Zooey Deschanel
October 24, 2015 9:07 am

While Rock the Kasbah is a Bill Murray movie through and through, the heart of the story belongs to the young Palestinian actress Leem Lubany. She plays Salima, whose passion for singing inspires her to risk not only her relationship with her family, but her personal safety to be the first female contestant on Afghan Star. It’s her story. I caught up with Leem in between press engagements.

What drew you to the story in RTK?

Leem: When I first heard that it was starring Bill Murray, and directed by Barry Levinson I knew I wanted to be a part of this film. Then later on I read Mitch’s script and fell in love with the character Salima and was so impressed by this young woman’s strength and courage. And then when I learned about the amazing cast, including yourself, I got even more excited!

Your singing is really lovely in the film, how long have you been singing?

Leem: That is a great compliment coming from you!  Thank you. I’ve had a passion for singing since I was a young girl but this was the first opportunity to do it professionally and to work with the great Peter Asher was a thrill beyond my wildest expectations.

Did you have a chance to meet the young lady who inspired your character? How did she influence your performance if at all?

Leem: No I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her but I so admire her courage.

Were you a Bill Murray fan before doing this movie? What was it like for you to work with him?

Leem: Of course…who isn’t a fan of Bill Murray! He’s a legend. I was initially a bit nervous but the minute I met him he made feel so comfortable. Our scenes together were so real and we were so in the moment he made me forget we were acting.  Whether on or off camera, Bill is Bill and his hilarity makes everyone he’s working with relaxed.

What did you do with your free time while shooting in Morocco?

Leem: During our free time, I had a great time exploring Morocco, enjoying lovely meals with cast and crew members and of course spent a lot of time (and money) in the Medina.

How did you prepare for this role? Did you get a lot of guidance from the director (Barry Levinson)?

Leem: I always like to do a lot of research before I show up on a set so I tried to learn about the country and about the Afghan Star program.  I did get the opportunity to work with a coach for my singing and a bit of dialect work on the Pashtun. I loved working with Barry Levinson. He certainly had his vision but at all times he gave his actors freedom and he really listens to what they have to say.

What are you doing next?

Leem: At the moment I’m auditioning for a number of projects.   I plan to soon move to New York and really look forward to studying my craft.

Images courtesy of Rock the Kasbah, Getty-iStock

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