The family man & spiritual guru
While everyone knows him best as the muscular hunk, goodwill ambassador, and adventurous globe trekker, we got the chance to chat with the spiritual guru and nurturing father – two sides of Tamer Hagras you don’t always get to see on camera. Hagras opened up to us about his higher self, his relationship with his daughters, and what his tattoos mean to him.
Let’s start with your experience in El Diesel. What made the role as Fayez appeal to you?
My choice in El Diesel was because I knew it would reach a certain amount of viewership. I also wanted to experience working with Karim El Sobky. Alongside the good script, I knew that the production would be of good value. My daughters also pushed me to do it because they wanted to see me in movies again. Fayez’s role is a very complex one. He tries to steer the evil side away from a man who is indecisive about being good or evil. The appeal of a villain in Fayez was mainly what pushed me to choose the role.
You seem to cherry pick only a few films and series to star in, but you’re constantly an active goodwill ambassador. Talk to us about the causes you currently support
I support a lot of causes and I try to push that as much as I can. I speak out on behalf of many foundations revolving around breast cancer, anti-smoking, anti-drugs, refugee support – I just try to help the needy in all ways that I can. It’s important to me as a human being to support something of that significance because I believe that it gives purpose to one’s life to do something noble. I believe it’s our duty as human beings. I am lucky enough to be able to get the spotlight on those issues, being a celebrity makes me feel that it’s more of my duty to do so.
How picky are you when it comes to picking roles? What makes a compelling script to you?
I’m very picky when choosing my roles. I know it’s compelling when every single character is of significance to the film. If you take one simple character out and the movie remains the same, that’s when you know that the writing is not strong enough. A good script should give significance to every single character, no matter how small or big the role is. For it to be unique, I like plot twists and suspense. I like anything against the norm, and that’s what I look for. I look for the outrageous and extraordinary. I look for something that carries a meaningful and productive message; something discussing a delicate situation that needs to be addressed. The role must have a lot of layers which would enable me to maneuver as an actor, and offer diversify in my performance.
So far, what would you say was the most challenging role you landed?
It would probably be Biso in the series Nafeza Ala El Alam (A Portal to the World), which was a record-breaking series at its time. It had the highest viewership ever as a Ramadan TV series. It used to air at 3:00 a.m., so it was pleasantly surprising that we got that amount of viewers. What was challenging about the role was that it was completely different than anyone would have assumed I would be as a character. It was a back-alley hoodlum, a run-down, do-it-all sort of character from Batneya. He was from a lower class, and he went through a lot of turmoil in his life. It’s a very different role than you would assume I’d be assigned, and it was a great success.
What do you enjoy more, working on series or films?
Films usually take less time and they’re more comfortable to work with when it comes to working hours, but series kind of make you discover yourself as an actor. It’s 30 episodes involving a lot of intense work, and it’s very gratifying because you shine overnight. It’s an instant global exposure to the world so you get instant global feedback.
Talk to us about your tattoos! What are they of, and what do they mean to you?
The tattoos that I can discuss would include my scorpion. It was probably my first tattoo, and it meant a lot to me because at the time, it defined my character. It’s also my horoscope. You don’t mess with a Scorpio! They’re very adamant about their ways. You don’t cross their path without noticing them because they’re very unique characters. Once you anger or wrong them: beware. That defined who I was then. I didn’t want anybody messing with me. Of course, characters evolve and I am not about judging or teaching anyone wrong from right, but I still don’t like to be wronged. My most recent tattoo is the writing on my arm which says “La Hawla Wala Quwwata Illla Billah,” which simply means that there is no significance or existence except within our God. People in the Arab world use it a lot during times of death, so they tend to forget what they’re actually saying because of the situations it’s usually used in. It defines the balance in my life because I’m very close to my God spiritually, and it lifts me up, supports me when I need that shelter, comfort, or power. I say it, and I believe in it. That’s why it’s my guiding light, my haven, my balance in life, my comfort zone and my home when I get lost.
We always hear about you travelling the world, but you prefer to stay in Egypt. Why is that?
Yes, I do travel the world and I do prefer to stay in Egypt. Egypt is in my blood. My grandfather was a very prominent political figure. He was the Minister of Economy, and one of the free-officers at the time of president Abdelnasser. He was the Minister of Commerce, Deputy Prime Minister, and he started the ‘International Arab Bank’ which was the first foreign entity bank in Egypt granting access to foreign investments. Until today, they still talk about him, and how his ways would have gotten Egypt out of debt currently. My grandfather, Dr. Abdelmonem Al Qaisouni, always taught us as his grand kids that he had so much love for this country and how beautiful it is. My father was an ambassador in many different nations. He was a very proud Egyptian. Even though we have British and Syrian blood in our veins, we are proud and well-bred Egyptians. Egypt is a very unique place in this world, and the people of Egypt are just beautiful souls. No matter how lost your country is, as an Egyptian, you just find your way. I believe in the Egyptian saying, “You are a king in your country,” and I do feel that to the core. Mind you, I love to travel the world, I’ve been to so many places and there’s still so many cultures I want to discover, but my comfort is my Egypt. And I stress on “my” Egypt because Egypt could be a lot more stressful and chaotic for certain people, but the way I experience my country is different than others, and I love it.
As a traveller, where do you like to take refuge in nature and why?
I’m a beach person. I love the sea! If Sahel was an all-year-round city, I would probably live there. When I say Sahel, I mean the peace and serenity of the beach, the sea, the wind, the morning jogs, the beautiful life…not the partying until 5 a.m. part. Not that I don’t party occasionally, but I’m an early morning person.
Other than Egypt, is there any country you’d consider your second home, or one you constantly want to go back to?
Other places that I would consider my second home or the ones that I constantly go back to would include London. I was born there, my father works there, and I have a lot of work there aside from acting. Also, my grandmother is English. She had a house in the suburbs outside the city, so London to me is my second home. I know it so well, I’ve been brought up here and there, and I believe it’s the capital of the world. Other places that I would consider occasionally staying in a little longer during my vacations would be Venice Beach in California. I just love the vibe there. I love to surf the waves, and enjoy the dinners I have in my shorts and T-shirts. I love how people are always so friendly. There’s good food and good weather, it’s beautiful. Currently, I’ve been going to Greece a lot, and I’ve been discovering different islands, I love it there as well. It’s very laid back and beautiful.
How do you use your status as a renowned actor in philanthropy?
I try to shed light on any aspect I believe in. Whether it’s a new organic farm trying to promote its healthy products to encourage people to eat healthier, or an anti-smoking campaign, or someone suffering from a certain illness, or a hospital for children. I’m always there for all of that. I work with foundations like El Nahda, Gameayet El Kheir Wel Tasamoh and El Orman. I’ve worked with Resala before, and the breast cancer hospital Baheya. It’s very important to me. I think you should always use your fame for good causes. I use my fame for a good cause, and I believe that it gives better meaning to my world.
Does the nature of your career ever get in the way of being an attentive father?
Nothing and absolutely nothing gets in the way of me being an attentive father.
As a father, what’s one thing you want to instil in your kids?
I wouldn’t say there’s one thing, but at the top of the list there’s spiritual connection with your God, pride and love for one’s nation, valuing the importance and significance of family and loved ones, and valuing health. I always stress on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your God given gift, which is your body.
You’ve worked with Adel Imam several times. How has working with such a huge icon affected you?
When I was a kid, I used to watch Adel Imam’s movies and I would think, “Wow, I love this guy.’ I always loved hearing his punch lines. And for me to now have the opportunity to actually work with him today, and to be able to call him my friend is just a reminder that I’ve come a long way, it’s an amazing thing – it’s a beautiful thing to meet and work with someone whom you once thought would never cross your path. It’s incredible how the world turns and shapes your path. Adel Imam is an adorable man! He becomes even more adorable with age. He was a difficult man at a young age, and that’s part of the reason why he’s so prominent and famous, because he was very meticulous about certain things. As he grows older, I just see a different man. He makes me happy, he makes me laugh and he just has a major effect on me. He is a significant reason for my success in this field. He gave me one of my first pushes, and I love him for it.
We have to ask: how do you keep your body in such great shape?
I love to eat! The reason why my body is in such great shape is because I feel so guilty from the food I eat, so I work out immensely. Working out made me love exercising more and more. I could ride a bicycle for hours in the morning, it’s beautiful. I always run outdoors in any country I go to. I swim – I’m originally a swimmer and a water-polo player. I work out in the gym whenever I can. I make sure that I eat what I want to eat, though. Lately, I haven’t been liking junk food as much, but I love a good Risotto. I love ribs, koshari, and pizza was once on the top of my list, but it’s slowly fading away. I eat everything and anything, but I work out to make sure that I compensate for it. I believe that our body is a God given-gift, which we have to value, cherish and take care of. Also, exercising releases endorphins, and they are the key to a happy life.
Tell us something surprising about Tamer Hagras.
I am a borderline obsessive-compulsive person. I like my furniture in straight lines, and I’d have an issue if certain shelves have more than a certain amount of items on it. I have to adjust pictures if they’re tilted. I am generally just a perfectionist.