Bilal Hasna’s voice is his superpower

In the series Extraordinary, Bilal Hasna plays a superhero who can rewind time. But off the screen, Hasna’s equally extraordinary: from theater to film to activism, the 25-year-old actor is never afraid to make his voice heard.

Hasna is a British-Palestinian actor and playwright, who you might have seen in the movie Layla. In the film, Hasna plays the titular Layla, a Palestinian and British nonbinary drag queen who falls in love with an ad executive. The film premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and was met with a warm reception.

Back in 2021, Hasna came up with the idea for his one-man play, For a Palestinian, which explores what it means to be Palestinian in Western society. He currently stars in the Amazon Prime show Dead Hot alongside Rye Lane’s Vivian Oparah. The show is centered around Hasna as Elliott and Oparah as Jess, who unite when Jess’s brother (and Elliott’s boyfriend) goes missing.

Layla is Hasna’s first film, and in an interview with Queerty, Hasna talked about working with writer-director Amrou Al-Kadhi and the power in telling their stories.

“I think by the end of the film — specifically for queer Arabs, or queer people that find themselves across different intersections and different matrixes of identity — I hope that it opens up a new world for them, a new world of expression, because that’s what Amrou did for me,” Hasna said. “Being queer and being Arab can exist in harmony, despite what the world, what the media might tell us — despite the rhetoric that we hear so often, and so dangerously.”

Hasna also opened about his history with drag, from dressing up in his cousin’s dresses during Ramadan, to now starring as a drag queen in a movie. He praised the drag queens he worked with during filming for what they taught him, and also for performing in drag at a time when hostility against queens is at an all time high.

Since the start of his career, Hasna has been vocal about Palestinian rights. In an Instagram post celebrating the premiere of Layla, he wrote about how it was difficult to celebrate given the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

“This is an incredible achievement, and one I sadly register with a heavy heart given the unspeakable horror unfolding in Gaza,” he wrote. “We owe Gaza our endurance. Keep organising, pushing, and remaining steadfast in the knowledge that justice will prevail, free-flowing freedom will triumph, and together the horizon of liberation will only draw nearer with our increasing resolve.”

Hasna brings his authentic perspective to everything does. Even in the trailer alone for Dead Hot, he brings so much to the screen. He’s still just at the beginning of his career, and it’s so exciting to think where he will go next.

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