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Diane Seo | Photo: Angela Marklew | November 1, 2013
Kailua-raised talent Sterling Sulieman is ready to take his place in the spotlight.
If Sterling Sulieman looks familiar, that’s because his face has been all over TV. You also may have seen him in GQ earlier this year. The men’s style bible named him a breakout actor to watch, and for good reason. The strikingly handsome 29-year-old triple threat has appeared on a spectrum of series, including The Vampire Diaries, 24, The Client List, NCIS: Los Angeles, Bones and Entourage. Of course, there’s also his first break, his recurring role as Dre on the legendary All My Children. With credits like these, Sulieman is now one of the most buzzworthy island-raised actors of his generation in the industry.
But it was Sulieman’s appearance on the ABC Family juggernaut Pretty Little Liars that earned the aspiring actor some well-deserved attention. His character, the nefarious Nathan St. Germain, caused some screenworthy havoc in the town of Rosewood, before making a dramatic (and fatal) exit. Not only did the role add excitement to a season finale, it also helped to pry open some Hollywood doors. “That was great exposure because the show was such a hit,” he says. Case in point: a primetime appearance on NBC. “Directly after that, I jumped on The New Normal and got to work with some great people.” He played Clint, the brother of Rocky Rhodes, the outspoken sassy personal assistant portrayed by NeNe Leakes of The Real Housewives of Atlanta fame.
With the growing attention, it’s not a surprise to learn Sulieman’s love for theatrics goes back to the age of 7, when he got his first taste of the performing arts. While both his parents are doctors, Sulieman showed an affinity for the creative side of life, much like his sister, Yasmeen, now a recording artist. While at Punahou—an incubator for a island talents who’ve made it on the mainland, like Carrie Ann Inaba and Sarah Wayne Callies—the thespian dived into theater. But Sulieman could move as well, joining the popular troupe 24-7 Danceforce. Add to this his vocal talent, which helped him win the popular island competition Brown Bags to Stardom. (He rocked the Waikiki Shell with his take on Usher’s “Pop Ya Collar,” accompanied by a troupe of six backup dancers.) With encouragement from his family, the aspiring talent headed to UCLA to study theater, film and television and audition in his free time. With his résumé so far, it’s fair to say that the move has paid off.
As for the future, TV and film beckon as does New York. “I would like to end up there for a bit, maybe doing musical theater or comedy—something fun,” he says. But this talent hasn’t forgotten home either. Sulieman makes it a point to return home often to visit his parents. While he’d love to shoot at home, he continues to press on. “I think what I enjoy the most is that I never stop learning,” says Sulieman. “The industry’s constantly changing and evolving. It’s exciting to figure it out.”