Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why O.A. From FBI Looks So Familiar

FBI is the latest success story from Dick Wolf, the esteemed creator of the One Chicago franchise as well as a little thing called Law & OrderThe show, which premiered in 2018, centers around a group of federal agents at the New York City branch of the namesake bureau, and the assorted, important cases they tackle.

Like many other Wolf shows, FBI features an ensemble cast. However, when it comes to its central characters, the show breaks new ground. Alongside actress Missy Peregrym's Special Agent Maggie Bell stands actor Zeeko Zaki's Special Agent Omar Adom "O.A." Zidan, a former Army Ranger who graduated from West Point and a practicing Muslim of Egyptian descent. Zaki noted in an October 2018 interview with Harper's Bazaar that, as a 6'5" man who, like O.A., has roots in Egypt, he's more used to playing the bad guy in these sorts of productions. As such, his starring turn in FBI offers new, exciting opportunities. He says that Wolf and the writers even welcomed his input and personal experience, allowing the show to create a truly believable Arab American protagonist.

It's powerful stuff, and as is so often the case with wonderful roles like this, it didn't come out of nowhere — and neither did its actor. Doesn't O.A. from FBI look pretty familiar to you? Here's why.

Zeeko Zaki was Akmal Barayev on Six

A quick look at Zeeko Zaki's IMDb page reveals that the actor has paid his dues in a wide variety of roles of the "Militia member," "Sergeant," and "Customer #2" variety. However, that's not to say FBI's O.A. is Zaki's first major role rodeo. In 2017, he was a recurring character on Sixthe History Channel show about the notorious Navy SEAL Team Six and their anti-terror missions. On the series, Zaki played the kind of guy O.A. might find himself up against. His imposing character, Akmal Barayev, was a Chechen-born Russian terrorist with a history in Spetsnaz special forces, who operates a jihad training center in Chad and becomes a key figure in the team's quest to rescue a group of hostages that include Richard "Rip" Taggart (Walton Coggins), the team's former commander.  

As Zaki has told Harper's Bazaarhe noticed early on that he ran the risk of being "aggressively type-cast as the bad guy." However, while he fully recognized the pigeonhole, he needed the money and was happy to take the roles that came his way. "I still stand by never turning down an audition," Zaki said. "You never know where a path will take you. So I just went for all of them, and that worked for me. It got me here."

On 24: Legacy, Zeeko Zaki played Hamid

FBI wasn't Zeeko Zaki's first high-profile show, though his roles tended to be of the supporting and villainous variety. In 2017, he had a recurring role on the ill-fated 24 spin-off, 24: Legacy. Zaki played Hamid, a member of terrorist mastermind Jadalla Bin-Khalid's (Raphael Acloque) cell. 

That same year, he also had smaller appearances on Daytime Divas and The Night Shift. He even managed to get a taste of classic police procedurals when he appeared on two episodes of NCIS: Los Angeles. He portrayed Aimon Shah, a money launderer who first clashed with Sam Hanna (LL Cool J) and CIA Agent Vostanik Sabatino (Erik Palladino), then with G. Callen (Chris O'Donnell) and Harley Hidoko (Andrea Bordeaux).  

Along with occasional movie roles, such as "factionless squad leader" in 2016's The Divergent Series: Allegiant, and a role as a soldier in 2018's Escape Plan: Hades, all of this may make Zaki seem like a guy stuck in various bit parts. However, his tenacity eventually led to bigger things.

Zeeko Zaki portrayed Staff Sergeant Matt Darzi on Valor

Valor was a short-lived military drama on the CW, but for Zeeko Zaki, it was a meaningful one. The show centered around an elite group of ultra-skilled helicopter pilots, their various daring missions, and their many personal and professional issues. While Zaki wasn't part of the main cast, his character, Staff Sergeant (or Crew Chief, depending on the episode) Matt Darzi featured on five of the show's 13 episodes. 

Zaki has told Harper's Bazaar that he sees Sgt. Darzi as a pretty important milestone on his way to bigger, better, less typecast things. "My last two roles before this were soldiers, and they were good guys," he said, referring to Darzi and, presumably, his soldier character in Escape Plan 2: Hades. "I got the chance to recur on a few shows. It was definitely time to start really going for newer, bigger roles." 

Here's hoping that Zaki will keep flying high on FBI – and whatever other roles the future has in store for him.