressed interest in Little Mosque.
Producer Mary Darling, who has been attending meetings in Los Angeles all week, is preparing to travel to Cannes next week.
For the first time, she said, her production company is on the "must meet" list for buyers.
In the past, "we'd be like the poor schmucks trying to meet with somebody about one of our shows," she told the panel.
"This year, we haven't had to lift the phone to make a single call and we are meeting with the world."
Little Mosque's producers are now working on whether those interested parties will purchase the entire show as is — set in a fictional Prairie town in Saskatchewan — or simply the format for adaptation to their own regions.