Having started her acting career only three years ago, Mai Omar has achieved quite a feat and has made a name for herself as one of the most sought-after, talented actresses in Egypt. Despite her sweet demeanor, Omar has no problem rolling up her sleeves when it comes to getting down to business.
Omar’s interest in acting started when she was a schoolgirl and it became more serious when she was in college. “I liked to visit movie sets and watch actors perform, and I knew I wanted to be involved. I just didn’t know if I wanted to be an actor, a director, a producer or something else. As I got older, I veered towards acting as I realized that I loved to play different characters,” she recalls. “I discovered my acting talent when I was in college studying mass communication and landed a part in a play. But as soon as I graduated, I got a job in advertising. Even though I was good at it, I could tell it wasn’t my calling,” she states.
Being married to one of the most famous directors in Egypt, Mohamed Sami, may have helped put her on the right track, but it was her own passion that motivated her. She got her break when Sami picked her to act alongside Ghada Abdelrazek in the television series “Hekayet Hayah” (The Story of Hayah), which he was directing. While Sami was in favor of her entering this field, her own family had mixed feelings. “My dad was supportive, but my mom wasn’t. But I listened to my heart in the end because it was what I really wanted,” she emphasizes.
It wasn’t long before the world took note of Omar’s charismatic presence and unique identity. She was soon cast in El Ostoora (The Legend), in which she co-starred with superstar Mohamed Ramadan. “I was taken aback at first because the character I played was so far removed from who I am in real life. She was very naïve, emotionally expressive and had a weak personality. However, I agreed to play the role because I trust my Mohamed’s vision very much, and it paid off. To prepare myself for the role, I went out on the street to meet people similar to her to see how they interact in their everyday lives. I wanted to stay true to the script, but also make the role my own. I also took acting classes to make sure I was ready,” she states. With all this preparation, it’s no wonder that that was her breakout role. Audiences were touched by her authentic performance. “I don’t worry that ordinary people associate me with the characters I play because that’s part of the job; you have to sell it. They have to believe that I am actually every character I play until the next role comes along and their perceptions change once again,” she explains.
Wanting to push her limits in this career, Omar is very particular when choosing her projects. “To agree to take on a role, I read the script carefully to understand the depth of my character and how impactful it is in the plot. I don’t like being repetitive with the types of roles I play because I don’t want to be typecast. Instead, I aim to broaden my horizons and experiment with different characters to further develop my acting ability. But there are limits. For example, I would never take on a role that involves wearing revealing clothes or anything like that. I also rely on my gut feeling. If I feel excited about a certain role, then I will consider it, but if not, then I won’t,” she states.
It is perhaps this zeal for experimentation that prompted her to star in the upcoming Ramadan series “Howa we Heya we Howa” (Him and Her and Him), where she gets to play a different character every episode. While this may be grueling, Omar is thrilled to be playing a variety of characters, ranging from a lawyer to a diving instructor. As she puts it, “It’s very exhausting, even in the preparation phase, because you have to work hard to make each character unique, but it’s worth it and it’s a lot of fun!” She is also working on “Afareet Adly Allam” (The Ghosts of Adly Allam) with legendary actor Adel Emam, where she plays the daughter of the long-lost love of Adel Emam’s character. He then becomes a father figure to her and helps her out, especially with her psychological issues.
Omar’s ambitions are not confined to the Egyptian silver screen. She dreams of one day becoming a part of Hollywood and even winning an Oscar. “I want to win acting awards internationally through playing complex characters and being a part of powerful projects,” she exclaims. Three years ago, when she first started acting, she was asked about who she wanted to work with and her answer was Adel Emam, and now that she has worked with him, her answer is Will Smith. “I would love to work with Will Smith. I love his movies because they usually have strong messages,” she notes. With as much ambition as she has, this dream doesn’t seem to be out of reach.
Omar is adamant that she can’t be the judge of her own success. Instead, she relies on a trusted few persons to show her how far she has come or if she’s on the right track. She also takes the opinions of her fans and critics very seriously. She isn’t afraid of critical comments and making mistakes doesn’t faze her. Instead, she prefers to view them positively and learn from them because “even though some things might not turn out the way you want them, the experience you get makes you smarter and stronger.”
With captivating looks, Omar is known for her breathtaking beauty and fashion style. “In last year’s role [El Ostoora], my looks were mostly low-key and I wore shabby clothes and had hardly any makeup on. All the focus was on my acting. I like to display all that I am capable of in this competitive industry. I’ve done the simple look, so it’s time to try something new,” she enthuses. Omar chooses her own fabulous red carpet looks, but doesn’t have favorite designers. It all depends on whether she likes the dress or not. As for her beauty secrets, it’s simple: she doesn’t have any. “I can’t have a routine due to my busy and inconsistent schedule. There are times when I can work out a lot and others when I can’t at all. I used to do Pilates, but I discovered that it’s not the most effective training regimen, so right now, I am doing Cross MMA, which combines CrossFit and Mixed Martial Arts,” she says.
Aside from being a successful actress, Omar is the better half of a power couple. “I met Mohamed in college. We were friends and we maintained our friendship after he left college. Then, we started dating and got married a few years later,” she recalls. According to Omar, a successful marriage is always based on friendship. “Love is important of course, but having a strong friendship means having the ability to communicate properly, which builds trust and tolerance. This is more important than compatibility. Being in our line of work, our schedules can get very hectic and it can be very difficult to find the time to spend together. But it is precisely because we are in the same field that we fully understand and embrace each other’s career requirements. Also, a bit of compromise every now and then is crucial. It also helps that Mohamed is always reassuring and kind. He genuinely cares about me and this is apparent in everything he does around me,” she gushes.
Unfortunately, having a perfect marriage is more than can be said for her wedding day. “I would change a lot of things, including the way I looked. I had my hair in an up-do, even though I usually wear it down. Whenever I look at the wedding photos, I wish that I could’ve let it down. I also wish that I had had an open-air venue instead of a traditional ballroom; just a different vibe altogether. Maybe I’ll do a new photo shoot with the way I wanted to look on my wedding day,” she says with a big smile.
Omar is also a mother to an adorable five-year-old girl. She fully acknowledges that being a parent is a huge responsibility. “I could wrap up a day’s work very late at night and still get up early to attend her school events. I do my best to always be present for her. It helps that I can get a few months off every now and then, and so I get to make up for lost time. Although Mohamed spends a lot of time with her, and he takes her out quite a bit, I still want my own time with her,” she insists. This tough balancing act has made her more resilient and giving. Her passion for her family and her job sustains her through tough times and keeps her going to try and give the best of herself to her two intertwining worlds.
What’s one thing you want to change about your personality?
Being excessively angry at times.
What’s your biggest regret?
I don’t have any. There’s a silver lining to everything.
What makes you laugh?
Comedy movies or plays, and babies’ laughs.
What’s your favorite movie?
What’s one role you wanted to play?
Fantine in Les Misérables
If there was a book about your life, what would the title be?
Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m really good at math.
What can’t you leave home without?
My cell phone.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Good health for everyone I care about.
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