Paul Wesley Explains Why 'Amira & Sam''s Arab-American Love Story Hit Close To Home

The 'Vampire Diaries' star tells us all about his new indie.

Over the past six years, fans have grown to love Paul Wesley's portrayal of the White Knight vampire with a heart of gold, Stefan Salvatore, on "The Vampire Diaries." Now, those same fans will get to see Wesley in a very different, much slimier light in the indie love story "Amira & Sam" -- he plays the crooked Wall Street cousin of the main character -- and Wesley says he wouldn't want it any other way.

"This guy is definitely more human [than Stefan], and I mean that literally and figuratively," Wesley told MTV News over the phone. "He’s very flawed. He eschews this enormous amount of confidence, but he’s really just falling apart; he’s this vulnerable, weak person who is doing all of these questionable things in terms of illegal activities on Wall Street. It was such a welcome change from what I do on a daily basis, where [Stefan] is all-knowing and confident, and he’s always doing the right thing. I really think it was a 180, and I hope audiences can see that."

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Of course, it was more than just "a change of pace" that made Wesley, who had to travel back-and-forth from New York to Atlanta last summer to fit "Amira" into his schedule, want to do the film. "Amira & Sam" focuses on the love story between an American solider (Martin Starr) and an illegal immigrant from Iraq (Dina Shihabi), and the issues that arise from this pairing hit pretty close to home for Wesley.

"My brother-in-law is Egyptian, it’s a middle eastern culture," Wesley explained, when asked how he felt about the film's depiction of Islamophobia. "I was exposed to it at a pretty young age... I generally don’t like these kinds of films that are like, 'Hey, we’re trying to spread a message,' but this movie does it in a clever way. You’re rooting for this character that is not from America, she’s not like the rest of us, quote-unquote."

This -- coupled with his bro-y, challenging character -- is what drew Wesley in to "Amira & Sam."


"What I love about it is America really is comprised of immigrants, including my own family," Wesley continued. "I’m first generation. I hope people see [the movie] and appreciate it. That’s what I loved about New York growing up -- I was always around different cultures. It’s great to do this movie, because even people who aren’t exposed to different culture like I was will take something away from it."

... And as for what Wesley himself took away from his "Amira" experience, he could only say great things -- and that he hopes to do more independent films like this in the near future.

"I love indie film because I can fit it into my schedule -- I have such a tight schedule; I can just bang them out," he concluded. "It’s hard to do a studio film in the short amount of time that I have off. Indie film can be risky, but it’s just so rewarding... You make this little film and then it suddenly gets picked up for distribution, and people are seeing it, and you feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s a little different than being an actor for hire, and you know what’s going to happen in a genre [film]. There’s something magical about it, it’s a magical environment. Especially when you’re shooting in New York City over the summer, there’s something about it that’s just one of a kind."

"Amira & Sam" is playing in select cities and on Video OnDemand starting January 30.