April ‘15
Insight Interview

April ‘15
Ahmed Zaher
Ahmed Zaher


    


Do you find that your choice of roles changed after Haya's Story? How do you evaluate yourself as an actor today?

I don't really evaluate myself. I wait for people to do so. They always stop me at the mall or on the street to tell me about my acting and how good or bad I was in a certain role. In general, I want to impact the audience with every character that I play, this is what gives my work value.


How have you developed yourself in your past roles and what is the role that you'd still like to perform?

I had a strong presence and had many successful roles, but Haya's Story was a major milestone. It was my first appearance with Samy after losing weight. He had my back and it turned into a major success. I consider Samy my good luck charm. He knows how to make me shine and he knows how to challenge me. He is an exceptionally director.


What can you tell us about your latest project 'Eelakat Khasa' (Personal Affairs)?

This series is rich with a woven plot and a lot of superstars of different nationalities and is directed by the talented Rasha Charbatjy. The drama is featured exclusively on OSN, who saw potential in the series and gave it all their support. Personal Affairs is a contemporary social drama that revolves around five couples reflecting the reality of Arab relationships affected by customs and traditions. The drama takes us through the different obstacles these couples face and how this affects their personalities, feelings and reactions. The five parallel stories are very interesting and relevant to Arab current affairs. I am sure it will appeal to viewers across the Arab world. I have always dreamt of doing such a leading role and Personal Affairs is definitely of that genre.


How long did shooting take?

We are still shooting. They started four months ago, while I was still involved in shooting 'Ana Eshekt' (I Fell in Love), which by the way is also aired exclusively on OSN. I joined them once I was done. We have finalized almost 35 episodes out of over 60.


What attracted you to Personal Affairs?

I read almost 20 episodes and I fell in love with the plot! I have always been looking for an opportunity to play a new role in terms of looks, character and performance. I try to get out of my skin. This role is totally different from all the roles I previously played. In addition, I was very excited to take part in a drama that combines Arab actors. It is a new addition to my career.


'Hekayet Haya' (Haya's Story) was a turning point in your career as an actor. The series generated a lot of controversy for its bold content, and it acheived tremendous success! What was your reaction when you were offered the role? Were you afraid of negative feedback?

I'm not afraid of taking different roles. I like change and hate it when actors put themselves in one character and repeat themselves. It pushes you as a viewer to stereotyping this actor. The only role I was afraid to do was Farag in Kalam 3ala Warak, but thank God it succeeded.


We also heard you're preparing for your fourth collaboration with Mohamed Samy in 'Ard Na'am'.

I hope that this will be the next one to be aired.


Mohamed Samy presented you differently! How did your collaboration affect you as an actor?

Samy works with a different concept. He works with the actors as much as with everything else on set. He views the actor as the most important component or tool. Samy helped me unleash my potential. He has sharp eyes and knows how to put the actor in the best frame. Any actor - regardless of how good he is - can harm his career with just one bad take - but Samy doesn't allow that. He intervenes and directs for the sake of the actor and the work at hand. When I work with him, I'm assured I'm in safe hands. He challenges me to get the best out of my performance. I like change and so does he, which is why we work well together.


What did you learn from Samy's vision as a director?

I learnt a lot from him. For example, for my dialect in 'I Fell in Love', which wasn't directed by him, I made sure to have a calmer tone because in certain situations it delivers a better message to the viewer. He is the one who taught me that a loud voice is not always easy to understand. I owe such knowledge to him.


How was the feedback for 'I Fell in Love' and 'Personal Affairs'?

The feedback was great! I received many encouraging phone calls from fans, friends and colleagues from across the region. My role in Personal Affairs was totally different so when it was aired, people were positively surprised by the diversity of the plot, my look, the performance and the nature of the character. I was lucky to present two different roles in two consecutive series on the same channel. This was a positive experience for me, especially as OSN has great viewership across the Arab world.


How did fatherhood change you?

Being a father made me much calmer. My sickness negatively affected my psychological state, but taught me to be calmer and more practical rather than emotional. In addition, the girls are very warm and tender and they make it up for me. I am grateful for God's three gifts. Now I think twice and evaluate things before reacting. It is my responsibility and my eagerness to protect them against any hardships.


Your two elder daughters are rising talents, weren't you afraid to expose them to the curse of fame at a young age?

It all started with Tamer Hosny, who saw them growing up and noticed their talent before I event recognized it. He chose them to appear in 'Captain Hema' in two short scenes as a trial before having the leading roles in the second and third parts of 'Omar & Salma'. Afterwards, they started receiving more and more offers. Layla has been involved in nine movies so far. They are very talented, witty and good actresses. However, I don't let them participation in just anything, as I want them to express their talent in quality movies. Therefore, we decline offers that are not up to standard. My daughters are raw models for their age group, so they have to be very careful with everything they do or say. They like to act and I allow it, but within certain limits. On location they are either with me or with their mom. I very much care for their upbringing and believe that as long as I teach them right from wrong and implant good virtues and values in them, hopefully they won't go wrong.


Which one do you see as a future super star?

Malak is very good in tragedy and Laila is an excellent comedian. I do train them and try to help them improve their skills. I never imagined that they would be good actresses. I do support them now and if they want to choose acting as a career I won't stand in their way.


Whose character is closest to yours?

Malak is closer to me as we both usually perform tragic and serious roles. Laila is like me when it comes to my hidden sense of humor, since I rarely perform comic roles.


Do they criticize your work?

Of course, they watch all my roles and criticize me. We are good friends. We talk about my roles together and they always express what they like and what they don't.


By Rania Ihab