Egyptian actor Fathy Abdel-Wahab - Egypt Today/File
CAIRO - 11 July 2019: Performance after performance he cements his reputation as a veteran actor who can perform any kind of role. This Ramadan Fathy Abdel Wahab wowed his audience with two completely opposite characters that he performed brilliantly: police officer Hazem in Li Akher Nafas (Till the Last Breath) and drug dealer Hamza in Lams Aktaf. Egypt Today sat down with Abdel Wahab who reveals how he was able to simultaneously master two such contradictory characters.
Would you say dramatic value lies in the story itself or in the actor’s performance? How do you choose your roles based on the script as a whole or do you concern yourself with just your character?
Certainly the two values are inseparable from each other. When you find a role written vividly you automatically find yourself going to this character with all your emotions, this really changes your vision about the whole series. I always seek to believe the character I present which is the main element of the project. This belief allows me to portray the character with credibility and convey all the character’s emotions to the audience.
What attracted you to Hamza’s character in Lams Aktaf?
I follow certain criteria while choosing my roles, the most important is to be able to see the character in front of me, and this is an extremely vital factor for me. I immediately felt the credibility of Hamza’s character in Lams Aktaf when I read the script for the first time. Hamza really touched my soul.
How did you prepare for such a complicated character like Hamza?
This is my first time playing a drug dealer. First I started to analyze Hamza as a human being and put my hand on the details of his character. The series didn’t portray Hamza as just a drug dealer, the script highlighted his ideas, thoughts, hopes, beliefs, home, family, sins and all the other human details. Extensively studying the details of the role allows you really penetrate the core of the core. Another important thing is to not morally judge the characters at all, see only their human aspects.
Hamza’s character is full of contradictions. He is a young man from a very wealthy family, well educated, but when his father died his property was confiscated. Hamza drops out of the American University in Cairo and, inheriting the drug trade from his father and grandfather, follows in their footsteps. He is married to two women, the first is his cousin who assists him in drug trading and the second is an aristocratic lady from an elite family. The difficulty in Hamza’s character lies in all these contradictions.
Was Hamza’s character inspired by Pablo Escobar in the American series Narcos?
Of course not, especially since there are several differences between the community, security, economic and political reality in Colombia and in Egypt. But the two characters are similar in some aspects, especially that a drug business on such a large scale naturally results in the presence of other elements that exist everywhere, including partners and powerful relations, among others.
Everyone wants to know the secret behind the name of the series Lams Aktaf. What does it mean?
I respect the mentality of the audience so I don’t want to destroy their imaginations and expectations when they watch the series. Each viewer is going to understand the true meaning of the series’ name based on his or her own perception; for example one person might see Lams Aktaf as the defeat in his life, while another might see it as the sadness, the wickedness. Something might seduce you and bring you down and that’s when Lams Aktaf occurrs.
Our dramas are often criticized for being repetitive, even if the plots are presented in different ways. What’s the solution?
To sum up, the problem lies in the script. Since God created drama and since Aristotle wrote the Art of Poetry, we have only 36 themes. So the question here is from where does the scriptwriter see the theme or the treatment of the series and from which angle, and how does he approach the theme. The problem is that some writers insist on tackling the theme from one angle, and that creates repetition and stereotyping in most of today’s drama. The solution from my point of view is to approach the theme from different angles to give the work credibility. I have no problem in taking from other movies, series or play but the conditions must guarantee credibility. For example when the great writer Ayman Bahgat Qamar made Saydety El-Gamila from My Fair Lady it was really performed in a dazzling way, following an amazing Egyptian style and not just copied and pasted from the original.
Tell us about Li Akher Nafas
At the beginning I apologized to the director Hossam Ali because I didn’t want to participate in two series in Ramadan like I did last year as it was very exhausting. I changed my mind when I met with Ali. He started to narrate the events of the series and discuss the details of Hazem’s character, who is the backbone of the series. Ali explained to me his artistic vision concerning Hazem character and his impact on the series events, so I fell in love with this rich character and decided to accept the challenge. In the script Hazem dies in the first episode and does not appear frequently, just a few scenes using flashback, but Ali decided that Hazem should appear in all the episodes despite his death by brilliantly moving between the past and the present. This really attracted the audience and kept them alert.
You’ve worked before with Yasmine Abdel Aziz, on the series Farhan Melazem Adam in 2005. What was it like collaborating with her this time?
On the personal level there is no difference; Yasmine is the same close friend to me, but on the professional level the fact that she’s stepped out of her comfort zone and chosen to tackle tragedy this Ramadan is really an amazing development. I am personally amazed by her performance and I think the audience are surprised too and happy with this shift. Yasmine’s strong acting capabilities enable her to perform any kinds of role.
You’re also well loved for your strong acting skills. Has success ever gone to your head?
Frankly speaking yes, at the beginning of my career, but after I was subjected to a certain failure, I changed completely and forgot my stupid arrogance and started to see things in perspective. By the way it’s only human—when you achieve a great success you will feel arrogant even for a moment, but if you’re smart you won’t be taken in by this deceptive moment and will instead continuously learn and work on developing yourself.