Two popular shows currently on the top 10 charts of the leading streaming platform Shahid have one thread in common, they both star Injy El Mokkaddem. The two roles she plays, a divorced mother and writer in one and a sassy bouji wife in the other, could not be more different, yet she pulls both off brilliantly; making her an obvious choice for our January cover story. eniGma’s Nouran Deyab sat down with Injy to chat about her recent successes and her interesting career journey.
Our January cover shoot was set to be a truly glamorous one, and Injy was just as excited as we were about it. We couldn’t help but notice how quickly Injy could switch from one character to the other depending on the outfit she put on, reminding us of how she manages to switch from one role to another while she films different shows concurrently. During the eight-hour shoot, we witnessed Injy in Paris to some Great Gatsby vibes, to so much more!
How she pulled off starring simultaneously in the two series, Qawa’ad Al Talaq Al 45 (The 45 Rules of Divorce) and Setat Beit El Maadi (Housewives of Maadi), naturally came up as soon as we started. “In the past, I used to have trouble breaking out of character after filming. Before I started filming these two shows, however, I took a one-on-one workshop with Rami El Gendy to prepare for Farida’s character in Qawa’ad Al Talaq Al 45, and one of the techniques I learned was how to detach after each scene. So this helped me very much,” Injy explains.
It’s one thing to have a show that’s skyrocketing through charts, but to have two super successful shows at the same time is quite an accomplishment. “Qawa’ad Al Talaq Al 45 began airing while we were still filming, and we got a great boost from the positive reactions we saw on social media. It was so encouraging for us during those long days of filming. Then seeing Setat Beit El Maadi also topping the charts was just amazing! The cherry on top was that Qawa’ad Al Talaq Al 45 airs from Sunday to Thursday, while Setat Beit El Maadi airs from Thursday to Saturday. Being on the top charts during the whole week was extremely rewarding for me,” says Injy with a twinkle in her eye.
Qawa’ad Al Talaq Al 45 has been very popular with women, not only because of the sensitive issues raised but because it also spotlights the valuable support that real friendships provide in hard times. We asked Injy if the strong bond between the show’s four women was reflected in real-life friendships behind the scenes. “We all knew each other before, but we weren’t close. We had common friends and met each other at events and festivals, but that was about it. But when we started working with each other, we started liking each other,” she replies. She went on to recount a story about the first time she met Ingi Abou Zeid, who plays Sara on the show, and how they immediately clicked, both having majored in psychology and theatre in university.
“Ingi still practices and is a successful therapist, while I obviously forgot all the psychology I learnt. I kept throwing myself on the couch next to her and asking for her help! After being on the set together with them all every day for four months, we became good friends. We encouraged each other and always took each other’s advice. It was all so genuine. If we hadn’t gotten along so well, we probably would’ve pulled each other’s hair,” she says with a laugh. She is quick to add that she hadn’t planned to work on a women-led show. “It just happened,” she exclaims, “And I am all for women’s empowerment. Not to offend the men, but we women have depth, and our issues are important and appealing, and they never end! It’s entertaining to watch shows about women. Even men like watching these shows. Perhaps that’s how they learn about us and get to understand us!” she adds.
Injy’s recent two hit series were not her first shows focusing on women. Recalling earlier shows, she says, “Years ago, I used to love watching the first season of Hekayat Banat (Girl’s Tales). Then, I was offered a role in the second and third seasons, so you can imagine how excited I was to do that. When the role in Qawa’ad Al Talaq Al 45 came up, I didn’t hesitate at all; especially since it’s different from anything I had done before. It’s a progressive show. The age range of the women and the topics discussed haven’t been discussed on any shows before. Showing women at that age and the problems they face as they raise their children is just different from the things we usually see in our series. No one talked about menopause on TV before, or even about divorce in a way that’s not dramatic. Even the examples of divorce that appear on the show are very civilised. I’ve had feedback from women telling me that the show is spot on and that the fights and arguments in it are so relatable.”
When it comes to Setat Beit El Maadi, Injy doesn’t consider it women-led in the way her other series are. “Technically,” she says, “Each character had her own story which happens in a different decade; and the stories also involve starring roles for men. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my starring role so much in it, especially since I adore period piece dramas! When I am offered a role in one, I get extremely excited about it. This show takes place in the 80s, which hasn’t been done a lot.” As she says that, we are reminded of Injy’s amazing performance as Sophia, in Layali Eugenie (Eugenie’s Nights), which got rave reviews.
Injy is always on the lookout for roles that challenge her as an actress. A well-written script and the right director who will add to her growth as an actress are vital considerations when she is deciding on an offer. While she is thrilled with the brilliant directors she has already worked with, there still are a few important directors she hopes she will get the chance to work with, like Marwan Hamed, Mohamed Yassin, Kamla Abu Zekri and Tamer Mohsen. She is also hoping to get the chance to do a romantic comedy.
Having been a successful TV host before she started acting, the question arose about whether that was something she would return to if the opportunity arose. “I don’t like closing doors, so I never say never! But this is not a priority for me. I like what I’m doing now and I’m taking good steps in it. But if I get the chance to host a show with a different, new, intriguing and fun concept, then perhaps I would consider it,” she affirms.
Reminiscing about her start in her acting career, Injy recalls that she had wanted to act since she was in college, but her family didn’t approve so she stopped considering it for a long time. She was offered many roles that she had to decline. “Years later,” she says, “When I finally took the decision to go into acting, I thought I was going to get great roles thrown at me left and right, which was obviously unrealistic. I was offered many roles, but things weren’t how I had imagined they would be.” She is convinced that mastering the art of rejection and learning to deal with disappointment is part and parcel of being an actor. However, having been a TV host when she started to act also meant that she faced excessive scrutiny. “Starting out, I would get really upset by criticism. Now, I am more accepting of it. I like to know if I could have done better. What I don’t like is cruel criticism that is really a form of bullying, which is very popular these days. But I don’t let it bother me,” she explains, adding, “In Qawa’ad Al Talaq Al 45, we knew we would be criticised, and not everyone would agree with the topics of the show since many of the issues discussed are not real to most Egyptians. However, they are relatable to certain groups in Egyptian society.”
In the next few months, Injy is looking forward to the release of a new film, 11:11, she is in. “It’s a guest appearance by me. The lead stars are Eyad Nassar, Ghada Adel and Sharnouby. The story revolves around their lives, and I play Eyad’s wife,” she explains. Although filming has wrapped up, the release date is still up in the air. In the meantime, she is busy preparing for another film. Insisting that it’s too early to talk about it just yet, she decides to sum up, saying, “I just want to create important and inspirational movies and series, and I hope this will fit the bill.”
What was the last movie you saw?
I recently saw The Professor and The Madman, which was really good.
What are the things that you always carry in your purse?
I tend to carry large bags because I don’t like walking around without my necessities. My bag always has my notebook and a small makeup bag with essentials. Inside my bag is another bag that holds all the small things, like my scrunchies, headphones, cardholder, money and sebhety (a small, beaded chain used for religious purposes).
Did you ever get in trouble at school?
Of course! I’ve jumped over the school fence; but ironically, it was not to get out of school but to get in. I was late for school, so the gate was already closed. I ended up getting caught and got punished the whole day for it.
Tell us one of your most embarrassing moments.
There are so many. I’m like a ball, I just roll. I’m such a clumsy person, so you’ll always catch me bumping into things and falling anywhere and everywhere. But when I fall in public, I just get up and act as if nothing happened at all.
When your daughter does something wrong, how do you react?
The first thing I do is yell. It’s my reflex. Then when I calm down, I talk to her about it and get to the bottom of the whys and hows of the issue.
Do you see yourself as a role model?
I hope I am. I try to work on myself so that I can be one, but I’m not sure that I am.
If you were to direct a fantasy/fictional film, which three actors/actresses would you choose for the lead roles?
Mona Zaki, Menna Shalaby and Karim Abdelaziz.
Farida, the character in your series, writes books on divorce, dating and her life. If you were to write a book, what would the title be?
Dalelak El Zaki Ela Al Farfasha (Your Guide to Having a Fun Time.)
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