At the TCAs: National Geographic presents The State

National Geographic brought their limited dramatic series “The State” – about four ISIS recruits – to the TCAs. Part of the cast and production team Ryan McKen (Ziyaad Kader), Shavani Cameron (Ushna Kaleel), Sam Otto (Jalal Hossein), Ony Uhiara (Shakira Boothe), Liza Marshall (Executive Producer), and Peter Kosminsky (Writer/Director) attended the panel to discuss this dramatic look at four British citizens who become entwined with the terrorist organization.

“The State” aims to take a bold and unflinching approach to the stories of young ISIS recruits in a dramatic way. 

Writer/Director Peter Kosminsky explained the idea before the story. “We researched for about a year and a half. We had a team of researchers. Obviously, it’s a bit difficult to speak about the detail of that research. But a lot of it was focused on character. And my four acting colleagues here today, they’re playing composite characters. But everything that takes place in the drama actually took place in the research in real life. We haven’t invented any incidents. We just composited the characters.”

The level of research is the basis of “The State,” which is meant to invite conversation and consideration of previous assumptions. These characters are not stereotypes.

Ony Uhiara (Shakira) offered, “She’s a very strong-willed, determined person and she makes this decision to take her young son with her to go and live in the Islamic State.” Exploring motivations was a challenge for the actors. “…in terms of thinking about character traits or what type of people are making this journey, it’s not as simple as saying some one’s weak-minded or someone’s strong-minded. Everybody’s having their own motivations and their own drive, and that’s something that we explored in terms of building this character and trying to portray her story.”

Bottom line, says Peter Kosminsky, “Quite a bit of research has been done into let’s see if we can characterize these people who made the decision to go and join the Caliphate, the Islamic State. And the truth is there is no common pattern.”

This compelling and topical story delves deeply into motivations and experience. “The State” begins its four-part run on Monday, September 18th on National Geographic. Check your local listings.