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Apple’s New TV Show 'Little America' Brings A Gay Syrian’s Story To Life

Apple TV+’s new scripted series tells the emotional stories of real immigrants…

Apple has released its highly anticipated original series Little America, the first scripted series on Apple TV+’s 2020 slate, executive-produced by Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, Alan Yang, & Lee Eisenberg. Inspired by the true stories originally featured in Epic Magazine, Little America goes beyond the headlines with eight relatable, emotional journeys about the experience of immigrating and living in the United States of America.

The anthology is a celebration of people who have chosen to make America their home and at times feels more like a collection of thematically connected short films rather than traditional television episodes, with one of the most powerful stories saved for the end of the season. The final episode (episode 8), “The Son,” tells the story of a gay man (Haaz Sleiman) living in the Syrian village of Qardha, who is forced to flee Syria amid his family’s disapproval.

In the episode Rafiq’s father Bassam (Igal Naor) catches him kissing another man in the alley shortly after his brother’s engagement and scalds the flesh of his son’s arm — something that Bassam explains as an act of mercy. Rafiq flees to Damascus, where he befriends Zain (Adam Ali), a flamboyant young gay man who loves Kelly Clarkson. Zain helps Rafiq accept himself and ultimately advises him to seek asylum in America when Rafiq’s brother tracks him down and smashes up the restaurant the pair work at in Jordan.

“The Son,” like the other instalments of Little America, is based on the true story of Shadi Ismail, a gay man who fled Syria due to persecution, going first to Jordan and ultimately finding asylum in Boise, Idaho. His journey was adapted from Epic Magazine by Canadian-born writer Stephen Dunn and Amrou Al-Kadhi, a nonbinary writer and drag performer. Dunn also directed the episode.

For Dunn, known for the 2015 film Closet Monster and the upcoming Bravo reboot of Queer as Folk, the story may have originated from a Muslim family on a different continent, but it was also very personal. “I was also kicked out of my home when I was a teenager… Like so many other queer people, our lives are built around reimagining and rebuilding a sense of home and a sense of family.”

“Stephen … has had a tough time with his family. I’d had a very tough time with mine,” Al-Kadhi said.

Both Dunn and Al-Kadhi hope their storytelling opens the doors to empathy and action. It has, which is why it’s not surprising that Apple has already committed to a second season.

Every episode of Little America is now streaming on Apple TV+. You can watch the trailer for the series below.

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