Rising actor Mohamed Hamamsi on how to break into the business
By Ahmed Mansour
In a perfect world, you’re walking down the street when a famous director points and says, “You, you’re the one I want for my show.” But it never works that way. If you want to make it in show business, there is a long, hard road of menial jobs and small roles before people start to recognize your face.
Mohamed Hamamsi is hiking that road, trying to achieve his dream of becoming a TV star. The 24-year-old has been in the business since the age of 18, starting at the very bottom by parking cars and serving drinks on the set. His patience and willingness to learn have reaped some modest rewards, however, and he has since landed bit parts in a handful of Ramadan series. You may have seen him as Ramy, the director that fell in love with Zat’s daughter, in the 2013 hit series Bent Esamaha Zat, (A Girl Named Zat) starring Nelly Karim. That same season, he also played the role of a Saudi Sheikh called Majed Bin Majed in the hit drama Bedoon Zekr Asmaa (No Names Mentioned), starring Ruby and Ahmed El-Feshawy.
Right now Hamamsi is working on another series with Nelly Karim, Taht Saytara (Under Control), expected to air in Ramadan 2015. The young actor sat down to share his story and advice for those trying to follow in his footsteps. Edited excerpts:
How did you start your career in acting?
The beginning of my career was really a tough one; I tried to apply for the Cairo Art Institute for approximately four years until I got accepted. Things were rather tough inside, but with persistence I made it to be the assistant director for Julius Caesar, the play that the institute was working on at the time.
But that wasn’t really my passion. I wanted to be an actor, not an assistant director, so I started to memorize the script for one of the play’s characters, and then I asked the director to let me play it. To my surprise, he agreed. And that is when, I believe, my career started.
After that play was over, I made sure that I had a role in every project the institute was working on. After three years of hard work, my face and name were familiar to all my professors and colleagues in the institute.
As soon as I graduated from the institute, I was blessed to work on the Ramadan 2010 television series Keset Hob (A Love Story), starring Gamal Soliman, Basma and Haggag Abdul Azim. I played a character called Abu Omar. It was a rather small role, but it taught me a lot about television drama and how different it is from theater.
I got the role by applying and auditioning. I found it a bit hard to get the role without anyone recommending me for it, but somehow I got it. I was really thrilled at the time and I thought that this will be the true beginning of my acting career. But afterwards, my career stagnated for about two years.
How did you break into TV series?
In my case, I had to really enter the industry not as an actor, but as an assistant producer. It was really humiliating in that I was bossed around by all the crew and actors, and they used to make me park their cars and get them food and water. But because I was aiming high, I observed and learned a lot of things that later helped me in the field.
I was later promoted to set managing producer, and my job was to take care of the shooting set and make sure everything was in order. But again, that wasn’t the reason why I entered the industry.
Finally, one day I was offered the role of Ramy in the hit series Bent Esmaha Zat. It was a wonderful experience, and I consider the series to be one of the best that I have ever seen.
Unfortunately, in Egypt things are harder than anywhere else. Becoming a successful actor doesn’t depend on “how good you are” but on “how powerful the people that recommended you for the job are.” For example, the management of the series Zat was against giving such an important role to a fresh face. They wanted to give it to the managing producer’s son — who was also a fresh face. So I didn’t get the role at first, but I realized that this is how things are run inside the institute.
But, I had God on my side, and with hard work and lots of patience I landed the role after the other person was unable to take it. I also have to thank my mother; she is my biggest fan and sole supporter.
What is the difference between cinema and television series?
I have never worked in cinema, not because I don’t want to, but because I never got the chance to. There are fewer chances for a fresh actor to land a role in cinema than in television series.
In terms of work, there is a huge difference between cinema and television drama. The actor has to understand the character very much to be able to act in a series, and he also needs to maintain that character for a longer period of time. On the other hand; in cinema the actor, even the ones with major roles, doesn’t need to maintain the character for too long or understand it as much.
What is your ultimate goal in TV and how close are you to achieving it?
My ultimate goal is to be famous and be recognized as an actor. I really hope that I can be the actor who is considered a role model for the youth and whocan actually make a change in someone’s life. The day that someone calls me for a specific role in a hit series because that someone believes that there is no one else who can play the role but me, that is the day I’ll consider myself a true actor who has actually made it in the field.
I don’t really consider myself close to achieving this goal, but am still full of energy and I hope to achieve this goal before I turn 30.
What advice do you have for beginning actors?
First, you need to have a lot of patience. You will be insulted, and [the people you work for] will make you feel like you’re not worth it, so never let anyone get to you. If you believe in yourself, then understand that you will make it.
Make lots of friends in the field and always remind them that you are there and ready to work. You never know who might actually give you the role you always wanted.
Finally, no matter how hard things may get, never give up. I always believe in the quote “the night is darkest before the sunrise.” Take it as your motto and always believe that God is on your side.