Asser Yassin has made his mark in Egyptian cinema as a versatile and talented actor with many successful roles on both the silver screen and on T.V. He has become a favourite leading man with a great fan club. Beyond his career, the handsome, young actor exudes both charm and confidence and enjoys continuously exploring new activities. eniGma Magazine sat down with Yassin to find out more about his life, his passions and his ambitions.
Asser Yassin majored in engineering in university. On the side, he developed an interest in acting and participated in several plays. Although the productions were on a relatively small scale, the experience he gained would later prove invaluable to his career. “In my very first play, my role was all about interacting with the audience. In fact, I had only one scripted word. The rest was up to me. That was what got me hooked on acting. I love connecting with the audience,” he recalls. In pursuit of his passion, Yassin continued to act every chance he got. From short films to his colleagues’ graduation projects, he acted in anything he could get his hands on.
While he currently doesn’t often get the chance to interact directly with an audience, Yassin hasn’t abandoned his connection with the theatre. “I am a board member of the Studio Emad Eddin (SEE) foundation, which aims to support and improve performing arts in the region. I try to get involved in the theatre as much as possible,” he says. As much as he would like to, he doesn’t take on stage productions because he feels that the theatre world in Egypt is quite limited, both artistically and commercially. “When it comes to plays, it’s a make-it-or-break-it situation. I don’t want to be confined to a certain type of audience. I would rather wait and do it right,” he explains. In his view, the theatre is a precious platform that shouldn’t be limited to people of a certain intellect or lifestyle, but rather one that reaches people of all levels in society.
Over the past few years, Yassin has incontrovertibly proven himself as a talented actor, capable of making any role his own. He attributes this to his ability to use his past experiences to his own advantage. As Yassin puts it, “I never regret anything in life. Any misstep one might make is only a chance for personal growth, which helps shape the person one is today. I studied engineering in university, and although it’s a far cry from acting, it has nonetheless helped me a great deal in life, even in role selection. I get compliments on the kinds of roles I choose to play, and I think my engineering skills have helped me with that. Engineering is all about solving problems creatively; I focus on a goal and think about how to achieve it. So, if I want to become an international actor, I have to get in shape, develop my acting skills, learn different languages, educate myself on theatre, etc.”
And get in shape he has. Yassin has gotten a lot of attention in the Middle East for his physical appearance. “This is a part of my job. As an Egyptian actor abroad, I have to maintain my image. I want people to be proud of the fact that I am Egyptian, so I have to work on improving myself in every way. When it comes to complicated roles, I do believe that I have a deeper connection with my audience that goes beyond my physical appearance. This is why I am credible as an actor,” he proudly states.
Yassin has a very specific method when choosing his roles. “I look at the script and the director, then the role I am being offered. I trust the directors that I want to work with to choose a good script. Even if the role in the script is not that great, I can work with the director to develop the character further. When I was shooting “Zay El Naharda” (On a Day like Today), I called Arwa Gouda, my co-star, from a toy store where I had found bouncy balls with action figures inside. I asked her if she thought that the character I was playing opposite her was Superman or Batman to hers, and she replied that he was Superman to her, but Batman to everyone else. What she said helped me understand my character better. I bought the Superman ball and told the story to Amr Salama, the director. He loved the idea so much that he featured the ball in one of the shots. The best directors are the ones who welcome ideas from the people they work with and use them to make a movie more personal to the cast and the audience,” he remarks.
With such a successful acting career, it’s hard to imagine Yassin doing anything else, yet acting is just one of his many talents. “I feel like acting is my calling, but I love anything that involves creativity and artistry. I’ve recently been learning how to paint. I also sculpt, write and direct. In addition, I love music. I have directed a music video and I am currently practising playing drums because I am playing a drummer in an upcoming movie called “Torab El Mas” (Diamond Dust). The last thing I directed was a music video for Abu. It is an original song that incorporates his own rendition of the Abel Halim classic “Ahwak” into the chorus,” he states. While many directors would perceive directing music videos as a step-down, Yassin looks at things differently. He doesn’t feel there has to be a deep message behind everything he does, as long as he does it well. He believes that making people happy gives his work plenty of purpose. “My grandfather once told me to always be a source of happiness to people, which is something I always keep in mind,” he adds. His music video has certainly put smiles on so many faces, which is something he takes pride in.
Yassin has always loved French cinema; its colours, mood and elegance inspired him during the filming of the Abu music video. This might also be why he dreams of working with the likes of Jacques Audiard, the acclaimed French director of “Un Prophète” (A Prophet). Yassin loved the movie so much that he wished he could have played the main character in it. “Ultimately, I want to work with international directors in foreign films. The simple fact of acting in another language makes you see yourself very differently as an actor. It changes everything, and I am really looking forward to that. I would like to get an award from the Cannes Film Festival in recognition of my acting,” he says. Having won awards from Carthage Film Festival, Malmö Arab Film Festival and Festival International de Cinéma Méditerranée Tétouan, Yassin’s goal does not seem to be too far to reach.
Although Yassin prefers more artistic films, he realises he must maintain a very delicate balance in the productions he chooses. “I have to maintain a balance between commercial work and more artistic productions. It could take up to two years for me to find a good script, so I have to remain active in the meantime. If you don’t practise your talent, you will get rusty. So, I keep going until I find that one great script, and then, I go all in. I did a movie called “Farsh w Ghata” (Rags and Tatters), where I was silent during the whole movie. It’s not mainstream, so you wouldn’t expect this kind of film to generate a lot of revenue, but I love taking calculated risks,” he explains, “I would like for my work to leap into people’s minds when they talk about me. This is how I want to be remembered. I want to leave many marks.”
Aside from his career, Yassin has a great personal life. He feels truly blessed to have a loving wife and two adorable boys, Taher and Amin. “My wife and I went to the same university, but we never met there. Years later, a mutual friend told me that one of her friends had watched one of my films, “Zay El Naharda,” and wanted to congratulate me on my performance. We met for a chat and that was it. A couple of years after that, we met again, but it just didn’t happen for us. We remained good friends, until I broke my leg, and she, along with our mutual friend, came to visit. Things just evolved from there. She went to Amsterdam to attend a course and I was also headed there after the Malmö Arab Film Festival in Sweden, where I won an award for best actor. I took the train to Amsterdam, and this was symbolic for me because, to me, trains represent stops in life. This was obviously a very important one in mine. We hung out in Amsterdam and came back as a couple. We got married a few months later. It’s been five years now,” he says as his eyes light up, adding, “She has an amazing spirit. Her smile is beautiful. She is very light-hearted and she just glows. I recall this image of the first date that we had, before going to Amsterdam, she had this wonderful air about her.”
There’s no doubt that having children changes people, and Yassin is no exception. “Before having kids, I was more daring. I would do things on a whim, but I am more cautious now. When you have kids, you care about your safety because you want to be there for your kids. My main motive in everything I do for my kids is love, not obligation. I find that in everything you do in life, you must seek the intention behind it. If it’s not love, then it’s wrong. I cherish every moment I have with them because I know that when they get older, things will be different and I want to make sure I have the memories that will outlast those captured by a camera,” he gushes.
As a parent, Yassin is far from a traditional father. “I believe that parents must share equal responsibility when it comes to caring for their kids. I’ve done it all from changing diapers to feeding them, but I don’t feel that I am as nurturing as my wife is. She’s amazing with the kids; she’s patient, tolerant and loving. At the same time, I can’t bear any kind of routine… it makes me go to a very dark place. I have to mix things up. I really appreciate what she does because it’s not easy at all! My wife has her own fitness centre, where she is a spinning and Pilates instructor, and I have no idea how she does it all. She is incredible,” he exclaims.
When he is not working or parenting, Yassin is keen on remaining active because “if you’re not, you could lose track of time and your relationships with people. But if you start engaging with people, you reconnect to life again. This is key to finding your purpose in life. You must keep on exploring. Try to make the most of the time that you have because inaction is destructive. You must engage in every possibility because it will lead you to the next step. Take a walk, go to an art gallery or learn something new. Just keep going,” he emphasizes.
Yassin is currently filming a television series called “30 Youm” (30 Days), which will air during the holy month of Ramadan. “I play a psychiatrist who has to go through a test of killing a human being from the inside, whilst keeping him alive physically. Each of the 30 days represents something in life. It’s such a challenging role because every day has an enormous impact and the effect is cumulative. We’re also not shooting it sequentially, which makes it even harder,” he says.
After Ramadan, Yassin will begin shooting “Torab El Mas,” based on a novel by Ahmed Mourad, and directed by Marwan Hamed. His fans will be waiting eagerly for that film and for his upcoming Ramadan series, which seems to be fascinating. Based on his outstanding record, the captivating star is unlikely to disappoint them.
The eniGma Questionnaire:
What is your pet peeve?
People who act like they know everything.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Do you have any hobbies?
Now, it’s painting.
What five words best describe you?
Moody, fighter, creative, energetic and dreamer.
What’s one thing you want to change about yourself?
Getting too carried away with my dreams.
What’s your biggest regret?
The time I’ve wasted doing nothing.
If you could go back in time and change one thing about your life, what would it be?
What makes you laugh?
Clever jokes and brilliant artwork. I am always in awe of it.
What is your favourite book?
“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand.
What is your favourite movie?
If there was a book about your life, what would the title be?
What can’t you leave home without?
What is your perfect idea of happiness?
Those rare moments when you feel a real connection to the higher power telling you that you are on the right track.
What’s your favourite meal?
What’s your star sign?
What Pisces characteristics apply to you?
Creativity and having two contradictory thoughts.