It seems like only yesterday when we all witnessed the birth of one of the hottest young stars in Egyptian cinema, Jamila Awad, in her groundbreaking role in the 2015 TV series, Taht El Saytara (Under Control). Since then, Awad has continued to impress audiences in both cinema and television, most notably in the film, Hepta: The Last Lecture and in the series, La Totfea’ Al Shams (Don’t Turn Out the Sun). She also took part in the wildly popular music videos, Talat Da’at (Three Beats) and in El Alam Gouna (The World Came to Us), both produced on the occasions of the first and second editions of the El Gouna Film Festival. Most recently, Awad garnered praise for her performance in her latest film, El Deif (The Guest), where she took on one of her most challenging roles to date. Despite her busy schedule, Awad sat down with eniGma’s Mohamed Hesham to discuss her journey to success, the challenges and rewards of fame, and much more.
Coming from a family deeply rooted in showbusiness, with her famous grandfather, her father and her mother all having worked in the entertainment industry, Jamila Awad knew it wasn’t going to be easy. “It’s challenging to be in this field,” she says. “You are challenged every day, every hour and in every scene you do. As an actor, it is sometimes not the most intense scenes in a film that are the most challenging, however. In a movie like El Deif (The Guest), for instance, a scene where I’m eating was very challenging for me. I had to convey to part of my character through that scene, even though nothing about it is actually written in the script. When intense scenes are written into a very good script, they require very good acting, of course, but at least, there would be clear dos and don’ts on how you are to portray them. When there’s no dialogue and it’s up to you to put your own soul into the character, it can be very challenging. But thankfully, you overcome these challenges and you grow day by day. Over the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve grown 10 years!” Awad exclaims.
Sitting down with the young actress, it’s easy to tell how frantic her life appears to be. It is obvious that there’s a price to pay for success. With Awad’s grueling schedule, just finding time for the eniGma photoshoot was quite the challenge. And once at the photoshoot, Awad seemed exhausted and drained due to sleep deprivation. She was obviously trying to do many things at once, and that was taking its toll on her wellbeing.
Awad explains the amazing drive that is propelling her forward, despite the stress of it all, “To me, you can’t put a price on delivering a noble message, but in order to deliver the message, you need the platform that fame provides, which is priceless. However, fame has its pros and cons. I don’t like fame in itself; it’s just the package through which I get to do what I love.”
“What really matters to me is to have a positive impact on people. Otherwise, fame is not worth much,” adds Awad. The strain that success has brought to Awad’s life appears very real and she is not shy to admit it. “The bad side of fame is that sometimes it affects your family, your health, your alone time and your soul, because you can’t always explain personal things to everyone; they’re not supposed to understand what you’re going through,” she states.
“Over the past week, I’ve slept a total of, maybe, eight hours, and this got me sick. My body couldn’t take it anymore. When you are trying to do everything together at the same time, you may be misunderstood. That’s because no one knows how little rest you’ve gotten or how many big decisions you have to make per day. It is very challenging,” explains Awad.
While it’s been less than four years since Awad made her acting debut, most of her roles have left a big impression, making it feel like she’s been around for a long time. “I’m very selective when it comes to choosing roles,” Awad says. “I don’t mind not working for a while until I find a role that I like. On the other hand, I also don’t mind working hard and for long hours as long as it’s for something good,” she adds.
That explains why Awad did not hesitate to accept the role of Farida in the film El Deif (The Guest), written by Ibrahim Eissa and directed by Hadi El Bagoury, which has already won the Audience Award in the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia. “During the first edition of the El Gouna Film Festival, Hadi El Bagoury approached me with the script, which I read in about seven hours. In fact, I knew I wanted to do the movie even before actually reading the script, because it’s an important movie. Regardless of what my role would be, I just wanted to be part of it. As it turned out, all four of us, main cast members, were actually the director’s first choices!” Awad recalls.
Awad explains how the film does a beautiful job in showcasing the importance of freedom of discussion and the expression of different opinions and points of view. “The character I played was the central victim in the conflict. Caught between different ideologies and schools of thought, she was searching for the truth and trying to make up her own mind. She was caught in the middle of these two conflicting ideas, which is where people are standing, nowadays. It’s not like she wanted to turn away from the environment where she was raised. She was merely searching for the truth. If you’re a true searcher, you want to know the opposite point of view without prejudging it. That’s when you find a third truth or your true self without someone else affecting your opinion or shaping your thoughts,” says Awad about the character she played in the film.
A big reason Awad loved El Deif, were the last 20 minutes of the film, during which a huge plot twist is revealed, shocking the audience. During these 20 minutes, Awad got the chance to showcase some of her top acting chops and to prove she deserves a spot among the big players. “The last 20 minutes of El Deif are a big part of why I really wanted to do this movie,” admits Awad. “I also loved how my character, specifically, got to interact with the three other main characters. She’s the only one with a very strong relationship with each of them, and that’s why she’s the one at the central point of that conflict,” she adds.
While portraying the character of Farida in that film was clearly challenging, Awad is not new to playing complex roles. It was, in fact, the difficult role of the teenage drug addict Hania, in the TV series Taht El Saytara (Under Control), which catapulted her to fame. Recounting the similarities between her roles in El Deif, and Taht El Saytara, as well as that of Aya, the troubled free spirit in La Totfea’ Al Shams (Don’t Turn Out the Sun), Awad says, “What I like most about my characters is that they all had an independent streak. They were rebelling against the norms and trying to find their own selves, disregarding what others might tell them. They didn’t follow the rules,” adds Awad.
Awad admits that, personally, she may share that same quality she saw in her characters, but on another level. “I have the same rebelliousness in my own way. I like this virtue in general, even though I go about it differently than the characters I play. I like to do things based on principles or things that I believe in, instead of what may be misled motivations,” the star explains.
Looking forward, Awad is currently working on her first ever rom-com action movie opposite Ramez Galal, to be released later this year. “The movie is very physically demanding and also challenging health wise. I do most of my own stunt work,” she reveals.
It’s obvious that, despite the stress, Jamila Awad doesn’t seem to be planning on slowing down anytime soon. One thing is for sure; this star loves a good challenge!
Who is your dream dinner guest (dead or alive)?
Al Pacino or Youssef Chahine.
Who is your greatest role model?
I don’t have just one. I have one for each thing…
Where is your favourite place to hang out?
I usually hang out more when I’m traveling, so it depends on where I am.
When you are not working, what is one thing that you like to do?
I like to stay home and do something that I enjoy.
What is your worst habit?
Sleeping with my clothes and make up on.
What is your best attribute?
What is the favourite part of your job?
Affecting people positively
What is your idea of a perfect man?
To be a man!
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing right now?
I would either be directing or working in politics.
Art Direction & Styling: Yasmine Eissa
Photography: Youssef Tayeh
Location: Hilton Cairo Heliopolis & Heliopolis Towers Hotel