Summayyah al Alfie looks the part and fits the role of a rising young actress. Hailing from an artistic family, she has been steadily making a name for herself as a bona fide talent in a very competitive industry, choosing to rely solely on her skill rather than use her connections to get ahead. Having taken part in the TV series Lel Hob Forsa Akheera (Last Chance at Love) and Ladayna Aqwal Okhra (We’ve Got Further Statements), after making her debut in the lead role in the horror film Warda, al Alfie has gained increased recognition for her acting talent. eniGma’s Mohamed Hesham sat with the rising young actress to hear all about her journey in film and television.
Named after her aunt, famous actress Summayyah al Alfie known for her iconic roles in the 80s and 90s, the young Summayyah was initially ambivalent about her name as she entered the industry. In an attempt to set herself apart from her aunt, she even changed it to the stage name Nada, before eventually embracing it and sticking with it.
Al Alfie considers herself lucky to have been raised in an artistic family, that was open minded, with broad intellectual interests. From a young age, her parents were keen to have their daughter share in their discussions of a broad range of topics, while instilling in her their enthusiasm for, and keen appreciation of, the arts. “Because of what my dad had taught me as a kid, I did way better than others in my studies at the American University in Cairo. My mum would read to me Nawal Al Saadawy’s books before bedtime when I was a kid, which was unusual, but I came to appreciate it,” says the actress.
The artistic young al Alfie started out as a professional ballet dancer in the opera before turning to acting. “I turned to acting because I had always been fascinated by this type of art. I would play around in my aunt’s dressing room as a child. I was so inspired by her wardrobe, full of all the outfits she kept from the different characters she had portrayed,” she recalls.
Al Alfie took her first step towards professional acting when she was sixteen and still in high school. Noticing her interest in the field, her cousin, actor Ahmed AlFishawy, advised her to join an acting workshop with the renowned acting coach, Marwa Gebril. Al Alfie instantly loved Gebril and acting. Gebril welcomed her enthusiasm, while making it clear that if she wanted to continue in the workshop, she would have to pay attention to her studies as well. She challenged al Alfie to ace her SAT scores, which al Alfie did.
Al Alfie’s start in acting was unusual, given that it was in a lead role in Warda, a horror film directed by Hadi El Bagoury. “When I was doing the workshop, I was called in for a casting audition by Mohamed Hefzy, the famous producer, and director Hadi El Bagoury, who had been introduced to me by Marwa,” reveals al Alfie. She didn’t hear back from them, however, and went on to start university. “The situation kind of died, and then a year later, they asked me to come again for a recast. After a while, they called me and told me that I got the part,” adds al Alfie. Embracing this chance enthusiastically, she endured a grueling schedule, juggling university classes with three-months of rehearsing for the film, followed by eighteen days of actual filming. When scheduling conflicts became impossible to manage, al Alfie’s parents allowed her to take the semester off to focus on the film – a move that was very costly to them since her nonrefundable tuition expenses had already been paid.
“I learned so much from that experience. I was given so much creative space, even though I only had about five talking scenes in the film. The cast and crew were amazing. Hadi El Bagoury was incredible. He gave me creative freedom and the space to be myself, and he taught me how to be calm and confident in my work. That role took a lot of studying and preparing, from the tiniest details, and it payed off. I had to depend on my facial expressions and body language for most of the film,” recalls al Alfie, whose debut film, Warda, participated in many festivals around the world, including Festival Cinéma Méditerranéen de Bruxelles, Berlin International Film Festival and Malmo Arab Film Festival. Once her work on the film was done, she focused her attention on her studies and put acting on hold until after her graduation.
At university, al Alfie decided to take in the full academic experience, choosing to major in Film and Visual Arts, with a minor in Philosophy and Psychology. “Majoring in film was great, but it was more theoretical than it was practical. It was mostly film critiquing, which ended up helping me with other things, like directing. I also really wanted to become a director,” says al Alfie, who went on to direct a number of short films as side projects. “I wrote film reviews for a magazine as a contributing writer, and even now I still write an analysis for myself every time I watch a new film. I feel like film analysis is part of who I am. It gives me so much knowledge about the cinematic ideologies and empowers me as a filmmaker,” she recalls. Al Alfie created a video art and experimental film as her graduation project, which was supervised by Shady Al Noshokaty of AUC’s Visual Arts Department. “It was exhibited in Sharjah Art Gallery at AUC, and it was praised by critics. I’m very proud of it,” she adds.
After graduation, al Alfie was cast in the 2018 TV series, Lel Hob Forsa Akheera (Last Chance at Love), opposite Dalia El Beheiry, based on the recommendation of her teacher and mentor, Marwa Gebril. “I had declined several roles before that because I wanted to put education first. Getting my degree was very important to me. I was also reluctant to accept roles before because I used to have huge privacy issues, especially with social media,” she explains. “When this role came along, however, I liked the challenge, because it involved a lot of screen time. Dalia El Beheiry, was amazing and I loved working with her. She went the extra mile to break the ice between the actresses on set and made it such a nice environment,” al Alfie adds.
Al Alfie recalls that Ladayna Aqwal Okhra (We’ve Got Further Statements) came along around the same time. “A friend of mine called me up and told me about that role, while I was still filming Lel Hob Forsa Akheera. I really wanted to do it, because it meant I would work with Yousra and Sherine Reda, and I love both of these ladies. I ended up filming both series at the same time, which was a bit of a challenge for me. I had to make sure that I portrayed each role differently, and not to end up playing the same character twice,” she explains.
“I would like to do characters that people can differentiate from one another. I don’t want to do the same thing. My dream is to portray sophisticated and complicated roles that have depth, with great directors, like Khaled Diab, Amr Salama, Marwan Hamed, Kamla Abu Zekry, Tamer Mohsen, Yousry Nasrallah and Dawoud Abdel Sayed. I believe that portraying an in-depth character involves a great narrative and an influential topic that sincerely ulters people on several authentic human levels,” says the young actress, who is currently working on a short film, directed by one of her friends. “It’s his directorial debut and I believe it’s going to be great. I see a lot of potential in it. He wants to take it to film festivals,” reveals al Alfie, who had previously taken an acting workshop with the great Dr. Ali Badrakha, and is currently taking an acting workshop with director Khaled Diab at Cima, managed by screenwriter, Zoghby. “Diab has taught me so much. He is such an amazing director, and we’ve become really good friends. I shared my first red carpet with him and my husband at El Gouna Film Festival. It was a special night,” the star recalls.
While al Alfie prefers not to use personal relations to get ahead, she does like to take advice from her aunt every now and then. “She told me not to do anything I’m not comfortable with. You don’t have to put up with that,” says al Alfie. “Acting is practice; the more you practice, the better you become at it. Knowing your strengths helps a lot, and working with directors who know your potential and help you improve and shine is also very important,” she adds.
Al Alfie credits any success she has in life to her parents. “I owe everything to them, and I’m so grateful and proud to be their daughter. The way they raised me in terms of ethics and morals formed the person I am today. They give me strength by always believing in me. My dad is my backbone. The knowledge and the sense of freedom he empowers me with mean the world to me. My mum, on the other hand, has enriched the artist in me and has gone the extra mile to support me and help me reach my goals,” says the star, who also gets much support from her husband, Diko, an aspiring director and cinematographer, to whom she also attributes much of her success. “He makes documentaries. He is very talented and loves exploring different fields of art which encourages me to do so as well. He encourages me to pursue whatever field I want,” she says.
Clearly, while al Alfie is focusing on acting now, she has more than one passion and she does not want to prioritise one over the other. Looking ahead, she concludes, “I would like directing and acting to go hand in hand. I really want to pursue both. I like to go with the flow. I guess it depends on my mood.”
Photography: Ahmed Mobarez
Art Direction: Tousha Maher
Makeup: Alice Louka
Hair: Ramy at Al Sagheer Salons