She’s shy, easy going, funny, witty and one to love. Egypt’s most famous young comedienne today, Amy Samir Ghanem, first grabbed people’s attention with only two scenes in Ahmed Helmy’s movie, Assal Eswed. That’s when her career took off and the young actress started landing one role after the other. Amid her busy schedule, eniGma’s Associate Editor Hana Zuhair got to chat with Amy about her acting career, her life, and what it’s like to come from one of the most successful families in the business.
As sexist as it may sound, an actress excelling in comedy is hard to come by, but for some odd reason it’s true. However, given that Amy is the daughter of Samir Ghanem, one of the biggest names in Egyptian comedy, it’s not surprising that she would follow in his footsteps. But don’t mistake Amy for an actress who depended on daddy’s legacy to get ahead, the funny lady cherishes her independence and she did it all on her own.
How did it all start?
I wasn’t thinking about acting at all. Unlike my sister, Donia, who displayed a passion for acting at a young age and used to sing all the time at home, I was always shy and somehow even a loner. Then I suddenly decided on my own to try out for a play called Welad El Lazeena. My parents had nothing to do with me getting the role. Then I worked in another play with my dad, and somehow the roles came pouring in.
What sparked your love for comedy?
I generally like to have a laugh and joke around, but I did not intentionally seek to play so many comedy roles. It happened that most of the roles that I liked so far were comedy. It’s just that comedy speaks to me; it’s close to my personality and thankfully I succeeded in the genre. But I played roles of other genres too. This Ramadan my role in the series with Hassan Raddad, isn’t comedy. And I was in other series that weren’t comedy roles as well, one starring Yosra and one starring Laila Elwy. And by the way, I don’t think my role in Heba Regl El Ghorab is comedy. It’s more of a social role but it clicked with people as comedy, maybe because of the nature and awkwardness of the character.
Who inspires you?
Observing the same characters I play in real life is exactly what inspires me while playing them. I think it’s the best way to truly embody the character.
How was it playing Heba Regl El Ghorab (the Egyptian version of Ugly Betty) and did you expect it to be so successful?
I really liked the character when I read the script. I used to see girls like her at school. I was even a bit like her when I was younger, and I was gullible at times. I also wasn’t the hyperactive type as a student. This is why I felt the role and did it the best way I could, and judging from people’s reactions, I think I reflected it well on the screen.
Were you at all worried about playing the role of an ugly female?
Actually, I asked to change the whole look to an uglier one. I worked with stylist Khaled Azzam to add more details that would make me look worse. At first I just had the braces and the glasses, and I felt that made the character just look average, or maybe even cute. So I asked to add the big teeth, the bad hair, which I wear a wig for, the very thick eyebrows, and the mole. We even shot the first few episodes with a big nose. But it was such a hassle to act with it and put it on every time we were shooting, so we dismissed it. I wasn’t scared that the viewers would see me as ugly. These things don’t bother me at all. On the contrary, I like weird characters and weird looking ones too; characters that aren’t normally attractive to others. Everything that has a quirky or unique character attracts me. This is part of why I really enjoyed working on Heba Regl El Ghorab. I used to get ready in 15 minutes, since I didn’t wear makeup and I wore a wig instead of getting my hair done. I also wore loose clothes so I ate as much as I wanted! (she laughs) However, I did fear being the lead character. I studied the script for eight months and I would keep thinking about it because when you’re the main character you carry the main responsibility for the show’s success on your shoulders.
What about your recent movie, Zane’t El Setat, in which you co-starred with Hassan El Raddad?
It was also the role of an ugly girl. I loved it. It was actually specifically rewritten for me because it had been written in a different way before. When they decided to add the character I played in the movie, they wrote the role tailored for me specifically. And even though it wasn’t released during high season, it was a success and the revenues are a good indication of that.
What role do you love the most?
I loved my roles in Zane’t El Setat and Heba Regl El Ghorab. I also hold dear my small character in Assal Eswed since it was the reason my career took off.
How was it growing up in a family where all members are in the movie business?
I don’t believe my family is the reason I became an actress. Maybe the family genes made me good as an actress. But in general, not all people growing in a family of actors join the business. Given that I was shy, it wasn’t really in my plans to become an actress. But my parents were happy when I took this bold decision and they encouraged me. However, neither I, nor my sister relied on them to push us in the business. I didn’t want people to say that I landed my roles with my parents’ help. I did everything at my own pace and I would always go for auditions when I first started.
What are you like in your day-to-day life?
I go to dog shelters when I don’t have work. I love animals and particularly dogs. And I also go out with my friends, go to the movies, or have dinner out, when I have some time off work. But I always have work, thank God; so I basically do this about one day in the month.
How is fame treating you?
Fame wasn’t something strange or surprising to me. It makes me happy because it means people like you and like your work, not because I’m Samir Ghanem’s daughter. Maybe it didn’t surprise me because I grew up in a famous family, and there was always a spotlight on my sister and me being the daughters of Samir Ghanem and Dalal Abdel Aziz.
Since this is our interiors issue, what would your dream house look like?
I actually love decoration. I love modern interiors as it suits who I am as a person. I’m not a classical person. I don’t like old, classical homes. Donia is the opposite; she likes classical homes. I like colours and spacious settings.
ART DIRECTION & PHOTOGRAPHY: Maissa Azab
PHOTOGRAPHY: Sherif Mokhtar