Saskatchewan

Regina-based deaf actor relishing role in recently released Netflix series

A Regina-based actor is inspiring people from both the deaf and Syrian communities thanks to his role in the new Netflix original Black Summer.

Mustafa Alabssi featured in zombie series Black Summer

Mustafa Alabssi caught on to ASL quickly after moving from Syria to Canada recently. ASL is his third language, after Arabic and Arabic Sign Language. (CBC)

A Regina-based actor is inspiring people from both the deaf and Syrian communities thanks to his role in the new Netflix original Black Summer.

Mustafa Alabssi was born deaf in Syria. He and his family fled the country when he was 12-years-old.

For four-and-a-half years he and his family lived with other refugees in Jordan. They moved to Canada when Alabssi was 17.

To make up for lost time in his education, Alabssi was enrolled in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at Thom Collegiate.

He quickly picked up American Sign Language and soon found himself participating in the deaf performance group, Deaf Crows Collective, through an artist-in-residence program.

Performing had been a dream of Alabssi's for years before he came to Canada.

"When I was a child in Syria there was actually a film that was being shot there and I stood on the side of the set and I watched that, and I remember thinking I wanted to be a part of that," Alabssi said through a sign language translator.

Through the Deaf Crows Collective, Alabssi starred in a show called Apple Time in 2018.

Mustafa Alabssi played a clown in the play Apple Time. (Submitted by Deaf Crows Collective)

Six weeks later, he was invited to audition for a role in Netflix's Black Summer, a television series that premiered earlier this month on the streaming service.

He turned to the directors of Apple Time, Chrystene Ells and Joanne Weber, and videographer Berny Hi to help make a post-apocalyptic set on the outskirts of Regina's recycling yard for the audition.

Deaf actors from across North America were asked to audition for the role, but Alabssi won out.

"I had seen a few shows on Netflix, but I didn't know they were going to be asking for involvement in shows," Alabssi said.

He flew out to Calgary to meet director John Hyams.

"I was feeling in awe."

An inspiration for Syrian, deaf communities alike

Alabssi is making waves, both as a refugee and as a deaf person.

He said he's received messages from both communities lauding his work in Black Summer.

"You're showing us that we can be supported and that there is hope for our future," Albassi said. "I'm hoping that I can do more acting in the future to show the deaf community that you can develop if you try."

Albassi said Jamie King, one of his co-stars in Black Summer, invited him to the United States to work on more television shows there.

He told her that for now he has to stay in Canada, where he plans to keep up his involvement with the deaf community.

"I'm feeling very welcome as a deaf person on the set, I'm feeling very welcome and the deaf community is very excited to see that there's a deaf person on the show," Alabssi said. "I'm just really thankful for that opportunity."

With files from Romain Chauvet

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