From Viu’s new show Wadi El Jinn to Ahmed Ezz’s Ramadan TV series Hagma Mortada, young actor Youssef Othman is really showing his acting range by playing diverse roles.
We got to know this rising actor a bit more in a quick one-on-one and learned about his upcoming projects, including a Ramadan series.
By Aliaa Elsherbini
You seem to have had a very productive year so far, how do you manage such a busy schedule?
I really do not sleep. It is indeed a bit hard managing a busy schedule, but in the end, I feel like all the exhaustion from this job is momentary. After finishing multiple shoots, I feel like my time was consumed in something productive.
At first, I got scared when my work schedule was full and confusing. But now that it’s becoming normal, I have gotten used to it, and it brings me immense pleasure to be able to manage my time.
Do you carve out time for your personal life?
Unfortunately, in the past year and a half, I haven’t had time for a personal life. Ahmed Ezz’s Hagma Mortada, Mai Ezz El Din’s Khet Harir, and Wadi El Jinn were all scheduled to be filmed in early 2020 then when Corona hit, and productions were halted, I had time to stay at home and have a pause.
My social circle has really gotten small, especially before Ramadan, as we are finishing filming the series, I know I am not able to manage work and social obligations.
What do you have in the pipeline for Ramadan?
I am working on two TV series, Hagma Mortada with Ahmed Ezz, Hend Sabri, Khaled Anwar, Mayan El-Said, Ali Kandil, and Ahmed Radwan; directed by Ahmed Alaa.
The series has a truly amazing crew, and my role is very interesting as it reflects an important time of my life that I am proud of, the Egyptian revolution. I worked with the director Ahmed Alaa on capturing my personal experience with the revolution and bringing it to the character.
The other series is Dahab, with Zeina, Ahmed El Saadani, Sabrien, and Khaled Kamal, where I play the role of a biker called Sherbini who’s a gambler and a con. Both are very interesting roles and quite opposite to one another, yet I’m playing them at the same time.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on right now?
I just finished filming a TV series called Kol Hadouta Bab with a different story in each of the five episodes. It was a challenging role as we filmed the five episodes in only nine days.
I play a visually-impaired character; usually, these types of roles are written for older actors and rarely for young actors like myself, so the challenge was to master the role without coming across as inauthentic or unbelievable.
I worked a lot for that role, I did some field research to get to know the subject better. I only had three days to prepare for the role, so I did a lot of exercises with my eyes shut to concentrate on the body language.
I would even wear a blindfold for hours and go about my day around the house, make myself something to eat or drink just to get a grasp on the role and to stimulate my other senses since I wasn’t able to see. It took me until the third day of filming to get a grasp on the character.
What have been the standout experiences you have had while filming, and how have these contributed to developing your talent?
There were a lot of standout experiences, with some roles which I wished I had played better, even if the audience liked them. Since I started reworking again in 2013, I have learned a lot and gained new experience.
I have learned not just how to prepare for roles and how to study my lines, but also how to preserve my energy, manage my time, and work with stars and directors. It’s like having a toolbox that you keep on filling, and it gets better with time and by working with different directors on different projects.
I used to have an issue with learning my lines, but then I adopted the short-term memory technique while filming certain scenes, as we get a lot of new scenes on the spot while we are filming.
How do you approach preparing for a part?
I used to focus more on the exterior of the character, how he looks, his voice, body language, and facial expressions. I was approaching it more artificially and as a performance, which is not wrong, but I have learned that it cannot only be this way.
I took several acting workshops with Gerald James and Maria Hill, and now I am taking one with Ahmed Nadim and learning different techniques. I am working on how to be real and convincing. I started that method in 2017 and am gradually improving myself.
Who has been an important mentor or influence in your life and career?
I have a lot of influences, like Osama Fawzi, the director of Baheb El Cima, and the man who discovered me. My mom also has been a great influence in how she dealt with me growing up, especially when I was not acting from 2008 to 2013.
I love Karim Abdel Aziz and Marwan Hamid a lot, but I have never worked with them. Someone who I have worked with and admire is Mahmoud Hemeda because I realized how much impact he has had on my life. I would go to him for advice when I was not working.
How difficult is it to gain recognition as a young actor in Egypt?
It is circumstantial. But now, with social media, there is a channel between the audience and young talents. Some people have even started acting because of the recognition they have gotten on social media.
What was your big break?
Of course, Baheb El Cima since it was my first role, but also Nisr Al Saed with Mohamed Ramadan in 2018. People really liked my role in it, even though it was not a big one, and I took part starting episode 16.
I believe, however, that you break the glass ceiling of your big break several times throughout your career as you go through different phases. I feel that Wadi El Jinn can maybe be my big break. Or Warra Kol Bab that has already aired, can be my big break as I have received better feedback than I expected.
I do not believe in only one big break.
Romantic or pragmatist?
Pragmatist in everything in my life
Last movie you’ve watched?
It’s been a while since I’ve last watched a movie
Books on your reading list?
A lot of books, one of them is called How to Stop Acting
I am on a diet at the moment, but usually burgers. I am a big burger taster, any new place that opens I have to go and taste their burgers
Minimalist or classic décor style?
Minimalist in my life including my room, and car
Getaway holiday spot?
To stay at home.