Since starting out just three years ago, Bilal Hasna has never been put forward for a role that, he says, “feels like a stereotype”. It would have been very different a decade or more earlier. “It was common to see people of my ethnicity playing terrorists or cab drivers,” the UK-Palestinian actor notes.

Hasna has already encompassed an impressive range of characters during his nascent career: a feckless wannabe vigilante in Disney+ superpower sitcom Extraordinary; a Rider of Rohan in New Line/Warner Bros’ anime The Lord Of The Rings movie The War Of The Rohirrim; a Liverpudlian twenty-something trying to solve the mystery of his missing boyfriend in an upcoming Prime Video show; and the eponymous drag queen protagonist of Amrou Al-Kadhi’s Film4/BFI-funded romantic drama Layla. “We’re seeing more and more roles for young people of marginalised identities,” he says. “That’s really important.”

Hasna cites Riz Ahmed as a “big hero”, particularly in the way the actor not only rejected South Asian stereotypes, but also stepped beyond ethnically authentic parts into roles such as Sound Of Metal’s lead as a rock drummer with hearing loss — “There’s nothing to indicate that that needs to be played by a British South Asian actor, right?”

This is certainly true of Kash in Extraordinary, a big-break part in a show that “means the absolute world” to Hasna. This was his first major screen role after graduating from the University of Cambridge in 2020 with an English literature degree and no formal drama training. But by that point, the London-born actor had made an impact with his one-person stage show For A Palestinian (co-written with Aaron Kilercioglu), suggesting his ambitions extend further than acting. “Obviously I’ve written the play, but I’d love to try my hand at directing as well,” he says.

More immediately, Hasna is excited for people to see Layla. “It’s a film about queer joy,” he explains. “A celebration of authenticity and queer freedom and an acceptance of the self.”

Hasna feels fortunate to have been able to portray someone like Layla alongside all his other diverse roles in such a short space of time. “I feel very lucky I haven’t been pigeonholed,” he says. “I just want to keep making the best and most varied work I can. I’m so eager and hungry to keep learning and growing.”

Contact: Maya Hambro, Insight Management & Production