Lights, camera, action! Lebanese actor Nicolas Mouawad has been staying busy shooting his latest series Ala El Helwa Wa Al Morra, currently airing on MBC 4, which he finished just in time for El Gouna Film Festival. We had the pleasure of learning about his experience acting in LA and London, and about his upcoming Egyptian film Godran.
By Mariam Elhamy
What are you currently working on?
I just finished shooting the series Ala El Helwa Wa Al Morra which is currently being aired on MBC 4, it’s a very light Lebanese/Syrian romantic comedy. I will start shooting my second Egyptian film, after Mako, it’s called Godran directed by Mohamed Baraka and produced by Yasser Salah.
Tell us about your projects abroad?
I already shot two movies abroad, one of them is called His Only Son, it portrays the Prophet Ibrahim’s life. It was a very enriching experience to me as an actor and as a human. To play a character, I put myself in their shoes and when I did that with someone that big on all levels, I felt like I gained a lot on a personal and a spiritual level.
The second film is called 3000 Years of Longing, it’s a George Miller film (director of Mad Max, Happy Feet, The Witches of Eastwick and Lorenzo’s Oil). It’s a beautiful romantic movie and I’m very excited for it to come out in 2022. Nicolas Mouawad
It was a unique experience for me and I hope I keep doing more of it. I’ve learned a lot from the people I worked with and I really appreciated how humble they are although they’ve done films that won Oscars; they have passion and humility and that to me is what makes an artist.
How is it different acting in LA or London than in the Arab world?
Acting is the same here or abroad. I just wish people here would be as punctual and would respect appointments, as well as respect all the people on set regardless of their position.
Unfortunately, here in the Arab world we don’t respect time, we really differentiate based on social classes, which really bothers me in our industry.
For the Love of Movies
Are you excited about doing films more than series or do you love both equally?
To be honest, I love movies more than series. I graduated from theater and worked in theater and short movies for the first 5 years of my career. Another reason I’m really happy to be doing films right now is that when you’re done with a 60-episode series you really don’t want to work on anything else afterwards!
Do you prefer watching films on online platforms or at the cinema?
I know this will sound bad coming from an actor but I don’t really like watching movies online at all. To me, the movie theater has a special feeling, although lately because of Covid 19 and everything being closed, there’s more demand on online platforms, but personally, I’d rather watch any movie at the theater not online or even at home on TV. To me the movie theater experience is incomparable. Nicolas Mouawad
You learned how to scuba dive for Mako, are you into shark movies?
I’ve been a big fan of shark movies since I was a kid. I was maybe 10 years old when I watched Jaws, I also love Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows and all the rest. When Mako came to me, I was very excited to do this one of a kind project in the Arab world and I hope it opens the door for all the types of movies that we rarely produce in the region.
After Heba Regl El Ghorab you steered clear of the comedy scene, are you planning on going back? What other genres would you like to tap into?
Comedy really scares me as I always feel that it is much harder than anything else. It’s more up to the director and editor to put you as a performer in a certain frame to make you look a certain way. I’m afraid to do comedy unless it’s with someone I can really trust. Other genres I’d love to do are psychological dramas.
You’ve spoken about bullying on social media and its’ relation to mental health issues…
Yes, there are other factors related to mental health issues such as society’s habit of labeling people. For example, we’re always expected to act a certain way or be on a certain level in a certain frame of society. Nicolas Mouawad
Male teenagers and young adults especially always have to conform and fit into a certain profile or character. A man should not cry or be emotional, he has to be tough, strong and manly and anyone who isn’t like that has to fake it which is very tiring for people’s mental health.
Do you want to do more roles that break the stigma and portray men in a way where they are more in touch with their emotions?
Definitely yes, I’ve already tried to do that with the last series I filmed. The character is already hated from the beginning for leaving the girl he loved after 5 years on the day of their wedding. The script didn’t really show his emotions or how he felt about it so I talked to the director and producer and we worked on showing him as more sentimental.
In any role I take, I try to break the pattern of the typical lead in the Arab world and it’s always nice to meet directors and producers who encourage me to do that.
What’s the craziest message you’ve ever gotten from a fan?
I get cute messages like people wanting to marry me but I get a lot of weird messages too.
What’s your biggest screw-up in the kitchen?
My biggest screw-up is the kitchen! I always order delivery because I have zero cooking skills. Nicolas Mouawad
Do you have any useless talents?
I used to do fencing but I quit a couple of years ago.
Least and most favorite school subjects?
Most favorite were math and physics, least favorite was geography and I still suck at directions and maps.
What did you want to be as a kid?
I wanted to be an astronaut and I wanted to be an usher at a movie theater so that I could watch all the movies for free.
Tell us about an embarrassing moment.
I was once dating a girl when I was 16, we were waiting for her father to pick her up from school and a car came up with a super weird guy inside so I started making fun of him.
5 minutes later after he parked, he came over and turned out to be my girlfriend’s father. I always put myself in embarrassing moments because I always speak my mind out loud, but I learned to tame it a bit.