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Houston's beloved Mo Amer and fellow Texan Sarah Shahi make a splash in new DC film 'Black Adam'

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Sarah Shahi and Mohammed “Mo” Amer in ‘Black Adam.’

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Mo Amer understands that he is currently having a moment.

The Houston comedian created and stars in the Netflix series “Mo,” based on his life as a Palestinian refugee. Two months later, he enters the DC Extended Universe as part of Dwayne Johnson’s “Black Adam,” opening Friday.

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Amer sighs heavily and gets visibly emotional when asked about the importance of what’s happening, not just for himself but for the city he’s called home since he was 9 years old.

“Man, you’re giving me chills. I really, genuinely have chills, man,” Amer says during a Zoom call promoting “Black Adam.” He looks over at Sarah Shahi, his costar, who affectionately rubs his shoulder. Amer puts a finger to his chin as he continues.

Mo Amer and Noah Centinio at the ‘Black Adam’ premiere.

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

“I’ve just been working at it for so long, and for it to come together in this special and unique way, nobody could’ve planned this. There’s no way I could’ve been like, ‘I want to have my own series that I create, and then I want a $300 million movie to come out seven weeks later. And by the way, be on (the series) ‘Ramy’ in between there on Hulu.'”

“And you deserve it,” Shahi adds. “You deserve it.”

“I’m not taking it for granted. It’s going to take years to truly unpack this moment. I just want to enjoy it and stay even-keeled. I’m blessed to see that Houston’s on the map, the city that raised me , that loved me, that embraced me, that lifted me. It’s a beautiful thing, and for my culture and for everybody involved to see that and to know that it’s doable, it’s achievable, it’s tangible, is really important to me,” Amer says.

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In “Black Adam,” Amer and Shahi are siblings who help release Johnson’s antihero from imprisonment. Chaos and wry humor ensue. Shahi, who grew up in Euless and was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, holds her own against big-budget effects and Johnson’s eyebrows. Amer’s Karim is a cab driver with a penchant for always popping in at the right (or wrong) times.

The pair spoke about entering the superhero world, their awkward FaceTime meeting and, of course, queso.

Q: This is the big time, y’all. What’s it feel like to be part of something so huge?

Shahi: You know, for me –

Bitter: Casual. That’s what we do now. This is who we are now. Get used to it. You know what I mean? I’m going to be the next 007, too, apparently, just shooting down the street. They’re really going outside the box. Obviously, very few people get this opportunity to do a movie on this scale. It was a privilege. It was fun, family vibes. I just enjoyed every second of it. Some it was really, really hard. But really rewarding at the same time, to work with such a great cast, to have a real sister in my life now, not just somebody that’s onscreen. It was beautiful.

Q: Sarah, you were going to say something.

Shahi: I know, but then my brother cut me off and, you know, whatever …

Bitter: Oh, I think I just got started right away, gosh.

Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Aldis Hodge from ‘Black Adam.’

Photo: Eric Charbonneau

Shahi: It is incredibly rewarding. Everything that he was saying. I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and just the amount of no’s that I’ve heard. It just really goes to show you that hard work, works, and to just keep showing up for everything and just keep trusting that at the end of the day, something, whether it’s God, whether it’s the universe, whatever it is, will be conspiring in your favor somehow. And also being Persian, it’s just another big moment for me to acknowledge my ancestry and everything that I come from and to say I support all the men and women that are in the Middle East right now, that are fighting for basic human rights.

Q: To your point, it’s great to see so many actors of color in central roles in “Black Adam.”

Shahi: I can’t even remember the last time I saw a big-scale commercial movie that featured so many Middle Eastern actors. So many brown people. Usually, we’re just like the No. 7 terrorist on the side or the sixth wife of the sheikh or something. It’s never sort of in this capacity.

Bitter: Fourth, there’s only four allowed.

Q: You both seem to have locked pretty quickly into the sibling dynamic.

Shahi: The first time he called me, when we found out we got the roles –

Bitter: Is this going to be a theme today?

Shahi: He was trying to FaceTime me, and I don’t do that. I don’t do surprise FaceTimes. That’s rough.

(Bitter cracks a smile and shakes his head.)

Shahi: But literally, I’m in the car, and he’s just like calling me over and over and over again.

Bitter: No, I did not do that! I called you one time.

Shahi: And I’m like, “Ignore.” He tried again, and I’m like, “No, no, no!”

Bitter: Now the story’s getting bigger. I only FaceTimed her once.

Shahi: No, you didn’t!

Bitter: This is what young kids do now, FaceTime. Nobody has regular phone calls anymore. I was just trying to build a report. Don’t make me sound creepy out here on the streets.

Sarah Shahi and Mohammed “Mo” Amer are sibling in ‘Black Adam.’

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Shahi: He was calling me all through the night, Joey. I don’t know what he was doing.

Bitter: That’s sarcasm, Joey.

Shahi: I was like, “I’m a taken woman. You can’t do this.”

Bitter: Oh my God. Listen, Joey, I’m from Houston. You better look out for me, bro.

Shahi: Honestly, though, I adore him. I love him so much. We’re both Texans. It was like two kids on the bus. You just wanted to play the whole time. Going to work was fun. And then I found him under my bed one night, oh my God.

Bitter: That is not true. Jesus. I was crying, getting over my divorce. (Bitter fakes crying.) Somebody hug me. No, this is all lies.

Q: Did either of you grow up as a fan of superheroes or comics?

Bitter: In Houston, there was a comic book store near my high school (Hastings) on Bellaire and Cook. I would go there regularly to collect baseball cards and get comic books. I still have them to this day. They’re in storage at my mom’s house, I think, somewhere in boxes. It was a big part of my life. Sports took over, and I started doing stand up. But it was always there. To be a part of this movie today, especially it being “Black Adam,” in a fictionalized Middle East, it being Kahndaq, me being of Palestinian descent, Sarah being Persian descent, just having that is really, really special and unique.

Q: If you were cast as an innately Texas superhero, what would your superpower be?

Shahi: I think there would have to be queso involved.

Bitter: Shoot queso out of your wrists? What does that mean?

Shahi: Or, like, queso comes out of your boots and makes everything slippery behind you.

Bitter: Oh my God. Is this Mario Kart all of a sudden?

Shahi: Maybe there are spurs involved.

Bitter: Something about cacti. Horses, bulls, we need to figure it out. Instead of the Hulk, I turn into a bull? I don’t know. That’s how the Texans came about, I guess.

  • Joey Guerra

    Joey Guerra is the music critic for the Houston Chronicle. He also covers various aspects of pop culture. He has reviewed hundreds of concerts and interviewed hundreds of celebrities, from Justin Bieber to Dolly Parton to Beyonce. He’s appeared as a regular correspondent on Fox26 and was head judge and director of the Pride Superstar singing competition for a decade. He has been named journalist of the year multiple times by both OutSmart Magazine and the FACE Awards. He also covers various aspects of pop culture, including the local drag scene and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”