Rami Malek was born in Los Angeles to Egyptian immigrant parents and grew up speaking Arabic

By Dave Quinn
April 17, 2019 01:19 PM

Rami Malek’s inclusion in Time‘s 100 Most Influential People of 2019 list came with a special shout out from Robert Downey Jr.

The Avengers: Endgame star, 54 — who called himself “a fan and friend” — wrote an essay about Malek in the issue, praising the actor’s Egyptian immigrant parents for pushing him towards success.

“I contend that his mother Nelly, his father Said, his sister Yasmine and his brother Sami are the foundational pillars to his rise,” Downey Jr. wrote. “Mighta just been destiny … more likely it’s yet another testament to hardworking immigrants raising their kids right and pushing our culture toward the light.”

Robert Downey Jr. and Rami Malek
| Credit: Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock; Dominique Maitre/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Malek won an Oscar for his role as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. The Mr. Robot breakout was born in Los Angeles to Egyptian immigrant parents and grew up speaking Arabic.

I felt that we stuck out like a sore thumb, as a family, our traditions,” Malek told The New Yorker in October of growing up in the U.S. “Going to school with that type of consciousness, and feeling like we were wearing our heritage on our sleeves, was always something that was confusing.”

Feeling out of place helped him identify closely with Mercury, who was born in Zanzibar and was an immigrant to the United Kingdom.

He added, “I was conflicted about how to identify myself as a young man, and I think that is very emblematic of Freddie Mercury.”

Rami Malek in Boehamian Rhapsody
| Credit: Nick Delaney

Elsewhere in Downey Jr.’s Time essay, he praised Malek’s work in Bohemian Rhapsody, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes with Queen.

“He developed the skill without which his many attributes as an artist might have been squelched — principled leadership,” Downey Jr. wrote of Malek. “He’s understated and kind, complicated and relatable; he’s downright mercurial.

“Crucially, he’s a good man evolving alongside his potential,” Downey Jr. continued. “As a fan and friend, that’s what I’m particularly proud of.”