The Lebanese actor and writer on going to the Oscars in 2017, his passion for theater and his belated foray into Egyptian drama.
Camille Salameh is one of the pillars of the Lebanese artistic scene and of the Arab art scene in general. Egypt Today talks with the veteran actor and theater pioneer about his recent role in the popular Ramadan series Hagma Mortada and looks back at the highlights of his 40-year career.
1-Tell us about your participation in Hagma Mortada. How did you prepare for this role and what attracted you to perform it?
When asked to participate in any TV series or movie, I first read the whole script. Of course knowing the names of the Egyptian stars who were the main actors played an essential part in attracting me to be alongside them.
2-The hit series houses a number of important political messages and revealed a lot of things about what happened behind the scenes in a very critical period in Egypt and the Arab world. What were the messages you felt needed to be sent now?
Revealing political issues and messages in any artwork shouldn’t be very direct; we must use the drama, art, script, the direction style and acting performance to reveal what is behind the scenes, and that was the case in Hagma Mortada. The series skillfully used all these elements to help the spectators follow the story, read the political messages and at the end to form the big picture of the puzzle. It left to each and a every viewer the freedom to read and relive the scenes they might have encountered in real life and by that to draw their own messages.
3-The movie El Feloos marked your first participation in an Egyptian movie. Why did your foray into Egyptian cinema and drama come so late?
Better late than never! Any participation is the result of an offer and the roles weren’t offered until El Feloos. I hope it was a good start.
4-How has your participation in Egyptian cinema and drama added to your vast experience?
Any new experience adds a lot to the career of any actor. Of course my participation in Egyptian cinema added a very positive step to my previous work. It opened a new horizon in a career that always looks forward to new places and experiences and most of all looks forward to meet new people as I always believe that the human relationship is the strongest bridge for a new and fruitful road.
5-As one of the pioneers of Lebanese theater, how do you evaluate Egyptian and other Arab theater? Do you feel Arab theater has suffered because more attention is paid to cinema and TV drama?
Theater is my first and biggest love, and from there I built my acting experience to perform in cinema and TV drama. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to follow Egyptian and Arab theater recently so I don’t have the right to evaluate. But I read a lot about theater festivals and plays performed by the new generation, and people who carry the passion for theater; this passion is the most important part of art in general and an artist’s performance especially.
I also look forward to the opportunity to attend such festivals that promote theater. Theater will never suffer from any recession as long as this passion is in the heart and soul of its lovers.
6-The Insult led you to an Oscar nomination. Why did it receive such huge international acclaim?
The Insult was a true, complete experience for me as an actor. The reason behind this international acclaim is that all The Insult makers make everything optimally from the preparation, the rehearsals, the shooting, the production, the direction, the actors: the credit goes to all those who worked to make this important film. The Oscars was maybe the right result for such a professional and dedicated work.
Then, being at the Oscars among a notable group of international filmmakers was quite a revelation. We thought that we would recognize the celebrities who we knew by name, but the beautiful surprise was that when we met them, it was the other way around. They came to us, knew our names and were very excited to welcome us. Such a moment will never be forgotten.
7-What are the highlights of your 40-year career?
I am proud of each and every play I wrote or directed or acted in. I am proud of each and every TV series I wrote or acted in. I am proud of each and every movie I took part in. Everything I’ve done over the course of my career has been a source of pride and passion to me. Each and every person whom I learned from or worked with during all these years added, in his way, something important to my career. I cannot name one work or one person; I am just thankful to all successes or setbacks because all of them made me and still push me forward.
8-You’ve said that every role you have performed carries part of your real character. What would be an example?
I may have said many things, but the truth is that the only part from the real me in any role or work I did can be summarized in a few words: my passion and love for what I do and my total devotion to the work I am doing.