Maged El Masry has been taking the Egyptian scene by storm. Whether in movies, television series and even music, these past few years Maged El Masry has made his presence felt. His unforgettable performances in two blockbuster Ramadan series, Adam and Ma’a Sebk El Israr (Premeditation) have left his fans begging for more. eniGma’s Radwa El Ziki got the chance to talk to the popular actor about his career and most importantly, his upcoming work.
Before I walked into the set of El Masry’s latest Ramadan series, I was anxious. Anyone who has seen El Masry’s work recently, will understand what I mean. Having watched him portray one of the most evil villains on television, I wondered what he would be like in person. The second we started the interview, El Masry proved to be one of the sweetest and humblest persons I’ve met in this field.
Born and raised in Tanta, Egypt, El Masry was brought up in an artistic family. He is a Pisces, known to be passionate and imaginative. “I am open to accepting any gifts,” El Masry jokes. El Masry always had a passion for everything artistic, but he found himself in acting and singing. He began singing western songs in university with a band by the name of Sunrise then went on to form a duet named Mona and Maged singing Arabic songs. El Masry had fun performing, but didn’t get the big break he hoped for. He was luckier when it came to acting. In 1994, he got the acting role that kickstarted his career. He starred in Sarek El Farah (The Stolen Joy) directed by the famous director Dawood Abdel El Sayed. His success led to more roles in over 16 movies and numerous television series. El Masry’s movies include El Farah (The Wedding), Tofaha, and Emra’a w Talat Regal (A Woman and Three Men) just to name a few. On television his most notable roles were in the series, El Taw’am (The Twin) and Alb Emra’a (A Woman’s Heart).
But through his acting successes, El Masry didn’t forget his passion for singing. He admits that he kept struggling to achieve a balance between his acting and his singing ambitions. “There came a point in time when I was confused about which art to pursue and that was a big mistake,” El Masry confesses. For a while it was a difficult choice to make for him; but with time it became easier to decide. “Since I did not reach the level of singing stardom and I was getting good feedback on my acting, I decided to let go of singing and to focus on what I was succeeding in,” he explains. Given where he is today in his acting career, clearly he made the right decision.
But that doesn’t mean he’s completely ruled out singing, “If the drama I am performing requires me to sing a song for a scene, I’d go for it,” he happily adds. El Masry also recently used his singing talent for a good cause as a participant in the show Duo El Mashaheer (Celebrity Duets) aired on LBC. “I raised a good sum of money for a cause that is close to my heart, which is the Institute of Dialysis in Mansoura, Egypt,” El Masry explains.
So how does El Masry manage to stay on top of his game after all these years? “As an actor, you have to keep yourself up to date with all the movies, the directors and events that are going on,” says El Masry. He cautions that watching movies and other peoples’ work is a must for actors. They see things average viewers don’t. He adds, “because we live and breathe the business, we know exactly how scenes are made and what goes wrong. Knowing the tricks of the trade is not enough. I notice every detail about the person in front of me and everyone around me. I notice the little things that make up a whole character. How the person speaks, walks and even stands is important.” He notes, “you never know, I just might get an acting job portraying a similar character.” El Masry jokes about how by the end of each project he works on, he is able to impersonate the whole cast of characters. A talent not many people can muster.
El Masry has a strong work ethic, as well as a deep respect and admiration for the acting profession. He is disciplined and respectful of others and is always punctual. “I do not like being loud on the set, I believe that people who do are show offs.” He adds that generally times have changed. With fewer, acting jobs available actors attitudes no longer fit into the stereotype of divas on the set.
In Ramadan 2012, El Masry gave a strong performance in the role of Zeyad El Refai in Ma’a Sebk El Israr, one that he admitted was not easy. “It took a lot of time and effort to shape myself into this complex character.” Another similarly difficult character was that of Seif El Hadidi, a State Security officer in the television series Adam which aired in Ramadan 2011. His personification of the character was so believable that people were convinced he really was an officer. “Even Amr Adeeb, the popular talk show host, joked that I was an officer who chose to act and not the other way around,” notes El Masry.
These are the kinds of roles which appeal most to El Masry. He explains, “I am not a comedian, and I enjoy acting out characters that have a deeper meaning.” He considers himself a ‘method actor’ one who breaks his character into pieces and makes sure that he portrays it from all angles. He jokes that, “Some of my cast mates on set were scared of me during my role as Hadidi, even after we finished shooting!” That’s how good he was. “I live by the advice Ahmed Zaki once gave me, which is ‘think only of your character’ and that is what matters,” he adds.
This Ramadan, El Masry will appear in another highly anticipated series alongside Lebanese star Cyrine Abdel Nour. This time it’s a romantic comedy, titled Le’bet El Mot (Game of Death), and the main character is a woman who starts a new life after people assume she is dead. The series is expected to shed light on El Masry’s diverse acting skills. Unlike in past series, El Masry gets the chance to show his softer side this time. “I even changed my look, shaving all my hair off,” El Masry exclaims. He hopes his character will be accepted by the audience. Despite all the rumours about El Masry and Abdel Nour not getting along, he tells us it’s the complete opposite, “she is one of the best actresses in the field, and working with her was a blessing.”
To finish off the interview, it seemed natural to ask at what point would El Masry feel satisfied that he’s finally reached his ultimate goal. “At 6:45 when I finish shooting today,” he laughs. In all seriousness, El Masry insists that as long as there are good roles to take on and that he is well, he will never stop acting. “It’s in my blood, I leave things up to God and hope for the best.”
El Masry has proven time and time again that he is up for any challenge. Whether it is a TV series or a movie, El Masry has made a name for himself in Egypt and across the Arab world and we can’t wait to see what he does next.