Under the Radar

Keeping Up With ‘The Long Road Home’ – Episode 5: ‘The Choice’

We’re in week number 4 of the National Geographic Channel‘s new 8-part event series “The  Long Road Home” and we’ve got a preview clip from tonight’s episode titled “The Choice.” Based on ABC News journalist Martha Raddatz’s best-selling book, the dramatic series chronicles April 4, 2004, the day that is known as the Iraq War’s “Black Sunday.” The First Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, was ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad. The series follows the men in action and the reactions of their families back home in Texas.

In Tuesday's episode 5 (we got two episodes on premiere night, so the math is correct), Iraqi interpreter Jassim Al-Lani's troubled past is revealed and his allegiances tested. Lt. Shane Aguero (E.J. Bonilla) is forced to make a choice will scar his trapped platoon for the rest of their lives.

We've got a clip from the episode. Jassim flashes back to the incident that led him to choose his current path and then tries to stop an attack on his unit in Sadr City.

Actor Darius Homayoun plays Jassim in the series. Raised in Dubai, he had a breakthrough role in the FX series "Tyrant" before landing his important part in "The Long Road Home." Darius talked to us about the tightrope his character must walk and the experience of making the show.

Your character has sympathies for both the American forces and the Iraqi resistance. It's not exactly clear what your motivations are in the first few episodes. Was that hard to play?

It was all written into the script. Honestly, I really just had to keep quiet and let the other characters think what they were going to think.  Everyone wonders what my motives are. I give credit to [series creator] Mikko Alanne for writing the part in that way so that I'm just precariously balanced between both side at all times.

He's certainly a more complex character than a lot of Iraqis in other films and shows about the war.

That's a big reason why I wanted to do the part.

You grew up in Dubai. How do you think this series will be received in the Middle East?

The show changes the perception of us in the Middle East as some monolithic bad guy and contextualizes and places it in the complexity that is actually the reality of the situation. And it is a very complicated situation. I think that you catch some glimpses of it with my storyline. You can start to understand why that people in these countries like Iraq might retaliate or feel the need to retaliate against the Americans, who they see as an occupying force. They are told that Americans are using their resources and are taking over their country. Whether you agree with that or not, that is what a lot of people in this part of the world feel. And it's important for that side of the story to be heard.

E.J. Bonilla as Lt. Shane Aguero (L) and Darius Homayoun as Jassim Al-Lani (R) in 'The Long Road Home' (National Geographic/Van Redin)

Jon Beavers plays Sgt. Eric Bourquin in the series. Your characters have a complicated and contentious relationship, one that really illuminates the conflict between Americans who went over without any understanding of the culture and the Iraqis who had mixed feelings about what happened after the fall of Saddam.

It was a very visceral thing onset. Jon was one of my best friends on the show. There a moment in episode 2 where he accuses me of collaborating with the insurgents that day. When we were shooting that scene, we couldn't really be near each other. It was a kind of invisible force field that we had to navigate around between us because that animosity was there. When we went home, we were we were good friends but it was a very tangible thing while we were shooting.

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