It’s impossible to underestimate the buzz that rising actor Sherif Hafez generated this past Ramadan season. His good looks, coupled with his authentic performance in the top-rated TV series, Kheyanet Ahd (Ahd’s Betrayal), captivated the hearts of TV watchers. To find out more about this young new heartthrob, eniGma’s Amir Kamel tracked him down for an exclusive chat.
Notwithstanding his charm, good looks, and an innate passion for movies since a young age, acting couldn’t have been further from Hafez’s mind as he first embarked on a career as a police officer. While he was in the police force, he was also pursuing his studies for a master’s degree in sustainable energy, also totally unrelated to acting!
Yet somehow, Hafez was suddenly catapulted onto the silver screen in a movie called 100 Minutes, yet to be released, where he played the lead as a student who becomes a terrorist. Following that, casting director, Sila Kaldas, asked him to audition for the role of Amina Khalil’s brother in the Ramadan TV series, Layalie Eugenie (Eugenie Nights), directed by the renowned Hany Khalifa. A long time passed after the audition without hearing back, so he gave up on being cast altogether. Then, to his surprise, Kaldas called to say that the director of the series had picked him for an even more challenging role, that of Nour, the son Ingy El Mokkaddem. That series remains very special to Hafez, due to its poignant storyline and the depth of the character he played.
“I am infatuated by genuine art that moves us and teaches us to feel. Acting authentically can spark an array of emotions like empathy and excitement and can change people’s opinions on different matters, motivating them to do good and be good,” says Hafez, explaining why he turned to acting. “The time I value most in my life is when I’m acting. It’s what I love most. I love going through the experiences of the different characters I play. It makes me live more than one life,” he adds.
One of Hafez’s biggest role models in cinema is Mel Gibson. “He is the epitome of a versatile artist, I’m inspired by his outstanding ability to write, direct and act,” he says. “His movie, Brave Heart is timeless and the love story brought tears to my eyes. It’s my favourite Mel Gibson film,” he adds.
A newcomer to the movie industry, Hafez is determined to focus on projects of high artistic value, rather than spread himself thin in numerous projects to maximise his visibility. When he lands a role to his liking, he prepares for it very seriously. He starts by memorising the script, making sure he knows every last word by heart and then he records himself acting it on his own. Hafez insists that, naturally, the character he plays is never fully brought to life, with its rawest emotions, until he is actually acting on the set, in costume, with the other characters. “Only when you believe that your surroundings are real, can your acting be authentic. At that point, you are actually no longer acting; you become the character, and the emotions flow,” he explains. Hafez says he learns best from the school of life, observing people everywhere. To him, that’s the best acting school. “The stories of the people you meet and the experiences you go through in life are what develop empathy in you. They help you convey emotions authentically in any role you play,” he adds.
Hafez considers his role in the Ramadan TV series, Kheyanet Ahd (Ahd’s Betrayal) to be the greatest experiences in his career. He is very grateful to have been part of a cast that included Yousra, one of the greatest Egyptian actors of all time. “Yousra will always be the number one icon in Arab cinema. She radiates such positive energy on set, and inspires everyone with her work ethic, while also supporting young actors,” he exclaims, as he recalls instances when other actors made mistakes and she shifted the blame away from them.
In the series, Hafez plays the role of Doctor Mostafa, a drug rehabilitation doctor. The difficulty of that role is a big part of why it was such a great experience for him. Playing this character with authenticity took much preparation, says Hafez. As the doctor caring for Yousra’s addicted son, Hisham, he had to understand his complex feelings and react to them with the appropriate sentiments. Additionally, he had to deal with the emotionally complex character, Sarah, who went through her fair share of traumatic experiences before ultimately falling in love with him. In fact, Hafez’s character played a significant role vis a vis the other characters in the series as well, listening to their stories and connecting with their pain. For his genuine depiction of this difficult role, Hafez received well deserved acclaim.
Looking ahead, Hafez is optimistic about the future. Paradoxically, he feels that the current pandemic may have broadened, rather than diminished, opportunities in the entertainment industry. “The number of people watching television or online streaming has skyrocketed, and artists should capitalise on that,” he explains. Already in talks to star in a new series, Hafez seems to be intent on taking his own advice, and to harness his talent effectively during the months ahead.” So, stay tuned to see more of this rising young actor on a screen near you.