Profile's Shazad Latif On Why His ISIS Role Needed To Be As Realistic As Possible, Despite Any Danger

Shazad Latif as Bilel in Profile

Timur Bekmambetov's Profile is one of the must-sees of 2021, thanks in large part to its inventive storytelling and unflinching true story of the encounter between a journalist who forms a relationship with an ISIS recruiter in an effort to undercover why European women have fled to join the terrorist organization. It's all very heavy stuff, and Profile star Shazad Latif recently explained why the project chose to be as realistic as possible.

Profile is a story that Shazad Latif, who plays ISIS recruiter Bilel in the movie, readily took on, though with slight apprehension at first. I spoke to Latif about whether he had any misgivings about playing a terrorist in Profile, and the actor admitted while there was a struggle at first, he was ultimately sold on the movie, its premise and how it played out on-screen.

Of course, yeah. Obviously, there were slight apprehensions, but you know I just wanted to put my trust in Timur [Bekmambetov] who’s a genius. You just put your trust in and hope he’s going to do it in the right way. And, you know, the specificity of the story we were telling was more about the love story between-the true thing that happened to Anna Errelle and we could see their conversations on Skype, on the [Facebook] page. So it wasn’t someone else’s idea of a terrorist it was a very specific love story. That was the focus I wanted to give it.

Shazad Latif's Bilel plays out a very complicated relationship with Valene Kane's Amy, who, like in the true story, is a journalist posing as a newly converted Muslim seeking to join ISIS. The conversations are based on actual Skype conversations and messages exchanged between a terrorist recruiter and real-life journalist, Anna Errelle, who remains under police protection to this day.

Errelle's story is evidence that there is danger in speaking out against ISIS, which isn't skirted in Profile. I spoke to Shazad Latif about any fear he had in terms of retaliation from ISIS, but he noted that sometimes there's risk involved in telling an accurate story.

I suppose as an artist you just have to- if we have that kind of fear it’s the kind of thing where it’s a slightly courageous thing where you have to go, Well you know what, I have to make it [accurate] otherwise what we make is not gonna be real. It’s not going to be a realistic and worthwhile thing. There’s no point in making an unrealistic version of it just to be safe I don’t think. There’s people going through really scary things right now that I think, I think we’ll be ok. Well, I hope! [laughs]

Profile is told entirely from a computer screen, similar to Timur Bekmambetov's previous film Unfriended. The experience meant Shazad Latif (who audiences may also know from Star Trek: Discovery) was his own cameraman and worked to get appropriate shots as he carried out the acting on screen via Facetime or webcam. It's certainly an experience that audiences should be curious about and that should chill them to the bone as the movie plays out.

Profile is out now in theaters. For a list of other movies airing this summer, be sure to reference our handy guide and maybe even plan that trip back to theaters.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick contains multitudes and balances his time reporting on big happenings in the world of Star Trek, the WWE, reality television, and other sci-fi shows.