We sat one-on-one with Alaa Arafa to catch up on his latest role in Del Ragel, released last Ramadan.
We delved into his childhood to learn about his choice to study architecture and cinema at the same time. But just before parting ways, we played a game of “Would You Rather?” and fired a round of questions that had us cracking up.
By Mariam Elhamy
Who was your role model as a child? Who did you love to watch?
My dad was always my role model growing up. I looked up to him and I wanted to be like him. In cinema, I had many role models, but the one I loved the most was Omar Sharif. I loved his movies, especially his film Eshaet Hob, I love it! Alaa Arafa
What kind of movies did you like to watch as a kid?
All kinds of movies but the ones that really grabbed my attention were thrillers. I like anticipating what’s going to happen.
What made you take the risky decision of studying architecture and cinema at the same time?
I actually see architecture as a form of art, the same as acting. I know how to draw and I’ve always had a talent for it, so after I finished high school, I wanted to put more effort into it. At the same time, I’m a bit systematic and I like solving problems so architecture seemed like the right option.
When I found out that I can study architectural engineering and do a major or a minor in anything else I wanted at AUC, I went for theater as well. I was lucky that I got to study both architecture and theater. Alaa Arafa
How were you able to balance between your studies, doing commercials, and going to castings and auditions?
Actually, I spent 7 years in college because sometimes I used to skip classes and go shoot some ads. I also used to stay late in the theater for rehearsals. Yet I didn’t get much vacation like most students because I spent seven days a week on campus. But I managed to work it out.
Tell us a bit about your first role ever in Segn El Nesa. How did you prepare for it?
It was in 2014, I had been doing ads for 5 years but then I found that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I played a very laid-back guy in Segn El Nesa which wasn’t very hard to do, but the amazing director Kamla Abu Zekry helped me study it. Even though I only did a few scenes in this show it holds a special place for me.
How would you say you’ve changed as an actor from your first ever role up until now?
I remember the first time I went to an audition, the first time I stood in front of the camera and the first time I was on stage. Ever since then, I did a lot of workshops alongside work, I also studied Acting and Directing at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) in 2012.
I think with time you gain experience, especially after studying, working on yourself and being in contact with your inner self. I’ve changed a lot and I’ve seen this development through the roles that I portray. So yeah, I’ve had a pretty big journey.
What makes you love what you do?
You just get to live so many lives, and yet, you’re just you. You get to experience a lot of emotions and be several people in just one lifetime. Alaa Arafa
From the many actors that you’ve worked with, who did you enjoy working with the most?
All of them. I have amazing memories on set with each one of them. I remember this one incident when I was doing a scene with Shereen Reda in La Totfea El Shams; it was my fourth TV show I think.
We were dancing at a party and the cameraman was moving around us, I was standing with my side to the camera and Shereen Reda asked me to face the camera and she said; “Show your face! I’ve been there already, they know me”. These kinds of moments are what really make me appreciate those humble stars.
How was the experience being buried up to your neck in the sand in Del Ragel? Were you scared?
I wasn’t afraid because I put all my focus in the acting, so I wasn’t very aware of what was happening around me. Nonetheless, it was one of the hardest scenes I’ve had in the past few years because I was buried up to my head in the ground. I had to act and do everything with just my face and my eyes and I couldn’t move.
In addition, Yasser Galal was throwing sand at me and the funny thing is that right before we started shooting, I had told him to do whatever he wants. I said, “Just do it. I’m fine with it”, but I didn’t know that it would be this intense. Also, it was the last scene in the whole show, and everyone went “Ferkesh!” and they left me in the sand and ran to take a picture and I kept calling after them to come help me out. Alaa Arafa
Any advice for upcoming talents?
Keep pushing, keep grinding, keep developing and working on yourself. Always be ready because you never know when a role might hit you and if you’re not ready you will ruin it. And believe in yourself, it will happen at the right time.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to travel, go fishing, draw, try new things and develop new skills. Lately I’ve been doing kickboxing and shooting guns.
Where do you like to travel?
I love Paris, I’ve been there many times; I always say just put me there and let me walk in the streets, I’ll be happy. I’ve been to many places but some cities really take your heart. Alaa Arafa
Spain was really cool, so was Russia during the world cup. Russia has a fascinating mix of architecture. It feels as if you’re walking in multiple places around Europe like Amsterdam, Paris and Rome all in one place. Plus, they have their own unique heritage.
Would You Rather:
Go to the future or back to the past?
Would you choose to have unlimited money, power or time?
Be able to talk to animals or speak all languages?
Talk to animals so that I would understand what my dog Cleo is saying!
Have a pause or a rewind button?
Pause, so that I could pause certain moments to recollect my thoughts.
Be super smart or super popular?
Be stuck on an island completely alone or with someone who talks 24/7?
Read a very good book or watch a very good movie?
Watch a very good movie. I’m a very visual person, one of the reasons why I love cinema.
Would you prefer getting a present or money on your birthday?
To always be super late or super early?
I’m always early and everyone else is late so please have mercy on me!
What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
Hot or cold?
Coffee or tea?
Sweet or savory?
Sweet. No! Savory.
Live forever as an adult or forever as a kid?
Cake or biscuits?
Favorite and funniest accent?
Italian and Indian
Pizza or burger?
Pizza, a million times pizza
To have a boat or a plane?
To be Superman or Spiderman?
I’m already Superman!
Cook or have your food cooked for you?
Cook it myself
Lose your sight or your hearing?
Sight. Because if you lose your sight all the other senses will be sharper
Texting or calling?
Calling, I hate texting
English or Arabic
Would you propose in front of a huge crowd of people or in a very private setting?
It depends, but privately
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