Rising stars Mohamed Farrag and Passant Shawky seem to share an unbreakable bond of love that keeps growing stronger. Increasingly recognised as serious actors with amazing talent, the romantic pair have become a favourite “it couple” on every red carpet and at every glamorous event. With his convincing portrayal of a number of complex characters, as well as a wide range of emotions, in works like Taht El Saytara (Under Control), Aho Da Elly Sar (Once Upon a Time) and El Mamar (The Pathway), Farrag has carved a place for himself among the best in the acting profession; while his fiancé, the beautiful, charismatic Shawky has proved to be a total scene-stealer in titles such as Qabil, Wanesny (Keep Me Company) and Lama Benetweled (When We’re Born). eniGma’s Mohamed Hesham sat down with the fascinating couple to find out the secret to their success both on screen and off, as a long-lasting couple. The conversation with this fun couple was undeniably entertaining, covering a wide variety of topics, including their hilarious first encounter, the biggest challenges they faced as a couple and the status of their plans for marriage.
From my past interactions with Mohamed Farrag and Passant Shawky at several events, I knew I was going to have my hands full with this interview. Both of them are playful, funny and very quick on their feet. I would need to be sharp as a knife to keep up with their cutthroat humour. Sure enough, by the time I said hello and settled in, they had already cracked about 25 jokes (some with me, some at me, and some I still haven’t gotten…). It’s like they share a type of humour that is so specific and eccentric that only they really understand it. All the while, they exude such chemistry between them that you simply can’t help but love their love for one another.
They snuggle cosily next to each other and begin to tell the story of their first encounter. Apparently, there was nothing cute about Farrag and Shawky’s “meet-cute.” For Farrag, it was love at first sight, while it was the complete opposite for Shawky. They first met in 2014…or was it 2015? A brief and truly hilarious argument ensues, and they still can’t agree on the exact date they first met. What they do agree on is that they were at actress Hana Shiha’s birthday party at Zamalek’s L’Aubergine restaurant. “Let me take it from here,” says Shawky, grabbing the reins of the conversation firmly (but jokingly). He came up and talked to me while I was talking to Hana. He was trying to be funny, but it wasn’t working, so I walked away,” she adds, laughing. Farrag picks up the thread and admits, “She clearly didn’t want to carry on the conversation with me. But of course, I didn’t relent. I wanted to see where this was going to go.”
But how did Shawky really feel about Farrag, the rising celebrity, from what little she knew about him at the time? I ask. “I hated him as an actor and as a person,” she says bluntly. “I used to see him at parties, and he was always so loud, hyper and extra. He used too much body language and he just turned me off,” she adds.
It’s a good thing Farrag wasn’t aware of that at the time. He was infatuated by her, just from their brief encounter at the birthday party, and was determined to find out who the object of his unrequited love was. He failed miserably in his search, until he saw her tagged in a picture from Shiha’s birthday party on social media. Now he put a name to the face, but all he could still do was admire her from afar.
His second chance to attract her attention came a few months later, on the set of the TV series Taht El Saytara (Under Control). He was cast as the main “bad boy” on the show, and lucky for him, she played one of his friends. A great opportunity presented itself on the first day of filming. “We were at the Conrad, in a bar, and the scene was basically just a group of friends hanging out. He kept making jokes for 12 hours. Can you believe it? 12 hours of jokes!” a playful Shawky exclaims, as she looks at Farrag, who sinks deep into the sofa, blushing in embarrassment. “I had never done that before, I swear to God. I don’t know what hit me. I just knew I wasn’t going to let this girl go,” he exclaims, in turn. “I was the last person on earth to think about being in a relationship with someone who is also in show business. It’s not that I have any issues with the industry. It’s just that this type of work is very demanding. Moreover, I wasn’t even looking for a relationship in the first place. That side of my life had been put on hold indefinitely. I wasn’t ready to commit. I don’t know what happened when I saw her! She changed everything for me,” he says, glancing flirtatiously at her.
Clearly, Shawky gradually warmed up to Farrag and succumbed to his charm. Giggling, she describes what went on three months later when they were shooting by the pool in Sokhna as follows, “The whole time, he kept getting me towels and bathrobes. At some point, I was wearing sunglasses and he just stole them from me. When we were done filming, we took a picture together and he asked for my number so he could ‘send it to me.’ Every day after that, he would call me to tell me we had to meet so he could give me back the sunglasses he stole! Then when we went out, he would never bring them with him.”
Clearly love-struck, Farrag picks up the conversation, “My daily schedule changed because of her. I never used to wake up early; but when she came into my life, I would wake up early to find out where she was and go out to see her. Sometimes, I would go there before her and make it look like a coincidence,” he says, as he gives Shawky a guilty look. She jumps in to finish the story, “He eventually told me that he liked me, and I was, like ‘what? I’m so surprised!’” They do agree that this happened on May 15, 2015, which has become their anniversary date.
The pair worked together again in 2017 in the successful TV show, Sabe’ Gar (Seventh Neighbour), where they guest-starred as husband and wife. In 2019, they played a married couple once more in Qabil, another hit TV show. Shawky played the cheating wife and Farrag was her psycho-killer husband… you know, your everyday next-door couple. “The scene when the husband kills his wife in the show was one of the hardest scenes we ever did. I had to act like I was scared of him, and I was genuinely scared. It was so hard to film,” she reveals, before he interrupts her and says, tongue-in-cheek, “What are you talking about? It was the happiest moment of my life!”
“In all seriousness though, that sequence was very challenging,” Farrag adds. There was so much buzz around it, and the show was getting a lot of attention. It was a pivotal point in the story and this scene was extremely important for both of us. The idea of drowning your own wife in the bathtub, with all the resistance from her and me, was very tiring, emotionally and physically. It was filmed in one take, though. She was drained, but she killed it,” he proudly recalls.
Thankfully, the real life couple, Farrag and Shawky, deal with their relationship issues in a much healthier way than that fictional couple did. “Jealousy is a very dominant trait in my personality,” says Farrag, adding, “I get jealous really easily. She is the same, but the way she deals with it and projects it is very different from mine. We differ in our communication styles. Passant may seem like she doesn’t get jealous, but in reality, that is just what she chooses to show. No one in the world doesn’t get jealous.”
“I actually don’t get jealous,” Shawky retorts. “As a person, I don’t like being stifled and I also don’t like stifling people. When I decide to be with a person, it is not just because of love. A big part of it is because I respect that person and I respect the way he thinks and the way he treats me. I trust my partner. So, for me, loyalty is key,” she explains, adding, “When I see that Farrag has female fans that really admire him, I feel really happy. I want him to be perceived as this ‘dream guy’ and I see that as a sign of success. At the end of the day, I know his heart belongs to me. He also doesn’t flirt with other women. He is a respectful guy and he makes me feel secure.”
That smooth dynamic does not mean that there’s any lack of hotheadedness whatsoever in their relationship. “His anger is very easily triggered. I don’t get angry as frequently. I can stay calm for longer periods of time, but when I get angry, it is not pretty,” says Shawky. Adding his own take on the subject of anger Farrag intervenes, “When we get angry, we can both be very hotheaded. The difference is that I calm down right away and she takes some time to get back to normal.”
They both reveal that, in general, they’ve learned how to deal with the difficult parts of each other’s personality, especially over the past year. “It really hasn’t been an easy ride at all. We are different people. We have our own characters. We’re kind of imprinting on each other, but we’re still learning how to communicate with one another,” Shawky explains.
Farrag and Shawky like to stress that the glitz and glam of the movie business is really not a walk in the park. Attending events, festivals and movie premieres and walking on the red carpet dressed to the nines is not always a thrill. “They are an important part of our job, but they are not the best part, as people may think. I don’t really look forward to them,” Shawky adds. Farrag goes on to say, “Red carpets, with the lights and camera flashes, are very stressful for me. Just the idea of standing in front of so many photographers trying to get my picture and all of the interviews that follow, is stressful. Passant’s presence with me at those events helped me out a lot and has made me feel more secure. She is so much better at this than me. She knows how to deal with that glamorous side of the job really well. With time, I gained some of her skills.”
That being said, the loving duo is aware of the unspoken question that lingers in people’s minds when it comes to their relationship, namely; why aren’t they married already after so many years together? They explain that they didn’t want to rush into a lifetime commitment before they were sure they could overcome the hurdles they knew would face them. They are convinced that waiting has strengthened their bond and brought them closer together than ever before. “It was just not the right time, before,” Shawky explains. “Now, it’s the right time. That’s how I see it. Now, we understand each other and know how to deal with one another. Our relationship is even better and more beautiful now than at the beginning when we were still chasing after each other and having carefree fun. Our relationship now is strong, stable and real,” she adds.
To which Farrag retorts, “If you ask me, deep down, I had this senseless desire to marry her very soon after we met. But now, I agree with her. That’s not to say that I was wrong about wanting to marry her right away. But she is more realistic when it comes to that.”
So, any plans for marriage soon? “Of course, but we don’t have an exact date set. We are leaving that open for the time being,” Shawky declares. Farrag adds that they had plans for a wedding earlier in 2020. “It was postponed a lot, because of the pandemic, and also because of her work and my work. So, we’re winging it at the moment,” he explains.
Things are clearer when it comes to work for this devoted couple, still reluctant to set a date for their wedding. Farrag’s schedule is very busy in the period ahead. He is starring opposite Mona Zaki and Mohamed Mamdouh in the upcoming Ramadan series, Takatoa’ Toroq (Crossroads). He will also be making guest appearances in two more Ramadan series, Khali Balak Men Zizi (Take Care of Zizi), starring Amina Khalil, and the second season of El Ekhteyar (The Choice), starring Karim Abdel Aziz. His Ramadan schedule also includes making a special appearance in Ahmos, a Ramadan series starring none other than Shawky, who is also working on another project that she cant yet reveal. Additionally, they will both be seen in the upcoming film, Ahl Elkahf (Cavemen), along with Khaled El Nabawy and Ghada Adel.
As they talk about these joint projects, Shawky reveals that she has some concerns about working with Farrag, even though they enjoy working together. “It’s so much fun and we have great chemistry. Still, I’d like to cut back on working with him in the upcoming period, because I don’t want people to think that I’m getting roles because of him, which is totally not the case. Right now, I’m working on two projects with him, and that is a complete coincidence,” she exclaims, as Farrag holds her hand, nodding in agreement.
Farrag and Shawky come through as a fun, down to earth couple, who truly love one another and enjoy each other’s company, even though they don’t always see eye to eye. They’re both too hotheaded for a calm relationship; yet, their bond is uniquely special and strong. It’s almost like their fiery natures have ignited a flame so hot that it can’t be put down…
What’s your favourite place for a date?
Farrag: There are some places that we really cherish because we have so many memories associated with them, but we don’t have an absolute go-to place. We can go anywhere, sit on the beach, eat at a restaurant or talk on the phone as long as we’re connecting.
Shawky: We generally like to sit around nature, where it’s quiet, calm and relaxing. We like to go to places we can actually talk, spend some quality time and bond.
What is your favourite travel destination to experience together?
Passant: We haven’t travelled together a lot, but the three places we visited together and really enjoyed were New York, Toronto and Russia.
Farrag: Russia was really nice.
What is your dream honeymoon destination?
Farrag: Well, Passant has it all planned out…
Shawky: Mexico, definitely! But, during these times, we’re not so sure about anything.
Which couple would you want to go on a double date with?
Shawky: Blake lively and Ryan Reynolds, if the choice is from Hollywood. But in Egypt, we could go back in time, and it would be an iconic couple like Samia Gamal and Roushdy Abaza.
Farrag: From Hollywood, I would reach for the past and choose Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller. In Egypt, it would be Anwar Wagdy and Laila Mourad.
What’s your favourite movie that you’ve watched on together?
Farrag: Actually, all the movies we watch together turn out to be really bad (he laughs). But if I have to choose one, then maybe it would be Joker.
Shawky: La La Land and A Star Is Born. The funny thing is, in A Star Is Born we actually had a fight when Lady Gaga and Bradley .Cooper broke up. We were basically living inside the movie, choosing sides!
What was the best gift that each of you received from the other?
Farrag: Passant is literally the best at getting gifts. She has a talent that I definitely cannot compete with. In 2016, using 3D printing, she made me a real-life statue of my head as my character in Bedoun Zekr Asmaa (Without Naming Names), because I loved him and he looked so distinct.
Shawky: For me, it’s the bracelet I’m wearing right now. It holds sentimental value to me because we were fighting at the time he gave it to me.
Would you prefer a day wedding or an evening one?
Shawky: Definitely a day wedding on the beach. But really, all I care about is having an intimate wedding. I’m not big on large weddings.
Farrag: A day wedding, like Passant said. A small, intimate and meaningful celebration with our loved ones, is the way to go.
What is one thing that each of you would change in the other?
Shawky: He gets angry very easily over the smallest of things. Some things are not really worth it; I’m really trying to help him overcome this.
Farrag: As simple as it may sound, I actually really wish she would try to taste some of my favourite food that she doesn’t like, such as bangar (beetroot) and asab (sugarcane)….
What’s your favourite song as a couple?
Shawky: At the moment it’s Enti Ya Baskoota Ya Me’armesha (You’re a Crunchy Biscuit).
Farrag: She really likes that song; she makes me listen to it all the time.
What are your nicknames for each other?
Shawky: I call him “Farrouj”
Farrag: I call her “Basboosa” (laughs).
Photography: Alyaa Rady
Styling: Poucy ElShahawy
Makeup: Diana Harby
Hair: Malak at Al Sagheer Salons
Fashion Assistant: Marina Abdel Malak
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