One would think a blonde, blue-eyed stunner who also happens to be a rising actress replacing the gorgeous star Ghada Adel in a main role in Saray Abdeen, would be a little into herself. But once Enigma’s Associate Editor Hana Zuhair started talking with Reem Mostafa, who had also already captured attention for her role as Perry in Egypt’s version of Ugly Betty (Heba Regl El Ghorab), she realized how real and down-to-earth Mostafa is.
With a personality that radiates positive energy, an extreme love for acting, and interesting “paradoxical” traits (as Motafa puts it), this was definitely a great interview. Although her rise to fame was sudden and unexpected, Mostafa is a natural, and not only in terms of acting, but in how well she carries herself, discusses her life in a humble manner, and her openness to speak about love, marriage (and split with ex-husband), as well as her life.
How did it all start?
My desire to be an actress started ever since I was a little child, but I never thought of uttering a word about it because I knew my family would have never allowed me to become an actress. So I went on with my life, studied Mass Communications and majored in Radio and Television. I then moved to Dubai where I worked in the marketing field; but I couldn’t stop thinking about acting. Then one day a friend’s sister asked me if I wanted to work as a TV host, and I found myself telling her “yes, of course”, just because I wanted see if I would be good in front of a camera or not. And when I went, it was surreal; I didn’t feel odd or fear the camera at all. I felt like I had done this many times before. They offered me to do a TV show in Ramadan, but I rejected because all I wanted was to act.
So how did you get your first role?
I was called about an audition for a movie with Ahmed Helmy, and was told to memorise a comedy scene. But instead, I memorised a serious scene from Nabila Ebeid’s movie Shader El Sammak. It required me to be very vulgar and completely different than how I act and look. When I first entered, director Omar Roshdy didn’t even look at me and was busy on his computer. Then I put a headscarf and looked very different, and suddenly Omar asked, ‘how did she change so suddenly?’ They were really impressed and this was exactly why I went to the audition secretly without my family’s knowledge; I wanted to know if I could really act or it was just in my head. This movie didn’t materialize though, but I got a lot of modeling jobs and for ads after it. I decided that I would not accept a role unless I loved it. When I got the role in Heba Regl El Ghorab, I was ecstatic and signed a contract with Sony Pictures. So this is how it all started.
How did you deal with your family’s disapproval of acting as a career?
When you live your whole life dreaming of something and it’s suddenly so close and almost within your reach, you’ll do it no matter what the consequences are. They didn’t talk to me for a while,and absolutely rejected the idea. It was a big issue with them. But they actually watched the series and then started to like my role as Perry. They came around, eventually.
What made you want to become an actress?
I was addicted to old, black and white movies and I still am. I’m also obsessed with Soad Hosni. But the reason I really wanted to be an actress is how I am as a person. I’m very observant and curious about people’s behavior and the reasons that make them behave a certain way. When I was still back in school, I used to love psychology classes. I like to understand people, know their stories, and what made them who they are.
How was being part of Saray Abdeen?
I become the character I play to an alarming extent. When I was playing Shams in Saray Abdeen, I experienced a lot of pain and sadness during the hard scenes. This happened to me in Gabal El Halal as well. I live every emotion I experience during shooting to the extent that I can’t get out of character when I’m done. There was a whole scene in Saray Abdeen where I was in an actual coffin. I was in a really bad psychological state after it. Now that I’ve become an actress, I understand how you may live a character and actually believe it’s you. On the other hand, working on Saray Abdeen was scary; especially having to stand in front of big stars, like Yusra, even though it was my dream to do so. Yusra is amazing though, very supportive, humble, and professional.
With three episodes out already, how are people’s reactions to your role so far?
I’m so scared of people’s reactions in Saray Abdeen. It’s a double edged weapon. I just started and it’s a big role and I feared being compared to a star as big as Ghada Adel. After the first episode, people were really annoyed that Ghada Adel was no longer playing the role. Then after the second episode, I sensed that this concern cooled down a bit; and by the third one, people reacted very positively to a silent scene between me and Kosay El Khouly.
What about Heba Regl El Ghorab?
I loved working on it and I was very optimistic about its success while we were shooting. What surprised me the most was that children liked me a lot. I always hear from parents who approach me that their girls love me and they are imitating me.
How are you dealing with the intensity of new fame?
When I used to fantasize about being an actress I used to imagine how I would feel if I became famous, but it never prepared me. It’s a great feeling to be famous, because you know that you’re succeeding; yet at the same time, it affects your privacy. I’m the kind of person who likes to stay at home in general, but now I stay home way more than before. That’s because when I go out I feel like I’m under a microscope. Even if someone doesn’t like you they will still look at what you’re doing or what you’re wearing, and I often just wears sneakers and sweat pants.
I understand you were going through a divorce recently, how is this experience shaping you?
My divorce was very different from some other people’s, because we’re still very close friends. Our divorce came after a smooth discussion and we never raised our voices at each other throughout our marriage. We also respect each other tremendously, but we just weren’t successful as a couple. The problem was that I got married when I was 18, so my idea of marriage was a bit naïve at the time. I come from a very strict family, so I basically got married to go out and have more freedom. I was very young. But I learned a lot from him as a person. I also love his family and this is one of the things that saddened me the most about the divorce.
What is the one advice you would tell people who are getting married?
I believe that there has to be chemistry and a common interest in certain areas, such as the way you make decisions, and even the places where you like to hang out. Common interests are very important. The second thing is that men and women need to understand that they’re completely different creatures. Women need to understand that men are different than us, in the sense that they aren’t monogamous like us. I know this will sound weird, but give him space to do whatever he wants. Don’t try to know what he does behind your back, like by checking his phone or online activity, as long as you know that you’re the one he loves. If he does some things for fun, let it be, because if you know then you’ll have to confront him and men aren’t really loyal by nature. But if you feel that another woman will take your place in his heart, then it’s time to interfere. Arab men, on the other hand, need to understand that all it takes to make a woman happy is a kind, loving word. A woman basically needs two things, to feel truly loved and to feel secure with her man.
What are the characteristics that you love in a man?
The word man doesn’t exist anymore. Manhood is a very big word. I want a man who is my backbone, no matter how strong I am. Someone I can trust with my life.
What is the one thing you learned from marriage?
That communication is key. And that’s what I had with my ex-husband actually. Communication and respect are the most important aspects of a marriage. But the best thing in marriage is having kids.
What are you like in your day-to-day life?
I don’t leave the house. I basically just go to the gym. I’m not very athletic but I try to work out as much as I can. Other than that, my whole life is at home, I have a nice roof, shisha (hookah), tawla (backgammon), and movies, so I invite my friends over all the time.When you can do everything at home, why go out?
Any upcoming projects you’re working on? Will we see you in cinema soon?
I’ll stop taking on TV series for a while. I took a very bold decision by refraining from being in any series this Ramadan. There’s a movie that I will be part of, but I can’t say anything about it now. It’s still in its initial stages, even the scenario is still not finalized yet.
ART DIRECTION & STYLING: Maissa Azab
PHOTOGRAPHY: Mahmoud Abdel Salam