While Mena Massoud is enjoying his time in the spotlight with his starring role in Disney’s live-action reimagining of Aladdin, the 27-year-old didn’t see all this good luck in his near future just a few years ago.
Massoud was all smiles on the star-studded red carpet at the premiere of his long-awaited Disney epic on Tuesday, and stopped with talk with ET’s Kevin Frazier about why it is such a special time for him.
“Two years ago, I moved to Los Angeles and I was living in a closet with my friend,” Massoud reflected, as he looked around at the grand majesty of the big Hollywood Blvd. premiere. “I never thought I’d get to do this so quickly after moving here.”
“So it’s been a blessing,” he added with a smile. “I’m blessed.”
Looking back at his time living in what he called a “closet,” the young star said it actually encouraged him to get out and do more — or at least be more active even at home.
“You just spend a lot less time in your room, basically, because there’s not much of it,” he shared. “So I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking.”
As presumably a lot more time at auditions and hustling, which is undoubtedly how he ended up impressing Aladdin director Guy Richie and finding himself playing the iconic titular role of the young street urchin whose luck changes after finding a magic lamp with a friendly genie, played by Will Smith.
However, the first time he actually met Smith on set, Massoud said it was something of an awkward interaction.
“First time I met him, I mean, I grew up watching his films, so I was really nervous and I forgot to introduce myself,” Massoud recalled. “And [director] Guy Ritchie was there, so I thought he was gonna help break the ice! But he didn’t, so I had to back track a little [and introduce myself].”
“Guy [left] me hanging, and I’ve brought that up several times,” he added with a laugh.
Speaking with Will Smith on the red carpet, the outspoken movie star explained exactly why his meeting with Massoud was so surreal.
“We’re on set, and there’s 200 dancers standing around, and I’m taking to the director, and then this dude just comes up and he’s standing in our conversation,” Smith said of Massoud. “And I’m like, ‘That’s a bold-a** dancer, [who’s] going to stand there in the middle of the director and the genie in this conversation.’ And he just stood there and he didn’t say nothing! He just smiled and then walked away.”
“I came back later, because I didn’t really tell him who I was,” Massoud explained. “So I came back and introduced myself.” Since then, it seems the two have become fast friends.
Disney’s Aladdin hits theaters on May 24.