[The casting substantiated Siddig's belief that his character's
parents were different from Bashir. RANDY TOPPER]

But it was when the producers began looking for someone to play Bashir's mother that they ran into real problems. "We wanted Arab-Americans to play both parents," says Director David Livingston. But it proved impossible to find a female Arab-American actor. "That's because there are none," points out Siddig- "Arab actresses are an oxymoron. Most Arabs are Muslim, and Islam frowns upon acting. No one outside of the family may see a woman without a headdress on, or see her cry or laugh. In the Islam world, you won't see a woman acting, except in a place like Egypt, where the rules are more liberal, and even then there are very strict definitions of what a woman may or may not do. But the woman they found did an amazing job."

Credit Casting Director Ron Surma for finding Fadwa El Guindi, a social anthropology professor at

the University of Southern California. "Ron. had heard something about a woman who'd done some community theater in town," says Livingston. "She had a real genuine empathetic quality about her when we brought her in to read, and we decided to go for it."

"It was such a marvelous moment," smiles Ira Behr. "She was as nervous as can be, but she had tremendous class. We told her to just be herself, and she was great."