Mustafa Shakir has appeared in many well-known TV shows, including Law & Order, Numb3rs, NCIS: Los Angeles and Cold Case. He recently appeared as a guest star in the new NBC show Timeless. Although he’s always been interested in acting, he pretty much fell into it as a career.
How did you get into acting?
It was sort of a roundabout experience. I was interested in it for a long time, since I was six years old, but I had more serious goals in mind. When I finally decided to allow the creativity to come through, I started to write. So I attended what I thought was a writers’ workshop, and it turned out to be a monologue class. The way the class was situated, I was way in the back, and I couldn’t get out. People were just doing their scenes, and little by little they made their way back to me. The teacher was like, “So, there’s a new face … what do to show us?” I’m like, “Uh …” and my mom, she was with me, said, “Well, just go up there and do a poem.” So I went in front of the class, and I did a poem. The class went all crazy, and they’re like, “That’s amazing, you need to pick out a monologue and come back!” I replied, “Uh, I’m a writer!” They said, “So what, you should come back!” So I went back, I did the monologue, and it was a really big hit … the rest is history.
Wow. That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, totally. I even booked my first TV gig before I even knew what an agent was. I had no idea. So I sort of stepped into it backwards.
Tell us about your role on Timeless. (Don’t worry about spoilers, this article will appear after tonight’s episode airs.)
Gregory Hayes is a suspicious leader of a Black Panther chapter, who is instrumental in helping the time travelers find a missing link to their mission. Hayes is a combination of a few popular Panther personalities and a smooth cat to boot!
Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories you can share?
The director, Gregg Beeman, is super cool. He took his time to be really personable; that was cool. We had some great conversations. Everybody in the cast was pretty cool as well. They really went to bat for me, helping me shoot the show, which I’m really thankful for. I flew out, then came back, and then flew out again to complete my shooting. That’s all good stuff.
Timeless is filmed in Vancouver (B.C.), right?
For those unfamiliar with Quarry, what is the series about?
It follows a Marine veteran who comes home from the Vietnam war; it’s the first time the war has been televised. So instead of him coming home as a hero, they come home and they’re vilified, because y’know, it’s war. Mac Conway, he comes home and he tries to get his life together and he’s just met with all of these challenges of being in the 70s and old-school politics and the lack of care for soldiers with PTSD. He tries to come back to a sense of normalcy and he can’t; so he gets the opportunity from this guy, called the Broker, to basically be a contract killer, he says no, but the guy who he’s best friends with, who was in the war with him, he’s not so strong so he gets involved in it and Mac, trying to help his friend out, gets involved himself and that begins the season. Mac Conway tries to extract himself from this crazy world of assassination. I play Moses, one of the Broker’s employees. Moses is a really cool character; he’s a musician, a bass player, sort of a maverick in his own right. You don’t really know whose side he’s on, but he’s an assassin. That’s pretty much the gist of it. It’s set in the South; we shot it in Memphis and New Orleans. It has a really particular texture to it, which I really love. I heard it’s going to Blu-Ray, which is nice. I think it’s just a great piece of art and the director, he tells a great story.
What’s the funniest thing to ever happen to you on set?
One time I was shooting this piece where I had to do a spoken word poetry situation, and it was a very sexy poem. I was having a really good performance, and the energy in the room was ramping up, ramping up … I was looking at one of the women that was on the crew; she was enjoying the piece quite a bit. She started squirming a little bit, she was having a really good time. She let out a gasp, and when she did, all of the lights in the place went out. Which was like, “Oh shit …” It was an undeniable moment. I thought that was pretty funny.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share?
I just finished up a pretty big run, so I’m just going to go back to LA and cool off for a little bit. I’ll be back to New York, I’m going to set up a one-man show that I have, and that’s about it right now. I can’t wait to see Double Play, it’s a movie that I did with Ernest Dickerson, we shot it in Curacao, and it’s based on a book by Frank Martinus Arion, that we’re screening in January. I’m excited about that.