Conventional romantic comedies may be on the wane, but there's an upside to that: These days, unique spins on that genre finally have the room to break out. Consider, then, the trailer for Sean Mullin's Amira & Sam, which has found a warm reception on the film-festival circuit and opens this weekend. It stars Freaks and Geeks alum Martin Starr (here all grown up and filled out) as war veteran Sam, who strikes up a relationship with Amira (Dina Shihabi), who's at risk of being deported back to Iraq. The love that grows between them is almost as unconventional as the film's third important piece of casting: Vampire Diaries heartthrob Paul Wesley gets into the mix as a monologue-spouting relative of Sam's who confidently pushed shady hedge-fund deals.
"My schedule's been pretty full doing television work for the past five or six years, and I only have a couple months to do something else," Wesley told Vulture last week. "If I'm going to do something in my off-season, it's got to be something pretty different than what I do every day, and this character [in Amira & Sam] is a really misguided Wall Street guy whose moral compass is a little off. I've never played a character like that before. I didn't know anything about Wall Street, to be honest with you. I hope I pulled it off!"
Despite the massive success of Vampire Diaries, Wesley has spent his career mostly eschewing big studio films in favor of passion-project indies like this one. "I have a real deep connection with New York City independent filmmaking," he said. "I grew up in Jersey and spent a lot of my childhood in Manhattan, always around this indie-filmmaker world." In fact, it's while hanging around the production office of another indie that Wesley met Amira & Sam director Sean Mullin, and after he screened Shihabi's audition tape, "I knew the movie would be phenomenal."
Now that Wesley has directed two Vampire Diaries episodes, does he have plans to go off and make his own indie? "I've learned so much doing Vampire Diaries so that when I really do it and put a sizable budget together, I don't want to let people down!" he said. "But it will happen. It's in the works."