Egypt Today thus invited el-Mokkadem to be the guest of honour of Egypt Today’s Ramadan Seminar-Egypt Today/ Hussein Talall
CAIRO – 16 June 2018: People have been mesmerized by the vintage atmosphere of the Ramadan drama/crime series “Layali Eugenie"; the clothes, the dialogues, the sceneries and even the cars. Ingy el-Mokkadem surprised us all with her outstanding performance as the Italian lady Sophia. Egypt Today thus invited el-Mokkadem to be the guest of honour of Egypt Today’s Ramadan Seminar, and we are sharing with you what we spoke out about with her.
Some of us mistakenly thought that el-Mokkadem was late because of her makeup artist, hairdresser or maybe her stylist, only to see her in a catchy natural look without any kind of makeup, wearing a casual outfit with a simple hairstyle. I personally fell in love with Sophia’s character since the very first episodes, so I was afraid that el-Mokkadem’s real personality would be completely different from that of Sophia’s, thus destroying the image of my favorite character in Ramadan.
But I found el-Mokkadem to be a funny, friendly, cheerful and lively lady exactly like Sophia: the secret of her success in performing Sophia’s character was that she simply was not acting. With her joyful spirit she turned our seminar from a normal one to a casual friendly gathering, giving us a Twix tart recipe which I made and had to admit was delicious.
1- You played this painful scene brilliantly touching our hearts; you were portraying this miserable mother grieving because of her son whom she didn’t know anything about, reflecting that human contradiction between her sorrow over the death of these young men and her narrow happiness that at least her son is not one of them. How did you perform such hard scenes that brilliantly?
If there are any good comments on my performance to Sophia’s character then all the credit goes to the scriptwriters and the genuine director Hany Khalifa. After ‘’Layali Eugenie’’ I started to understand the meaning of (director-actor) terminology.
Khalifa is fond of acting and owns abnormal senses and feelings, he reads the capabilities of all the actors working with him, he knows when the actor’s performance truly comes from the heart and whether the actor strongly feels what he/she are doing and when they are not. He understands the actor to an extent that scared me once, I used to tell him this all the time: ‘you read me as if I am an open book in front of you.’
Khalifa also owns a special energy that he usually transfers to each actor before shooting his scene. He whispers inside the ears of each actor to prepare him to the coming scene, to place him in the mood of the scene. He loves the actor and owns accurate eyes that pay attention to every single detail. During montage he is extremely keen to capture what we could describe as the best take that was taken in the best time, so he takes from each actor/actress the best scenes of his/her performance to have both a completely successful series and an actor performing better than any other time he did before.
The two writers Sama and Angy are super talented and own amazing feelings, they love each other and there is a lot of harmony between them that was reflected in their script. Ahmed el-Sharkawy, the script supervisor, is also so talented and did a great job. Such an amazing cast that is professional and has an amazing talent in getting out the best performance from any rock not just an actor (el-Mokkadem laughed).
The other important scene is that Sophia’s character is written in an optimal way, a very rich character and as you say is full of master scenes that truly provokes the acting capabilities inside any actor. Even the normal scenes of Sophia in her café are cheerful ones, because she creates in her café’s kitchen a happy mood. Sophia is a joyful character spreading positive energy over all those surrounding her despite the unbearable pain she feels because of her son.
2- You reflected brilliantly this contrast in Sophia’s character using your eyes only in most of the scenes, this cheerful understanding lady who is helping all, standing by their side and supporting them despite her ordeal which she didn’t tell anyone about… How did you manage to act with your eyes only in most of the scenes?
Because I truly felt everything Sophia would – her character, her words and her world; I simply was Sophia. And because I felt Sophia’s feelings in every scene, my eyes said as my mouth did.
3- Was performing Sophia’s character a tiring mission?
No on the contrary, I loved Sophia, but Hany Khalifa, the director pushed me to exert too a lot (she laughed). I felt Sophia and was prepared well for her with the director, scriptwriters and the rest of the cast as we ran through a number of rehearsals before we started shooting.
I discussed with them all the details of Sophia’s character: how she talks, walks, her style and everything about her, and I did my duty as an actress in preparing myself to act such a role. As Sophia was an Italian lady, Khalifa gave me a list of classic Italian movies to watch and learn how Italian ladies in this era would look and act.
It is true, Khalifa made me exert a lot of effort because he is a perfectionist, so it is very difficult to please him. He kept asking me to repeat the scenes again saying that I can do better until he extracted from me a performance that I didn’t know I could do. He understands his actors and their capabilities even more than they understand themselves but it was an amusing effort, I enjoyed everything I did in Sophia’s character.
4- You dazzled the audience with your Italian language in the series; how long does it take you to learn Italian?
Two months, but I don’t want to mislead my fans, I didn’t learn Italian, I just learned the basics of the language to know how to perform the Italian conversations I said in my scenes, to at least understand what I am saying, to know the proper pronunciation and Italian phonetics – even the way Italians talk, they use their hands a lot while talking.
I had to learn to pronounce Italian fluently because in the series it was supposed to be my mother tongue. The production company employed an Italian man who is living here in Egypt, who used to give me four private lessons a week to teach me the language’s basics. He recorded with his voice my scenes that I was supposed to say in Italian in the series and I used to listen to them over and over again and repeat after him to completely master the Italian accent. I read every word with him many times over and he used to correct my pronunciation every time until I said it all in front of him correctly. It was very tough concentrating on both the language and the acting performance on parallel in such scenes but thank God everything went okay and I did it.
5- Did you expect this huge success to Sophia’s character?
Frankly speaking no, I expected the series to succeed because the entire cast exerted a lot of effort, and it is directed by Hany Khalifa. All the actors and the actresses are popular and have huge fan bases and the series’ era is loved by most, people usually have a certain kind of nostalgia towards Egypt in the 1940s and 1950s, the quiet, peaceful and elegant Egypt, but I didn’t expect at all the huge success to Sophia’s character specifically; it exceeded all my expectations and scared me, thank God.
Stay tuned for the complete interview in Egypt Today magazine.