Hollywood Flashback: Before Playing Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek Was a Gay Teen on Fox TV

The War at Home Still - Photofest - H 2019
Courtesy of Photofest

The 'Bohemian Rhapsody' star played Kenny on Fox's 'The War at Home,' which centered on a somewhat dysfunctional Jewish family, for two seasons.

Before Rami Malek, 37, played rock star Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody — even before he appeared as the morphine-shooting, hoodie-wearing Elliot on USA's Mr. Robot — he portrayed Kenny on Fox's The War at Home. (Reaching even further back, he played an overeager Seventh-Day Adventist on Gilmore Girls in his 2004 television debut.)

A multicamera sitcom, War at Home ran for two seasons, from 2005 to 2007, and centered on the Golds, a somewhat dysfunctional Long Island Jewish family. The Hollywood Reporter was not thrilled with what it saw when the show premiered in the time slot after The Simpsons. "You know that line about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts?" began the review. "Well, in the case of Fox's raunchy 'n' retro new comedy The War at Home, the precise opposite is true." One bright spot, however, was Malek's character: an Arab-American teenager who comes out of the closet during the show's second season, gets kicked out of his parents' house and moves in with his buddy, Larry Gold. Considering the era, the series was ahead of the curve. "I'd like to say I was a genius at casting," says Home creator Rob Lotterstein. "But sometimes it's just so obvious when someone walks in the room how talented they are and they basically cast themselves — and that was Rami."

Malek appeared on roughly 85 percent of the episodes. In part because of his character, War at Home received a GLAAD Media Award nomination for outstanding comedy series. (That's a bit ironic, as Bohemian Rhapsody just had its GLAAD noms pulled after director Bryan Singer was accused of having sex with underage teenagers.) "It was a challenge for Rami playing this character," recalls Lotterstein. "He was given this big responsibility of being a teen character coming out of the closet on network TV. It really elevated the show to some of our best work." 

This story first appeared in a February stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.