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FBI's Zeeko Zaki Talks The 'Honor' Of Dick Wolf Rewriting His Character For Him

FBI debuted in 2018 to bring a new kind of crime drama to CBS, with Missy Peregrym and Zeeko Zaki starring as the agents investigating the worst kinds of criminals in New York City. Now, the show is preparing to enter production on its fifth season, and Zaki looked back on how his character was originally supposed to be very different before executive producer Dick Wolf decided to make some changes. 

Zeeko Zaki previously revealed to TIME that the character of OA was being written for a Latino actor to play (although the early character description didn’t list a race or ethnicity), but he sent in an audition tape while FBI was still early in the casting process. He later learned that his audition tape was “completely unsolicited,” but he received a callback that involved workshopping with Dick Wolf and the entire creative team to incorporate elements of his personal background. 

Now, with the show on the verge of filming for Season 5, the actor opened up about the “honor” of Wolf making those changes to include his Muslim and Egytian heritage after he nailed the audition, telling ET

It was an honor to have the platform [and] the opportunity. And it’s just really great that it worked and that we got to show, from the business side, that we got to have all these different perspectives in these shows, so hopefully we’ll continue to open doors and change the narrative.

FBI has become one of CBS’ highest-rated and most-watched dramas, so it’s safe to say that Dick Wolf and the creative team made a smart decision in adapting the OA character to Zeeko Zaki’s heritage and background. In fact, OA has arguably been the anchor of the series, as he has had more of a steady presence than other characters, including Maggie. 

Missy Peregrym’s character was absent for some time due to an undercover operation, and more recently after being exposed to sarin gas and needing to recover. Both of those instances are due to the actress taking a real-life maternity leave, in the second half of Season 2 and the second half of Season 4, respectively. (You can rewatch both seasons in full with a Paramount+ subscription.)

Peregrym will be back as Maggie – and presumably as OA’s partner, despite FBI mixing things up with the partnerships in Season 4 – in the fifth season, although she recently revealed that she won’t be back right away when the show returns in September. Their partnership has delivered a lot of the heart in a show that deals with some very heavy topics, so OA and Maggie reuniting is something for fans to look forward to. 

It’s hard to imagine FBI without Zeeko Zaki, or with OA as a different kind of character after how much the show has delved into his character and his history. That doesn’t always work out well for the agent, as the case involving sarin gas triggered some devastating memories for him, made all the worse when his partner was exposed and nearly died before he could save her. 

FBI is soon returning to production, but fans will have to wait until September 20 to see OA back in action, as well as the agents of FBI: International and FBI: Most Wanted. All three shows received two-season renewals back in May, so the future is looking bright for that shared Dick Wolf TV universe. For what you can watch while waiting for hiatus to end, our 2022 TV premiere schedule has plenty of viewing options.

Laura Hurley
Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.