Mena Massoud realizes the Canadian television industry is difficult. Often, you have to pay your dues over a period of years before snagging your first gig. But that didn’t happen for the Ryerson Theatre School grad, who scored his first acting role on Open Heart straight out of school.
“I had my first audition and then about a month later I got a call back and then a few weeks after that I got a screen test with Karis,” Massoud explains. “And then it all came together.” He laughs and quickly notes his story is one of extreme luck and timing. It’s also the story of a memorable character. The Markham, Ont., native portrays Jared Malik, the snarky and in-your-face head of the Youth Volunteer Program at Open Heart Memorial. Those under his supervision are Dylan Blake (Karis Cameron)—currently investigating the disappearance of her father—Mikayla Walker (Cristine Prosperi) and Wes Silver (Justin Kelly). Massoud’s role is a tough one: be too snarky and fans of Dylan’s will label you a villain. It’s a label the basketball fan is quick to dismiss.
“The one thing I want to do with all of my roles is make the characters real,” he says. “[Creator/executive producer] Ramona Barckert and [executive producer] Stefan Brogren and I sat down and really worked on him. As the show goes on it becomes more of a balancing act because he starts to open up and you see another side of him. That was journey in itself. I think that even when you meet jerks, there is a human side to them.”
Viewers have already gotten a chance to see that more human side of Jared; Open Heart’s lockdown a few weeks ago found Mikayla and Jared sharing some personal space—and a kiss— before the all-clear was called by security. How that smooch affects their working relationship has yet to be seen, though Wes made his feelings known by gagging when Mikayla confessed what had happened. Massoud had a lot of fun during production, reading scripts and observing how Jared evolved and interacted with the other characters and utilizing his comedic side. Who can forget that scene in the hospital supply closet when Dylan spilled cleaner all over Jared and he had to strip down to his skivvies?
“That’s the amazing thing about Jared and about this show,” Massoud says with a laugh recalling that scene. “It’s has a mystery and a thriller element to it, but it has some very funny moments. I think Justin and I have the most moments like that in the series. It’s very much like real life. Some days are really lousy and dramatic and other days are fun and funny.”
Open Heart airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on YTV.