The youngest of three brothers, Waleed was born in Sacramento, California, but grew up in Kuwait from the age of 5 until 19. He made frequent visits to his mother’s family in San Francisco during the summer holidays and he was very fortunate that during his upbringing his family traveled extensively within the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
He moved to the US to attend The George Washington University where he received a degree in Philosophy and Theatre. Waleed performed at various theaters in the Washington DC area after college including, The Folger Shakespeare Library, The Washington Shakespeare Company, The Studio Theatre, The Source Theatre, and the Keegan Theatre Company.
In December of 2001, while still living in the DC area, Waleed made a trip to New York to audition for the West Coast Premiere of Tony Kushner’s new play, Homebody/Kabul. He booked his first audition in New York sending him out to Berkeley, California for a successful run of the show and the start of what soon proved to be a promising theatre career in New York.
Waleed then moved to New York and in less than 6 months landed his first job there in the Broadway production of Sixteen Wounded, by Eliam Kraiem (with Judd Hirsch and Martha Plimpton). He followed this up with a role in the hit off-Broadway play, Guantanamo: Honor Bound To Defend Freedom, ranked as “one of the best ten plays of 2004” by the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly. In his upcoming theatre credits Waleed attained further recognition as he was awarded a Drama Desk Award along with the rest of the cast for “2006 Outstanding Ensemble Performance” for David Hare’s play at the Public Theatre, Stuff Happens directed by Tony Award-Winner Daniel Sullivan. He received extensive critical praise for his performance in this landmark production. He followed that up performing opposite Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline in the Public Theatre’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage adapted by Tony Kushner and directed by Tony Award-winner George C. Wolfe.
Waleed’s performances in supporting roles began to attract the attention of productions that were now looking at him for leading roles. He next starred in the US premiere production of David Greig’s The American Pilot at the Manhattan Theatre Club, under the direction of Artistic Director Lynne Meadow. Shortly thereafter, Waleed found himself being whisked away to Tunisia to co-star in the Emmy-Award winning mini-series from HBO and the BBC, “House of Saddam” playing Saddam Hussein’s best friend. The series received tremendous critical acclaim from around the globe, and Waleed’s performance was hi-lighted in many international reviews. Having finished his work in Tunisia, Zuaiter headed the cast of Masked, an explosive play by Ilan Hatsor, starring as the eldest of three Palestinian brothers, set during the 1st Intifada and performed at the Daryl Roth 2 theater, Off-Broadway.
On stage most recently Zuaiter enjoyed rave reviews for his heart-rending, and elegant portrayal of an Iraqi translator in the critically acclaimed, award-winning new play Betrayed, based upon (and scripted by) George Packer’s widely lauded reporting of the Iraq war for The New Yorker. The play went on to receive a special one-night production at The Kennedy Center in the nation’s capital, was filmed for PBS TV and was performed and taped at L.A. Theatreworks for national radio broadcast. All productions were directed by Naked Angels co-founding member and Artistic Director Pippin Parker. The Kennedy Center production received further attention because it was hosted by Refugees International as a special initiative for Iraqi refugees, and it was presented by Matt Dillon and Sarah Jessica Parker. Waleed takes special pride and has a deep affection for this milestone production in his career. The play prospered from a six-month run, Off-Broadway at the Culture Project.
In the midst of the run of Betrayed, Zuaiter managed to finesse his performance schedule to allow him to work with the talented playwright Naomi Wallace in the Public Theatre Lab production of her three one-act plays Fever Chart, under the direction of Jo Bonney. His performance was hailed by the critics.
Waleed’s other notable credits from Film and TV are, most recently (2009), co-starring in the all-star cast of The Men Who Stare At Goats, performing along-side George Clooney and Ewan McGregor, and directed by Grant Heslov. The film also stars Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. Waleed attributes this to be “his break” into mainstream Hollywood films. He received notable mentions in select reviews that his performance and character depiction made a significant impact within the story.
Waleed was featured in the DVD release of Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor and was honored by McCarthy’s commentary in the special features that he wanted to work with Waleed, a respected New York theatre actor. In a soon to be released film, Zuaiter makes an inspiring appearance as “the Lecturer” in the adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s (The Alchemist) Veronika Decides To Die, directed by BAFTA Award-winner Emily Young. Zuaiter has guest starred on numerous TV shows, most recently in an episode of Lie To Me, and was directed by Spike Lee in a recurring role for an NBC pilot, M-O-N-Y. He is currently working on Sex And The City 2 in New York and Morocco (November, 2009).
Zuaiter serves as Co-Executive Producer on the critically acclaimed annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival (NYAACF) founded in 2003, which had its Los Angeles premiere in January of 2006. The NYAACF is the largest comedy festival in the US that brings together Arab-Americans to showcase a unique and edgy brand of humor. As Producer, Zuaiter has also optioned the screen rights for the PEN-Oakland Award-winner and celebrated novel, “On The Hills Of God,” by Ibrahim Fawal. He owns options on other feature film properties that are in varying stages of development.
Waleed is a graduate of The George Washington University, and the acclaimed Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory in Washington DC.
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