Alexandrian Essam Ferris is making his Hollywood dream a reality.
By Sherif Awad
Making it big in Hollywood is a dream for many aspiring performers, and for all those who do land parts and find fame, there are hundreds of others who are not so lucky. From Alexandria, one young man, Essam Ferris, had enough determination to make his dream a reality.
Ferris’ journey began during the summer break from his studies at the Faculty of Commerce in Alexandria. He applied for a tourist visa to the United States, just like many of his colleagues who travel for a month or two looking for some work or to do some shopping.
“I easily got the visa. Not many questions were asked,” recalls Ferris, who travelled to New York with plans to visit for only a couple of weeks. But just before he boarded the flight home from JFK airport, Ferris received a call from his parents letting him know that he had failed his exams. The call changed his life after Ferris decided he would stay on in the U.S. for a few more months. “I did not even like my studies to begin with,” explains Ferris. “My father was quite understanding and supportive and he convinced my mother to let me discover what I am capable of.”
After landing a job in New York and falling in love with a young woman who eventually became his wife, he gained a residency permit. “I spent twenty years in Upstate New York, moving from one job to the other,” says Ferris, whose last job in New York was as a manager of a Domino’s Pizza restaurant. “I did not consider venturing into acting because I lived six hours away from Manhattan, where the auditions are.”
However, after co-starring in 2007 in a seven-minute independent film called Communicate about a man and a woman who try to communicate without understanding each other’s language, Ferris fell in love with acting and decided to pursue it as a career at all costs. “It was a great experience. It made me decide to move to California. And in 2007 I did just that in order to pursue a professional acting career,” he recalls.
But before he could audition for more parts, Ferris needed to study acting. Knowing that signing up for studies in the West Coast would cost him an arm and a leg, Ferris took up a job as an English-Arabic interpreter and started to save up.
After making enough money, he was able to enroll at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, and graduated two years ago. “Last February, on Hollywood Boulevard, I landed my first starring role in the indie theatrical play Resurrection Day as Jesus,” he says excitedly. After the generally positive reception of his performance, Ferris succeeded in landing an agent in Hollywood. “My agent first advised me to change my professional name to Antonio Ferris in order to increase my chances of being cast and so I could get some Latino roles. But because my Spanish isn’t that fluent, I decided to keep my original name,” Ferris says.
And even without changing his name, Ferris seems to be on his way to making it big in Hollywood. This year he appeared alongside Vince Vaughn in the second season of HBO’s TV series True Detective, playing the bodyguard of an Armenian drug dealer. “Although it was a minor role, it got me, with other roles, more credentials to join the Screen Actors Guild, which means I can go on to play bigger roles in Hollywood,” Ferris says, adding, “I was on the verge of getting a role in Game of Thrones. But it is being shot in Europe and I still don’t have the right credentials to work in European locations.”
Watch out for Egypt’s Ferris in many upcoming films, including Nadia’s Promise, Armenia, My Love and Edict of Expulsion 1492.