With memorable performances in the hit TV shows Taraf Talet (Third Party), Mowaten X (Citizen X) and more recently El Montakem (The Avenger), Amr Youssef is taking Egypt by storm. He’s not only cemented his position as Egypt’s next A-lister, but also as its newest heartthrob. eniGma’s Radwa El Ziki sat down with the handsome, yet humble, star to discover more about his past, present and future…
By almost any standards, Amr Youssef has always been self-driven and hard working. Before becoming an actor, he received a law degree from Cairo University; but Youssef had other plans. Family pressure had deterred him from enrolling in the Cinema Institute of Cairo, and he was on a track to pursue a career he didn’t really want. But Youssef’s dream – his true goal – was to become an actor.
Youssef’s first break came during his second year of university, when one of his friends asked him to help out in a TV commercial. Eager to delve into the industry, Youssef jumped right in. “I tried to absorb everything I could learn about the industry. I wanted to know exactly how things worked,” he recalls.
Thus his willingness to snag any acting gig, lead to his first on-camera experience being a 30 second commercial. And that experience had a lasting effect, as Youssef considers it one of the most impactful moments of his life. “The fear I had of being in front of the camera suddenly disappeared,” he recalls.
Youssef’s first love had always been acting and at age 13, he had aspirations of lighting up the silver screen. “I wasn’t the miracle child,” he says with a laugh, adding that he was always trying to impersonate people.
From there Youssef’s career path began to unfold, with big roles in El Daly parts two and three, Hanem Bent Basha (Lady Daughter of the Pasha) and El Ota El Amya (The Blind Cat). Then, two Ramadans ago, he landed a spot on Mowaten X (Citizen X). As a depiction of Egypt leading up to the revolution, it was one of the most influential series Egypt has seen in years.
His performance in Citizen X, lead to a role in another powerful series, Taraf Talet (Third Party), which Youssef cites as his favourite work so far. In the series, he plays a man who would die for his two friends, played by Amir Karara and Mahmoud Abdel Moghney. Youssef admits that, although this was among his most memorable roles, it was also his hardest one yet.
“I had to convince myself of every action the character took, reasoning everything that others may see as wrong,” Youssef explains, adding that he wanted to break the trend of evil villains being one dimensional and instead portray a more complex character. And that’s exactly what he did…
One could argue Mowaten X and Taraf Talet were so successful because of the on-screen chemistry between the three leading roles played by Youssef, Karara and Moghney. To that end, Youssef explains that he developed a strong relationship with Moghney when they acted together in Maalab Haramaya (Thiefs’ Prank). Moghney was also friends with Karara, from their hit show Lahzat Harega (Crtical Moments). “Moghney was our common friend and we have all become great friends now,” he says with a smile. “Someone watching us from the outside would have envied us, getting paid to do what we love with our friends.”
Youssef also made a name for himself in El Montakem (The Avenger), which was a different type of role for the actor, as the show traded out the normal 30 episode series for 120 episodes. “It was a very tough experience, we worked for a whole year,” he recalls.
In the end, the hard work paid off, and it was one of the most talked about shows in the Middle East this year.
With such a busy work schedule, it’s hard to imagine that Youssef has much time for fun. Even so, he loves traveling, and leaps at any chance to explore a new place. The heartthrob also has a penchant for sports, which comes as little surprise given his physique. “In university, most of my time was dedicated to rowing,” Youssef recalls with nostalgia. And when the actor has free time, he likes to watch European movies, claiming that they have the best acting.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Youssef already has big plans for 2013, including a new movie entitled Rasayel Hob (Love Letters). Shooting for the film, which will be directed by Dawood Abdel Sayed, starts in early January and it will premiere next Ramadan. After that, he will act in Khaled Marie’s new series, Niran Sadeeka (Friendly Fire), which will also star Kenda Aloush, Rania Youssef and Menna Shalaby, also, expected to premiere next Ramadan.
So how does Egypt’s new heartthrob take in all his newfound success? “I try to take it step by step because I know fame makes people deviate from their real goals. I am extremely grateful and I will continue to give everything to my work.”
Yet first and foremost Youssef is an Egyptian citizen, striving to do what is best for his country. As he explains, “I’m very optimistic about Egypt; the Egyptian people are amazing, they love life, and people who love life will fight for it until the end.”
ART DIRECTION & STYLING: Maissa Azab
PHOTOGRAPHY: Hussein Shaaban