Amina Khalil Shedding Light on ADHD

Egyptian star Amina Khalil made waves this Ramadan with her role in the TV series Khali Balak Men Zizi (Take Care of Zizi). She brilliantly personified Zizi, a dysfunctional daughter who turns out to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Throughout her journey, we learn that once diagnosed, the disorder can be managed and the person struggling from it can thrive and blossom. Along the way, we also are exposed to several family dynamics, which many can identify with. eniGma’s Layla AbdelMaksoud sat down with Khalil to learn about how she prepared for the difficult role and to discuss her views on the disorder she came to shed light on.

How did you prepare for this role?

It was a very beautiful and complex journey creating this character. I took a series of steps to be able to bring the character to life. First and foremost, many of the answers to questions I had were already in the script which was written by Mariam Naoum, Mona El Shimy, and Nadia Amin. They gave me a lot of keys to the character in the script itself and I was very blessed to work with such a solid group of writers. Mona El Shimy is not only a writer but also a psychologist. The way that they wrote the script included notes within it, such as, “This is a trigger for ADHD patients.”  So I would know how Zizi should act at such a moment. 

I also did a lot of research using Google to better understand the disorder and I would observe people I knew with the diagnosis for inspiration. Director Karim El Shenawy also sat with me to discuss how we would build Zizi on a physical level, that is, her body language. For instance, throughout the show you won’t see Zizi sitting with her legs crossed – they are on the floor most of the time and slightly apart. She never sits in a feminine way and as a woman, this  was difficult for me. I had to “unbecome” everything I am! Eventually and with time, I became Zizi and I got to know Zizi like the back of my hand. She’s inside me and she’s a part of me. Zizi was very challenging but at the same time, I fell in love with her from the moment that I read her character and I’m so empathetic towards her situation.

Did the idea of representing people with ADHD scare you? Were you afraid of getting it wrong?

 I didn’t feel this way, You have to be confident when it comes to work, when you decide to take a leap of faith and do something different. I had to push myself as an actor, and as someone who’s going to shed light on this issue. I prepped well enough and everything that was done was based on facts as well as real people. That way no one could say: “People with ADHD going through a stressful situation don’t shake their leg,” for example. That’s not true, they do. They don’t necessarily have to shake their legs; some play with their fingers, some fiddle with something, but there is usually some sort of physical embodiment of the stress. 

What did you love the most about Zizi?

 How she still managed to hold on to the child inside her. She was put into very difficult and stressful situations in her life; she had dysfunctional parents, was  unable to maintain a job, and went through a divorce. She doesn’t understand herself. All this and she didn’t turn bitter. There are moments where she’s playing with Siko and Miko or bonding with Tito and this is where the true Zizi came out, where she was just enjoying life. Her love for children and dying to be a mother is what’s beautiful about her.

What would you say is your favourite scene?

 There are so many scenes I loved, but my favourite scene was with Farrag and Tyson (Mohamed Mamdouh) when Zizi was learning how to act. The dynamic between Farrag, Tyson, and me was personally very fun because we’re like family. When you act with someone for so long and you know each other and you’re friends, you start to understand how each person works. In this scene, Tyson could barely keep a straight face, the number of times that we would cut because we burst into laughter was countless. 

The first three episodes were a whole sequence, was it hard to maintain the feelings and mentality of Zizi throughout the show since it was shot over weeks?

 Honestly, it wasn’t really hard for me to find the continuity during the first three episodes because I became used to it. This comes with the job; the challenge wasn’t in that. With Zizi I had to take it moment by moment because, even if I’m doing a continuous scene, she is different in every moment. The clinic scene alone had an array of emotions from hopeful to disappointed to angry as she confronts Hisham. 

Zizi was draining, all of it. I’m very emotionally stretched after this role and I’m very aware of it. It’s one thing to act, which is already emotionally challenging. But being Zizi is something even more challenging because all her feelings and physicality are extreme. She’s not talking, she’s screaming half the time and she’s shouting, she’s emotional, she’s so confrontational. And  then there are times where she’s quiet, when sitting with Samy, her psychologist.

What do you think is the proper step to take to inform someone that they have ADHD?

 I’m not a doctor so I don’t know the correct way. But I would ask if they need help and perhaps pass on a therapist’s number. The number of people who have approached me or reached out to me because of how similar they are to Zizi is amazing. Sometimes I cry reading their messages.