TAMIMA HAFEZ

A STAR IN THE MAKING

Ever since her TV debut in the 2021 Ramadan series, Hagma Mortada (Counterattack), Tamima Hafez has been on the path to stardom. eniGma’s Rawya Lamei got the chance to chat with the beautiful actress to find out more about her career path and her love for acting.

Tamima Hafez arrives for our interview at the eniGma office wearing a purple sweater and a huge smile, charming everyone instantly. Our chat begins with small talk about her taste in music and her love of dance and art, before turning to her acting career and how she got started. Hafez recounts that she had always wanted to act but was afraid to take that first step for a long time. Things changed when, as a freshman at the American University in Cairo studying English Literature, her stepbrother, who was a Theatre major, convinced her to audition for the play, Spring Awakening. She got the part, and at that point she decided to take up theatre as a second major besides English Literature.

The theatre was Hafez’s introduction into the world of acting. While she still loves performing on stage, acting in front of the camera has always been what she really wanted. Her big break on screen came in 2020 with her first role in Hagma Mortada, which aired in Ramadan of 2021. She recalls, however, that her path leading to that first role was not so smooth. She had graduated from university in 2020, which was around the start of the pandemic. It was a very uncertain time, especially for fresh graduates. She went to a few auditions, but she figured that the chances of her ever being called back were very slim. So, she packed her bags and moved to Gouna, where she got a corporate job. To her utter surprise, however, while in Gouna she got a call telling her that she had been chosen for the part in Hagma Mortada. “In an actor’s life there comes a point when you just give up, and that’s exactly when something big happens!” she exclaims. “I was working a nine to five at that time, so that call was definitely a wake-up call for me,” she adds.

When she first made it on the set of Hagma Mortada, Hafez was emotionally overwhelmed. It was an incredible experience for her to work alongside such icons like Hend Sabry and Ahmed Ezz. Despite the tremendous support of the people around her, she was nervous and feared messing up her lines. She quickly realised that acting in front of the camera meant that she had to tone down the technique she had learned in theatre. She gave it her all and delivered a great performance. “It was more about dealing with myself and getting used to being on set as opposed to enjoying the experience,” says Hafez.

Hafez knew from her university theatre days that building chemistry with other cast members was extremely important. However, she realised that for television, this could be extremely tricky. She recalls how stressful her first scene with Khaled Anwar in Hagma Mortada, was. Anwar played her love interest; it was her first time ever on set and the two vaguely knew each other at the time. “My nerves really got to me. That made it rather difficult at that time to build a strong connection,” she says.

When she played the role of Amina in Monaataf Khatar (The Killing), which was her second acting role, it was very different because she already knew some of the cast members quite well. “Developing a connection with your co-stars allows you to feed off their energy. While advance preparation for the role means you already know what your co-stars are going to say, you still don’t know how they’re going to say it. Delivery is key,” she stresses.

“If you feed off of your co-stars’ energy, you’re bound to end up with something great,” she adds. “The issue with that, though, is that a lot of actors tend to focus more on their own performance. Everyone is self-involved, because they are keen on delivering a good performance. This is one of the reasons why I truly miss the theatre. When acting on set, you simply come in with your lines memorised, often without knowing the person you’re doing a scene with. In the theatre, actors spend months rehearsing with cast members, so they get to bond with one another and live the story together; and that helps to build chemistry between them.”

Hafez likes to keep in mind what one of her acting instructors, Gerald James, once told her, “One day you will come to find that what you find within yourself is much more interesting than what’s happening outside.” This sentence came to her mind when she was filming her breakup scene in Hagma Mortada. “When I looked inward and found the core of what was happening, I was able to let go and let the scene flow. It was very interesting because both of us had gone into this with completely different intentions and we ended up merging our emotions and feeding off each other. We truly worked as a team,” she says about her co-star Khaled Anwar.

While she still loves the theatre, Hafez says that she has ended her career on stage, at least for the time being. She, nonetheless, always remembers with a bittersweet nostalgia, her eponymous performance in Sophocles’ Electra with director Frank Bradley at university, as it was an immense milestone in her career and a very special moment for her.

Hafez concludes our chat by stressing that she wants to be a well-rounded artist, and continuously tries to build herself artistically. She has an original song coming out soon with producer Moataz Moaty and is taking a contemporary dance course with Karima Mansour. While she is extremely passionate about music and dance, however, she does not seek them professionally, insisting she simply wants to be a well-rounded artist, with many tricks up her sleeve.

“I want to be an actress with different artistic skills to help shape me into being a complete artist,” she concludes.