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Mo Amer Talks About The Fact Vs. Fiction In Netflix's Mo, Including The Show's Interfaith Relationship

Mo Amer and Teresa Ruiz as Mo and Maria in each other's arms in Mo tv show
(Image credit: Netflix)

SPOILERS are ahead for Season 1 of Mo, now streaming with a Netflix subscription. 

While watching Netflix’s Mo, audiences are completely immersed in the life of Mo Amer’s character Mo Najjar, a Palestian refugee living in his longtime home of Houston, Texas and dealing with a number of struggles in his day-to-day life that are relatable to many Americans: keeping a steady job, addiction, and keeping his romantic and familial relationships harmonious. Many of the subjects in Mo are those that Amer has spoken about in his standup, making the show semi-autobiographical – but how much of the show is fact and how much is fiction? 

CinemaBlend spoke to Mo Amer about the line he drew between retelling events from his real life and creating stories for the titular Mo that stand outside his own experiences. While Amer shared that much of his Palestinian refugee immigrant story comes from his life and builds on the material in his standup, there’s a few distinctions to be made. Said Amer,

Well, first of all, very important to say that I don't have a lean addiction and never have I had a lean addiction. There's a lot of my life that's in there. Like, I mean, what do I want to pick and to tell you that is true? The flashbacks are all true. Those are very real life experiences that I've had [like] my first day of school. Going to school with a vest and a bow tie, embarrassingly thinking that's how you go to school, which is also related to my stand up. The flashbacks of fleeing the war in Kuwait in Episode 7. We'll see stuff that I with my mom, finding out about my father's torture, that's how I found out about it was from the lawyer's office when I was handed over the file that was after I got my citizenship. So we fictionalized it to keep it within how Episode 7 ends. That's also real. It's a lot [of Mo].

While a huge part of the show focuses on Mo’s addiction to lean, which is made with cough syrup and soda, Amer shared that is not part of his own life experience. Its inclusion in the show, however, does add some more dramatic elements and brings attention an addiction not often depicted on television. 

As Mo Amer also told us during our interview , the idea for Mo began with the Episode 7 flashback of his family fleeing the war in Kuwait when he was a kid. He showed it to the creator of Ramy, Ramy Youssef, prior to his Emmy-nominated series being made. Youssef wanted to make a series, but Amer chose to focus on his standup first. 

Amer would then go on to be a regular on Ramy before Youssef and Amer co-created Mo together. When continuing speaking to elements of the show that are fiction, Mo Amer said,

I've never been shot. Thankfully. Hopefully it never happens. There's a lot that we pull from. And it's just like finding that balance of where you fictionalize, what you take from your real life to incorporate into the show and fictionalize that to propel the show forward.

Episode 1 of Mo has Mo getting grazed with a bullet at a grocery store after sampling some chocolate hummus, which he jokingly calls an insult to his people. When his mom helps him clean the wound and finds he has a tattoo, she suddenly gets infinitely more concerned about the tattoo than his bullet wound. It’s more so played for laughs. 

Amer also spoke to the subject of interfaith relationship, which is another element of the show that is true to his own life: 

My relationship with a Mexican woman dealing with religious differences or ideologies and trying to work through those, I find that to be really important. There's a lot of Arabs that are Muslim. Most Arabs are Muslim, but most Muslims are not Arabs. It's really important to have like this Christian-Muslim conversation and I wanted to have it in a really unique way and shows the vulnerability of the character to where he goes to a church and sits in a confessional and it becomes really like painful and real, to go through it, but also invigorating. And it gives him something to think about and it's up to him now to change his ways or go deeper down the wormhole.

Mo tackles some important conversations around being in an interfaith relationship as his character dates Teresa Ruiz’s Maria, a Mexican-American woman. Although the pair are in love, Mo is dealing with the expectations from his parents and family to be with a Muslim woman and it gets in the way of their romance. In real life, Mo Amer was married to a Mexican-American woman, but he recently got divorced. 

The new series joins an uptick in great representation of Muslim character in recent movies and TV, also recently seen in Ms. Marvel with Kamala Khan’s debut on Disney+.  

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.