Ad Tanazuly proved to be very successful, was that something you expected?
From the moment writer Tamer Ibrahim sent me the script, I knew there was something special about this series. I couldn’t wait to finish reading it and I knew people would get equally hooked. I felt that it had all the right elements: action, suspense, drama, romance, etc. There was also something very special about the characters, they were complex and multi-layered. So I knew it would be different. Yet the feedback still exceeded my expectations.
What was the best feedback you got?
For me the best thing was the fact that it appealed to both the audience and the critics. A lot of actors try to please one or the other, I don’t. I do what I believe in and I hope for the best. This is what happened with Mowaten X (Citizen X), Taraf Talet (Third Party), Niran Sadika (Friendly Fire) and finally with Ad Tanazuly.
Your character Selim was a bit complicated, how did you prepare for it?
Selim had an almost perfect life until his son was killed and he was detained. This injustice totally changed him. I wouldn’t have been able to understand it if I hadn’t met someone who was also detained by the police. I talked to him and he told me about what he saw inside prison, how difficult it felt, and how injustice can change a person’s character completely. I managed to grasp that bitterness and I tried to put that into the character; transitioning from having a normal life to going through what he experienced to trying to get back to his normal life and failing to, trying to kill himself, and finally resorting to revenge. I got so immersed in the character that it left me depressed for a few days, especially after his son died.
Most of your previous work was based on an ensemble cast, in Ad Tanazuly you have the starring role, how did that transition feel?
Scary! There was much more responsibility on my shoulders. I had to work harder and prepare even more. And when I saw the great feedback, I got more scared, because it meant I had to maintain that success and top it. So for me it means that it’s not getting easier, it just means that I have to work even harder.
Do you feel the way you look affects the roles you are cast for?
Up until very recently I used to believe that no one should be typecast because of the way they look, but that opinion has changed. I believe that the way you look puts you in a certain frame, that your look can actually determine whether or not you’re right for a role. This is the same for all actors around the world, some things we can change and fix using make-up but you can only do so much. But it’s also about talent, it can’t be all based on looks, you have to have the skills that can make you present the character in a real way.
That’s why everybody is sad about Khaled Saleh’s death. Because he was a great actor and he still had a lot to give. No one remembers him for the way he looked; they only remember his great talent.
Does being recognised in the street annoy you?
I heard a saying once that actors try so hard to become famous and as soon as they do, they put on their dark shades and try to hide. The love I get from people is great; it really is what keeps me and any actor in business. No one would hire me for roles if people didn’t like me. That’s why it never annoys me when people come up to me in the street and want to say hello or take a picture. I just try not to let it control my life. I try to have as much of a normal life as possible, to go out where I want and to do what I want. I think people now are also starting to understand that actors have the right to have some privacy when they are having dinner or hanging out with some friends somewhere.
Does all of this take away from your family time?
In my opinion this is the only downside of the job. It’s a full-time job and it’s very difficult. We don’t have working hours like normal people, sometimes we have to work for more than 24 hours straight and we don’t get to complain about it. So it doesn’t really give me enough time to see my family, nor to start a family of my own. Whenever I have the chance, I try to spend as much time as possible with my family but I just don’t get to do it as much as I want to.
What about starting your own family, when will you take the decision of getting married?
When I find the right person. I am still looking for someone. She has to be smart, outgoing, funny, someone who is my friend first and foremost. I am looking for someone to spend my life with and to share my life with me.
So what are you currently working on?
I am preparing for next year’s series. I just signed the contract a couple of days ago. It’s an adaptation of the famous American series Prison Break. I feel it has the right elements, we have a great director, Ahmed Alaa, who did two of my favourite movies, Badal Faked (Replacement) and Al Hafla (The Party). And we have a huge budget from the production company, Lighthouse, who produced Al Feel Al Azrak (The Blue Elephant). We have a great script being written by the amazing Ahmed Murad and Hisham Helal, and great music. So I think it is going to be successful.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to focus more on movies because I think cinema is making a very strong comeback. I always want to be making something that’s new and different. I want people to look back and remember all the things I did and see how varied they were.
What five words best describe you?
Career driven, dedicated, patient, wise, and nervous.
What are your most treasured qualities?
I am very committed to my work.
What would you most like to change about yourself?
I get lazy sometimes.
What qualities do you dislike in people?
Who are your real-life heroes?
My dad, he was my idol and my mentor. May he rest in peace.
What would the title of your biography be?
Too Young to Have a Biography.
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
There’s nothing called luck. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
What is your biggest regret?
I don’t regret the decisions I make. I think very well before I take any decision.
What keeps you up at night?
What makes you laugh?
Hanging out with my friends.
What is your proudest moment?
I feel very proud when my family is proud of my work.