Last Ramadan, this unassumingly coy actress stunned us with her bold role as EmEm, a girl conspiring with her seven siblings to kill their father, in the Saba’ Wasaya (Seven Commandments) series. It seems that this year she has even more in store for us. Last November, Hana Shiha finished shooting the movie, Abl Zahmet El Seif (Before the Summer Crowds), directed and written by the brilliant Mohamed Khan, and she is now busy with two television series, El ‘Ahd (The Pledge) to be aired in Ramadan and El Buyoot Asrar (Family Secrets) to be aired in mid-May. But Shiha has another side to her. eniGma’s Hana Zuhair caught up with Shiha to find out more, not only about her thriving career, but also about her love of motherhood and her relationship with her two adorable boys, Adam and Malek.
Tell us about your two boys.
Adam is 12 years old and he takes after me. He’s very hyperactive, like me. He likes science, and he wants to be both an artist and an astrophysicist. Malek is nine, and he’s very calm and collected. He’s a perfectionist and more laid back than Adam and me. He takes his time in everything and he has his own pace and personality. I’m learning to be more laid back from Malek. He’s always at ease and I love this about him. Both boys have bits and pieces of me though.
What’s it like being both a mother and an actress?
I think it’s a blessing that I’m an actress because it gives me a lot of spare time. I don’t work from 9 to 5 everyday, so I get to spend most of my time with my kids. When I’m shooting, I still make sure we maintain contact all the time. We go out on the weekends, though sometimes I need to rest. They like to make me breakfast and get me coffee. Sometimes they’re like, “mum let’s stay home, you’re tired.” They’re really supportive boys, to be honest, I’m very proud to be their mother.
How did motherhood change you?
I became very patient. I wasn’t that patient before. I was a very fast paced person, but now I have to slow down a little bit. Motherhood taught me endurance, tolerance, and a lot of things a woman doesn’t think about when she’s a single girl. When you’re single, if you don’t like something, you don’t tolerate it, you just leave or quit. Motherhood also made me a more consistent person in a lot of aspects in my life. I actually like the change.
What are you like as a mother?
I’m a dictator, especially when it comes to bedtime! Adam always tells me to stop being a dictator and that he’s going to start a coup against me and become the ruler of the family. I would tell him yeah when you’re 16 you can do that, then I’d say when you’re 18, or 21, and I keep raising the bar! But he understands, and he knows that his future self will thank me later. He keeps joking with me, “yeah, yeah, I know, my future me will thank you later!”
How do you try to befriend them?
We talk everything out, since they were very little. And they understand my job perfectly. They know what an actress is, how movies are made, what I do, and how I do it. For instance, when I read the script of Abl Zahmet El Seif, the first thing I wanted was Adam’s opinion about it, because it’s a daring role. I read the script with him and he told me I should definitely do this movie. He was like, “you’re an actress and whoever doesn’t get this, it’s his problem.” I was amazed by his reaction.
You mentioned that you love watching them grow, is it bittersweet seeing them become more independent?
No. I hate mama’s boys. I want them to be fully independent. But raising a boy is different from raising a girl, and it was hard for me since I am one of three sisters. I worried about making my boys clingy and dependent. So I read a lot of books on raising boys, and whenever I needed to know something I would ask a behavioral doctor. A lot of people say they’re going to raise their children the way they want. No, it’s not the way you want. It’s the way they should be raised.
Since you mentioned that you read books on raising children, which book was most beneficial?
The Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford. I learned about a baby’s routine from that book. It shows you the routine that you should follow with your child from the first month till he is two years old. This routine ensures the baby follows a certain schedule, and learns rules and habits. When I hear a mother complain that she doesn’t sleep all night because her baby is awake, I’m like, why? I didn’t have that problem. I may have faced that for the first week, but after following this routine, I didn’t have this problem.
What’s the acting role closest to your heart?
It was my role in the TV series, Moga Harrah (Heat Wave). It was a very daring role for me. I loved it and really enjoyed it. When I watch it now, I ask myself, “how did I do it?” I never did anything that adventurous before and I don’t know how the director saw me in that role when he first gave me the script. I loved everything, the crew, the cast, and the scenes. It was a turning point for me and also for the audience to see me in such a role, rather than the usual cute innocent girl.
How do you choose a role?
If I don’t fall in love with the script, I don’t take it. I don’t care if the role is big or not. I don’t care if it’s the main role or just a secondary one; I care about the effectiveness of the role in the storyline itself, not how big it is. A lot of people may not think like this, but I’m not one of them.
Did you expect this success?
No, and I don’t think of myself that way. I never think of myself as a professional actress. I believe that if it gets to your head, it will ruin your life. I’m really conscious of this problem. If it does get to your head, you won’t work as hard and you’ll listen to what’s being said about you. I never listen to these things. When I’m done with the job, I go back to my home and to being a mum. I like to see acting as a hobby; when you do something you love you do it with all your heart.
How do you manage to stay so down to earth?
When I’m at home, I no longer think of the fact that I’m an actress. I believe that if you overthink it, you’ll get paranoid. I actually am surprised when they apologise to me on location that my room is small or something of the sort, because I don’t have a problem with these things whatsoever. For instance, when we were shooting in Tanta for Saba’ Wasaya, they were embarrassed to tell me that the hotel I was staying in wasn’t a five-star hotel. But as long as it’s a clean room with a clean bathroom, I couldn’t care less.
Tell us more about your upcoming series in Ramadan, El ‘Ahd.
I love it. It’s a completely new and unique idea. It portrays a parallel world of sorts and you can see that in the set, which isn’t traditional or usual at all. You can say it’s a fantasy about authority and reclaiming power and it has a lot of conflict and drama. The cast is incredible too, with stars such as Asser Yaseen, Arwa Gouda, Ghada Adel, Kinda Alloush, and Sherine Reda.
ART DIRECTION & STYLING: Maissa Azab
PHOTOGRAPHY: Mahmoud Abd El Salam
SHOT ON LOCATION AT BLISS CONCEPT STORE