This past Ramadan season, one of the hit TV series that got rave reviews was La Totfea El Shams (Don’t Turn Out the Sun), which included a stellar cast of actors, among which was the young actress Jamila Awad. Awad had made her acting debut two years earlier with a blockbuster performance as a teenage drug addict in the TV series Taht El Saytara (Under Control), starring Nelly Karim and Dhafer L’Abedine. Her role in La Totfea El Shams (Don’t Turn Out the Sun) was no less challenging and she surprised everyone, once again, with her impressive acting.
Awad had never expressed a desire to become an actress, even though she comes from a family steeped in theater and movie making (her grandfather, Mohamed Awad, was a famous comedian, her father is a film director, and her mother is an actress). “I’ve always wanted to act, but I never told anyone, not my parents or grandparents. I don’t know why,” she explains. She insists that it was simply fate that brought her to the screen.
“I was still a student in university and I had an exam coming up in three days, when I got a phone call from an acquaintance asking me if I wanted to try for a part in Nelly Karim’s new TV series,” she recalls. “Nelly has been an inspiration to me since I was very young. I had been fascinated by her dancing and her looks, even before her amazing acting in the TV series, Zaat and Segn El Nessa (Women’s Prison). That’s why I went to the casting call. But I didn’t tell my parents. Then when I didn’t get a call back, I forgot about it. About a month later, someone called me and told me that the casting team had lost my number and was frantically trying to find me to offer me the role. That was how I got my first role. It was destiny.”
In fact, when that first role came her way, Awad was still a Mass Communications student at university in Egypt, and a very active one at that. Alongside her studies, she was busy in volunteer activities like helping with underprivileged women and children in India for two months, and was also involved in things, like the Model United Nations and Model Security Council, for which she won several awards. While new entrants to acting often cite some theater experience while in school or university, that was not the case with Awad. It’s fair to say that she came to her first acting role, which was a particularly challenging one, with no acting experience at all.
Trying to explain how she did so well in that first role, Awad says, “I just tried to do my very best, every day. I also did a lot of research and we sat a lot with ex addicts, and learnt about their lives, their personalities, and their feelings. We tried to understand the conflicts they faced and their needs. Of course, with two great people, like Mariam Naoom writing the script, and Tamer Mohsen directing, I was in very good hands.”
Next for Awad, came her role in the movie, Hepta, the Last Lecture, the successful romantic drama based on Mohamed Sadek’s award winning book, starring Maged El Kedwany, Amr Youssef, Yasmin El Raeis, Ahmed Malek, and Nelly Karim. “The film was very successful, and I was invited to the film’s screening in New York Cinema Week to speak about the movie. The theatre was full, even though the screening was on Thanksgiving Day, and the feedback was wonderful,” Awad recalls.
Awad’s next big role was as Aya, one of the lead characters in the TV series, La Totfea El Shams (Don’t Turn Out the Sun), which was based on the novel by Ehsan Abdel ELKoddous, and had previously been made into a film in the 1960s. The screenplay was written by Tamer Habib, and the film was directed by Mohamed Shaker Khodeir. The stellar cast included Mervat Amin, Reham Abdel Ghafour, Mohamed Mamdouh, Amina Khalil, and Ahmed Malek, to name a few. The series was a huge success and Awad impressed the audience and critics alike with her portrayal of the lovestruck student, obsessively in love with her married professor.
Picking the right roles is very important to Awad. “I’m not concerned with whether the role is in a movie or a TV series. I am simply looking for the better role and the better screenplay. Lately, however, TV seems to be attracting the richer scripts. My own best roles happened to be in TV series. Maybe because they were the most difficult, my two favourite roles are Hania and Aya in the two series I did.” she explains. “I am also so thankful to my great directors, Tamer Mohsen and Mohamed Shaker, because they were the ones who believed in me the most.”
Apart from enjoying acting with her idol, Nelly Karim, whom she adores, Awad says she really liked working with actors Mohamed Farrag in Taht El Saytara, Ahmed Malek in Hepta and La Totfea El Shams (Don’t Turn Out the Sun), as well as with Mohamed Mamdouh, with whom she had two intense scenes in La Totfea El Shams (Don’t Turn Out the Sun) which made a strong impact. “I like to act with any true artist, no matter how old or young, no matter the gender,” she explains.
Being recognised as a serious actress after only about two years in the industry, could be overwhelming for someone as young as Awad. Yet, she takes it all in her stride. “Maybe my success came really fast and I had little time to train myself; but acting has expanded my life,” she says, gratefully. “I am now exposed to so many diverse people, each with their own ideas and I have to learn to deal with everyone. I also have to make about ten big decisions a day now. I have scripts to read and discuss, to decide if they are right for me; I have to go over storyboards for ads; I also have to make decisions regarding interviews and magazine covers, about what I’m going to wear at events, how I will make time for my family and friends, take care of my dog, etc. All this, while continuing to develop myself. I have always been busy before, but now I feel responsible for a lot more things,” she elaborates.
Despite how busy she is with her career, it is refreshing to see that Awad continues to be involved in public causes close to her heart. She is proud of her participation in the awareness campaigns on drug addiction with UNICEF and with the Ministry of Social Solidarity. By continuing to support causes that improve the lives of others, either through her acting or in other ways, the young Awad joins a slew of other stars in the movie industry who play a positive role in elevating social and cultural consciousness. We commend them all.
Indeed, Awad’s desire to make a difference coupled with her amazing acting talent mean that we can look forward to more impressive achievements and more success in the years to come. We shall be watching this rising young star.
Which word best describes you?
What would you like to change in yourself?
Every day, I find new shortcomings that I need to improve in myself.
What is your biggest regret?
I regret every moment that passes without doing something useful.
What makes you laugh?
Every little thing that makes anyone happy makes me laugh.
Do you like to do comedy?
I like to do comedy with a purpose. Actually I had a tiny comedy role in Laf we Dawaran (Twists and Turns) alongside Ahmed Helmy.
What is one thing you can’t leave home without?
What is your favorite film?
It varies depending on my mood and what is currently inspiring me. I like the older films, El Nasser Salah El Din (Saladin) and Rod Kalby (Give My Heart Back). I also just watched an Indian American movie called, Lion, and liked it a lot. I also like the French film, Jeux D’enfants (Children Games).
What is your favorite vacation destination?
Any destination where there is culture.
What is your favorite food?
I love all kinds of cheese.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Consciouness is happiness to me.
Who is the person or persons who inspire you the most?
There are a lot of people who inspire me, each in a certain way. Picking one or two is too limiting.
How do you prefer to dress? Casual or dressy?
I like comfy chic.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Watching movies and TV series, traveling, reading, and catching up with my friends and family.
What sports do you play?
I used to dance, all types of dance, ballet, modern, hip hop and jazz. I don’t have enough time to do that now.
What do you like about Egypt?
I love the culture, the diversity and the history. These give Egypt its special vibe and energy. It’s fascinating.
What would you like to change in Egypt?
A lot. But I don’t like to generalise about any nationality. Change has to start with individual human beings.
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