File- Amir Karara.
CAIRO - 26 March 2020: I think this might be one of the hardest interview intros that I’ve written in my life, not just because he is one of the most disntiguished actors today, but because he is a superhero in every sense of the word. For the past two years he’s been our favorite Ramadan character, the indestructible Selim El-Ansary, and standing on the set of Kalabsh 3 it’s almost impossible to contain my excitement at meeting with Amir Karara. Karara’s brilliant portrayal of the noble police officer combating injustice and fighting evil has convinced his millions of fans of all ages that superheroes can exist in today’s world. El-Ansary has become a supernatural hero who will never die, and I must admit that ahead of the interview I was worried that notion would be shattered when I met with the real Karara.
I couldn’t have been more wrong—by the end of the brief interview I discovered that the secret of Karara’s success lies in that he has a lot in common with his onscreen persona. I sat down with him for a behind-the-scene chat with Karara about the hit series, his latest movie Casablanca and the secrets of his success.
1- What was the different thing in Kalabsh 3 .that wasn't in the previous two parts
We’ve taken Kalabsh 3 on a completely different path than that of the other two. Part 1’s main theme was that Selim El-Ansary was subjected to injustice, he was fired from his job and was forced to go on the run most of the time. In part 2 we played on the revenge theme because they killed his wife and sister. In part 3 we will play on the
exploitation theme as they want to pressure him into performing illegal actions, so they poisoned his son, pestering him to resign from the Ministry of Interior so he could harm Egypt. The thing about Kalabsh is that it has become a brand. There are different actors and actresses in each season—only the veteran actress Hala Fakher is in all the
parts—to pump in new blood so that the audience doesn’t get bored. Every part features a new story as if you are watching a new series; we only take Selim El-Ansary and insert him in a new story. Kalabsh 3 features a notable cast including Hisham Selim, Ahmed Abdelaziz, Ahmed el Awady and Yousra el Louzy among others. We have a large number of stars who will appear in a new way in this season which is more
drama than action.
2- Do you prefer long-running series?
I am if all the seasons are successful,but I am against it if the drama cannot be carried across different seasons. It is not wrong to exploit the success of a series, we did that in Kalabsh, but the point is how to exploit that success and while not harming the show. We preserved Kalabsh’s success, developed and grew it. If we reach a point where we are at just the same level of success we will not move on with a new part. We want each part to be more successful than the previous one. Internationally there are very successful multiple-part series like Game of Thrones that millions around the world watch. As long as you are doing well and the audience are amused while watching your series, then by all means perform more parts.
3- Are there plans for Kalabsh 4 next year?
There is another plan for Kalbesh , but I don’t have the right to reveal it now, but it will be something very innovative.
4- Why has Selim El-Ansary’s character become so popular? Is the audience looking for a hero or role model to gather around?
That’s a good theory (he laughs), but frankly speaking I don’t know, I swear I don’t know, I am amazed by the huge success. When I meet people I am astonished at how people see Selim El-Ansary, people truly love him from the bottom of their hearts. He is one of them, they sympathize with him and see that he is a true gentleman who is
ready to help others. It’s very rare that the main character in a series succeeds more than the series itself; Selim ElAnsary is more famous than Kalabsh! He’s even become
popular among kids who think I am not a real person, they think I am a legendary character like The Avengers (he laughs). Even when El-Ansary is shot and doesn’t die,
they accept that fact and don’t see any kind of exaggeration, because they don’t want him to die. From their point of view Selim El-Ansary can’t die . . . he has to live forever
like the superheroes.
5-Did the Ministry of Interior interfere in the plot?
The Ministry of Interior didn’t interfere in the series, because the series is not a purely detective one. It tells the story of a police officer and goes into his personal life,
and it doesn’t contain any politically sensitive incidents. The Ministry of Interior supported us, for example we ask for their opinion pertaining to the kinds of weapons used in the series, they provided us with information about the transfers inside the
ministry. The ministry was very cooperative and gave us all the general data we needed to ensure the series’ credibility. The Ministry of Interior really admire the series because Kalabsh highlights the true image of the good and honest police officer. Some people regard police officers as people who abuse their powers, but this is totally both unfair and wrong because a police officer’s job is like all other profession—there are good people and bad ones. Unfortunately, before Kalabsh much of the drama portrayed police officers as corrupt. I didn’t like that, because they are our Egyptian security forces who protect us, so we should shed light on good examples, not just focus on bad examples. That’s what we did in Kalabsh 1; we have Selim El-Ansary and on the other hand we have a corrupt police officer and constable, so we didn’t say that they are all good, we were objective and presented both good and bad examples. The promo of Casablanca amassed 1 million views within three hours of its release, a record in the history of Egyptian cinema. Tell us more about Casablanca experience.
In all honesty I’m really not sure. The promo is really well executed, but all the huge success was unexplainable for me. I told Casablanca’s director, the great talented Peter Mimi, that I didn’t think the promo got all these views because we are clever, but because we are kind, I swear.
6-More likely your popularity and charisma?
Charisma is a gift from God, but not just my charisma, it is all the cast’s charisma—the director, the scriptwriter, the director of photography, the producer and the rest of the
cast. Yesterday I checked the comments people left below the promo, I really thanked God because I didn’t see even a single negative comment, most people expected Casablanca to be a great movie and said they would watch it. Casablanca is a different type of action movie because it is shot across different cities such as Marrakech, Casablanca, Safaga and Alexandria, so you will see different pictures on screen. You will see some Alexandrian men that you will fall in love with despite them being pirates as they have a touch of humanity. The hero wants to free his kidnapped brother, and together they form a totally different and new composition. The movie also has a light comedy line. When the audience saw the promo they said that Casablanca doesn’t look like normal Egyptian movies, because it was executed with the latest cinematic techniques. The whole cast exerted great effort in this movie to get this result.
7-In Harb Karmooz, Casablanca and also Taht El-Ard (Underground) you worked with acclaimed international actors like Scott Adkins (aka Boyka), Halit Ergenc and Songul Oden. Tell us more about your experience working with these international actors. Do you feel such participation enriches the works?
Definitely. This kind of cooperation enriches the movie or the series because when you watch and see a group of stars performing together you become excited to watch,
then why don’t we open the door for such fruitful cooperation? For example we become so proud if one of our filmmakers participated in an international movie, we are happy to see an Egyptian working in the international cinema industry, then what is the problem to invite these stars here to work with us in our Egyptian cinema? Boyka is worldwide action star with a great repertoire. In his latest film he worked with Silvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Lee—when a big star like that comes to work with you in your movie as a guest, this means that you are doing well and that we are big, and that Egyptian cinema is really great. Halit Ergenc is one of the best actors that I have worked with in my entire life, he is a wonderful, respectable and cooperative actor, he loves the cast and the movie, really an exceptional artist, I really enjoyed working with him. We chose Ergenc also because of his wide popularity, Egyptian audiences admire Ergenc because of his great role performing Sultan Suleiman in the successful Turkish series Hareem El-Sultan (The Sultan’s Harem), so when people saw us together in the Casablanca promo they were excited to watch the movie.
It was the same with Songul Oden in Taht El-Ard. She became very popular in the Egyptian and the Arab world after playing Nour role the successful Turkish series bearing the same name. I love this kind of cooperation because it adds glow to the movie or the series plus I am not a oneman-show actor. I love to work with big names and stars, I don’t insist on being the main star of the show, I just want to present good movies and series that people love and at the end they say who was the best and who was the star.
8- Some see that the role of TV or cinema is to portray reality as it is, with all its negative aspects; others argue that drama should provide audiences with principles, role models and positive example—much like Selim El-Ansary in Kalabsh. Which do you believe is the real purpose?
There was a time when cinema focused only on the bullying, drugs, rape, sexual harassment and slums. It provided the audience with a concentrated dose of all these negative aspects of society and that was a problem. If we were presenting both types in a balanced way we wouldn’t have such a problem, because cinema or TV drama means diversity, mirror society and so should convey both the good and the bad, not only in separate movies or series but in the same work. We should have both good and bad examples, like Kalabsh as I stated earlier. I personally have never watched any of these movies that tackled purely all the negative aspects, because I don’t like this school of cinema. I like a movie that I can watch with my wife and kids, why should my kids see movies that tackle only negativities? Harb Karmooz was a respectable movie that people of all ages enjoyed watching. It didn’t have any cheap scenes and carried
a good message. Casablanca is the same. We made Casablanca following international standards, so much so that everyone felt from the promo that it was a Hollywood movie. We were keen to shoot in many cities to provide the audience with good and diverse scenes, we’re talking about four pirates who stole a car from the port, but you will see also that they were punished, one of them was jailed, the other’s brother was kidnapped. Yet despite being criminals they have good characteristics, so the world is not always black. My exact answer to your question is that during a certain period some movies conveyed all our negativities without providing a single good example, but if we highlight the good examples and present beside them the bad ones—but without exaggeration—then this will be the exact role of cinema and drama.
9-Do you believe there is good and bad in everything?
I am annoyed when just a bad side is presented. It’s OK to present a negative character but let’s also add a twist to this character to see how his/her problem or negativity will be solved—not decide that there’s no hop and that’s it. I am one of the millions of Egyptians who love this country, I get really annoyed if someone criticizes Egypt and the Egyptians, I get angry when we write negative things on facebook about ourselves and our country then people abroad read that we criticize and attack our country and our president, badmouthing and making fun of him, mocking our actors. This really is a
shame, what we write with our hands really disgraces us; we are supposed to refute all the bad things written about us not write them with our hands and blemish our reputation. I love to see the positive side of each story.
10-What type of movie or series do you enjoy working on the most?
I don’t have a favorite genre; if you watch Kalabsh you’ll find social, drama, action and light comedy lines. Casablanca is the same,you will see drama, action, suspense and comedy plots presented by Amr Abdel Gelil. I love to work in a comprehensive movie or series that contains everything, multiple plotlines, not a purely action movie without a comedy or social theme. Today at my current age and physical strength I can perform action movies, run, fight, but for example after 10 years I might not be able to perform such scenes so I may shift to romantic or social movies and series.
11-Which three words would you choose to describe Amir Karara
The first word is that Amir Karara is a father, spending my time with Selim, Laila and Nelly really is worth the world to me. I have to mention them with that order because Selim is the eldest and he gets angry if I didn’t mention him first (he laughs). The second adjective is ambitious, the third is patient. I had a dream and target that I worked hard to fulfil and I am satisfied with what I have achieved till now. I started from below the zero point, and gradually made good steps with God’s blessing. That’s why 99 percent of what I’ve achieved is God’s generosity and only one percent is my own planning.
12-What are your weak spots? What do you dislike about your character?
My kids, I am obsessed with them, they are literally my life, if you ask me to prioritize my life roles, I will say number one I am a father. What I dislike is that I am incapable of
thinking about myself or even looking at Amir and seeing what he wants for himself. I dedicate my whole life to my
work, wife, kids and people working with me. Amir always forgets himself, sometimes I want to take break, enjoy my success, be happy with what I have achieved or do something for myself, but find that I am incapable of doing this. Even when I go shopping I find myself always buying stuff for my kids instead of myself.
13-To what extent have your good looks helped your career?
I don’t see myself as handsome at all by the way (he laughs) but good looks can’t help an actor if he is not talented. The biggest stars in Egypt and the world are not handsome, it is all about the talent and the charisma.
14-In general what attracts you in women? What attracted you in your wife?
The woman for me is the supportive, strong, courteous one who stands behind her husband and helps him, the wife that pleases her husband and makes him happy so he can concentrate in his work, so that he can succeed and make her life and that of the kids a happy in return, so that he can secure a good future for them. It is a cycle and the
woman is the key to this cycle. What attracted me to Hend is that she has all of that.
15-How has stardom changed you?
It’s changed nothing in my character. Deep inside I am still that humble Egyptian guy, but it added responsibilities on my shoulders to work harder to please people and meet
16-Which roles have been milestones for you?
I’ll tell you something that I’ve never said before: Amir Karara’s career started with Kalabsh 1. I don’t remember anything before this series and I don’t want to remember.
What people don’t know is that I was about to stop acting before part one. I was depressed and frustrated and decided to leave this career and when I started working on it I said it might be the last series. But after only three episodes, Kalabsh was booming all over the Arab world. The credit goes to Synergy Company headed by the creative producer Tamer Mursi, the company manager Hossam Shawky, the artistic producer of Kalabsh, Casablanca and my upcoming movie Fathy Ismail, and definitely the director Peter Mimi. I’ve never dreamed of even a fraction of this success. People
in media circles told me before Kalabesh 1 that they were talking about Ramadan stars who would win the race and they never even mentioned me or Yasser Galal, but because of God’s will, Kalabesh and Zel El-Rais (The President’s Shadow) achieved booming success. I can say that my main milestones are the three parts of Kalabsh, Harb Karmooz and also Horoub Edterary (Forced Escape) with Ahmed
17-You formed a trio with famed producer Tamer Mursi and director Peter Mimi. Tell us more about the harmony between three of you.
We collaborated on the three parts of Kalabsh, Harb Karmooz and Casablanca. We know how to work with each other, there is a great harmony and chemistry between all
the cast members. Together we know how to make a good dramatic composition. This is the first time that we’re announcing that we are currently preparing for '' El Ekteyar'' series which is expected to be screened in Ramadan.