Ahmed Talaat may be new to acting, but he has already proven that he is one to watch. Talaat’s very first passion, which he began pursuing when he was just seventeen years old, was designing equestrian courses. However, once he graduated with a degree in architectural engineering, Talaat eagerly embarked on his career in architecture and began immersing himself in designing opulent residential escapes everywhere from Egypt to Spain. Then, two years ago, he took the surprising decision to venture into acting. eniGma’s Farida El Sayed sat down with Talaat to discuss his unusual journey and his newfound acting success.
Regardless of the field, Ahmed Talaat always strives to make a name for himself. In fact, during his time designing equestrian courses, he was the youngest such designer to be working at the highest global level. This drive and desire to succeed has since been carried into both his architectural pursuits, and more recently, his acting.
Recalling how he decided to pursue acting, Talaat says, “Although I used to act casually in university, I credit Mohamed Hefzy for pushing me to start doing it wholeheartedly. He would keep telling me that I had the potential for it and that I should really take it seriously. My close friend, the actress Nelly Karim, was also very supportive, and truly believed in me and in my talent.” Using their strong words of encouragement as motivation, Talaat began taking private lessons with renowned acting coach, Yassin El Esamy two years ago and went on to launch his journey into acting with a bang.
It was the producer Mohamed Hefzy, who gave Talaat his first opportunity in the drama TV series, El Seham Al Ma’areka (Renegades), where he convincingly portrayed a sex and human trafficker in ISIS, demonstrating his acting chops right out of the gate. Shortly after that, Talaat dove into a completely different role in the short film, Asf Monfared (Solo Musician), directed by Esamy. “I got to play the role of a sick father who was very selfish. The complexity of the character, as well as the story as a whole, was very interesting to me. I really enjoyed being a part of the project,” he recounts.
This year, Talaat got his big break with the hit Ramadan series, Zodiac. He plays the role of Henry, the eccentric British Egyptologist, who comes to Egypt to awaken a pharaonic magician from the dead. “My role is quite complicated. He is a bad guy who performs black magic and evil rituals. At the same time, he is always trying to prove that he is not the token foreigner and that he fits in as well as everyone else around. I like to call it my sweet and sour role,” Talaat explains, adding that his biggest challenge was mastering Henry’s unique accent. “It was so hard to get the accent just right in a way that didn’t sound funny, especially when he was chanting rituals,” he explains.
Talaat faced another challenge in his Zodiac role that was also related to Henry’s speech. “I needed to learn how to pronounce the Ancient Egyptian rituals. In order to do that, I sought out the help of a specialist in these types of rituals, who taught me a lot,” he says. In fact, Talaat’s performance throughout the series was so successful that when the audience thought that Henry, his character, had died, he received an outpouring of love and affection from his fans. “I can’t tell you the number of messages I received! They were filled with so much love. I was so happy that people connected to my character even though he was evil. I think this was my proudest moment as an actor so far,” he recalls.
Generally, however, Talaat says the recurring challenge he faces in acting lies in initially sketching his character’s identity and how they should develop throughout the story. “When you have the character down, everything becomes easy after that. At first, it is definitely a huge challenge when you are trying to figure out how they talk, act and think,” he explains.
Despite the series being only 15 episodes long, Zodiac garnered a lot of praise and was awarded Best Ramadan TV Show by NRJ Radio. It also amassed an unprecedented number of views on the online streaming platform, VIU. “Honestly, we were not expecting people to like it this much, and we were all pleasantly surprised, from the producers and the directors, to the cast and crew,” Talaat exclaims. He will be returning to Zodiac in its second season, which will be airing at the end of this year.
On the heels of Zodiac’s success, Talaat got the amazing opportunity to audition for acclaimed filmmaker, Zeina Durra’s British-Egyptian upcoming production, Luxor. He was given a supporting role as the head concierge in the hotel where all the action takes place. Esteemed English actress, Andrea Riseborough and French-Lebanese actor, Karim Saleh, are the lead stars in the film.
Having finished filming for Luxor, Talaat has gone on to work on his next project, the TV show, Mamlaket Eblees (Kingdom of Satan), which is scheduled to air in October. “It is a complete departure from what I’ve done in the past. I play a belly dancer’s assistant, called El Ekhs,” he tells us.
Even though Talaat has just been acting for a little over a year, he is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to work alongside some of the best in the business. He especially enjoyed working with actors Asma Abulyazeid and Ahmed Tarek Saleh. “Asma was amazing. Even though she is young, she is an incredibly talented actress and a lovely person,” says Talaat. As for Saleh, he found in him “the brother that I chose”. Talaat also learnt a great deal working alongside international stars in Luxor. “Seeing how calm Andrea was on set and how she completely zoned in on her character when she was acting, showed me how acting is supposed to be done. She was on a different level and in a completely different league than anybody I have worked with before,” he recalls.
Despite his active and somewhat hectic schedule, Talaat says that he still considers architecture as his fulltime job. “I am working between London and Cairo as an architect, because at the end of the day, this is my bread and butter. I’m still very new to acting and am not sure where it is going to take me,” he admits. He adds that what attracts him to the acting profession is its cathartic effect, “The best thing about acting is that it’s like therapy, it makes you happy. You are free to do things that you would never dare to do in real life. You also get to experience feelings you wouldn’t dare explore in real life.”
With the variety of projects Talaat has participated in thus far, a genre which he hopes to try in the future is comedy. “When I first started to act I wanted to do comedy, until I realised that it actually was the hardest genre. But I’m still dying to do it,” says Talaat, adding, “For the time being, I simply hope to remain successful in all my ventures. Being successful in anything I’m doing is the ultimate goal.”