Ahmed Zaher has made a comeback. Still surrounded by controversy, but rocking a handsome new look, he took everyone by surprise when he brilliantly portrayed  Youssef El Mahdy in Hekayet Hayat (The Story of Hayat) on TV last Ramadan.  eniGma’s Radwa El Ziki talks to the star about his professional  journey with its ups and downs…

Ever since his school days, Ahmed Zaher had been obsessed with acting. He would dream of performing with his favourite stars and the thought of how he could somehow make his dream come true was always on his mind. “I didn’t know if I was talented or not. All I knew was that I just loved acting,” Zaher jokes.

He started by acting in school plays and slowly gained confidence in his own abilities. He had to enroll in the faculty of commerce to please his parents who were not so keen on his love of acting, but he couldn’t take it for more than three years. Zaher went behind his parents’ back and enrolled in the Institute of Performing Arts. While there he met director Magdy Abou Emira who gave him a minor role in the TV series  Ze’ab El Gabal (Mountain Wolves). Although his role was a one-liner, it was a start, and it meant the world to Zaher .

The one-liner led to two lines and eventually he appeared in several TV series. He was climbing the ladder slowly, but he didn’t mind that. He worked very hard, and stayed  determined to become a respectable actor. His break came when he was cast in the television series, Al Ragol Al Akhar (The Other Man) with Mervat Amin and Noor El Sherif. “This was the turning point for me. Frankly, I didn’t expect to get all that attention,” Zaher explains, “I was  recognised  as a talented actor just for that role.” The role led to more parts in other hit television series and  movies, most notably the TV series, Hadith Al Sabah Wa Al Massaa (Morning and Evening Conversations) and the movie Belia Wa Demagho El Alia (Belia’s High Head).

Zaher was on a roll, but suddenly  life got in the way. He had to leave the acting scene due to illness. “I stayed at home for almost three years, not working,” Zaher recalls.   He candidly admitted that he was struggling not only with his illness, but also with his weight. He explains, “When I eventually got back to acting, I didn’t get the roles I deserved or wanted. I had to start all  over again.”

Zaher started working at it again passionately. Eventually, director Mohamed Sami, a good friend of his, gave him a second chance with his role as the good police officer Hisham Madkour in the hit TV series,  Adam. He was originally cast in the role of the corrupt police officer, which he refused to do because he thought it would be too easy. “People always remember the villain, I wanted them to remember the good person for change, that is why Hisham Madkour was a challenge for me,” he says. And Director Mohamed Sami helped him do that. “Mohamed Sami is a great director. He focuses on the actor,” he explains. With his help, Zaher’s portrayal of  Hisham Madkoar, put Zaher back on the radar of producers and viewers.

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It also led to a second cooperation between Zaher and Sami in last Ramadan’s hit series, Hekayet Hayat (The Story of Hayat). Zaher’s role of Youssef El Mahdy, gave the actor an even bigger push into the spotlight.   But getting the role wasn’t so easy. “Sami was harsh on me. He gave me tough love and warned me that if didn’t get in shape I wouldn’t get the part,” he appreciatively recalls. Not only did he get the part, he nailed it and he has several awards to prove it. His role earned him the Best Actor in 2013 Award in the Satellite Channels Festival and in the Hayat Festival. Zaher is doubly thankful since he feels that the weight loss also helped him lead a healthier and happier life. “I used to be extremely insecure and depressed about the way I looked, but now my attitude is totally different,” he explains.

As Zaher continues to build his image and career, he is being very careful about the roles he chooses. “There was a time when I had to accept some roles even when the  storyline was not good or the budget was insufficient.  I had to do that to support my family,” he admits. Now he is determined not to accept such roles again. He is looking for roles that would challenge him as an actor and bring out the best in him. One of the roles he would like to play is that of a murderer. “I’d love to get inside his head and know what he is thinking. What leads him to becoming a killer,” he explains.

Zaher’s passion for acting didn’t stop with him. It has now become a family affair. Two of his three daughters, Malak and Laila, are getting quite known in the field themselves. “They are my little stars,” he blushingly  exclaims. It was his friend, singer Tamer Hosni, who saw something special in them and encouraged Zaher to let them act. They made their first appearance with Hosni in the blockbuster Omar w Salma (Omar and Salma).

Zaher is currently focusing on his next Ramadan series. It’s set to be a star-studded production with the likes of Haifa Wehbe and Maged El Masry. And of course  the director is none other than Mohamed Sami.

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ART DIRECTION & STYLING: Maissa Azab

PHOTOGRAPHY: Sherif Mokhtar

SHOT ON LOCATION: Graffiti Bar & Lounge at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza