Tue, 22 Sep 2020 - 11:08 GMT
File: Hassan Abouelrouss.
Egypt Today chatted with the multitalented entertainer to find more about how he prepared for the role, his path in advertising and music and his unexpected career shift from an architecture engineer.
Tell us about Zizo’s character. How did you prepare for it? Did you expect this huge success for the series and the character? And from your point of view, what was the secret behind the success of the series?
I prepared for this role, if we can say, in an interesting way. Nelly Karim nominated me to the veteran director Kamla Abu Zekry who tested me intensively. She gave me a one-page scene and asked me to add my input, ideas and thoughts to turn it into ten pages. She said, ‘I want creative people who improvise.’ Everybody knows how Kamla is strict, punctual, accurate and very serious at work. I wrote the scene on ten pages as she asked; and I performed an audition with Moody Shahine; and then, I got accepted and was cast in the role of Zizo.
To get more into Zizo’s character, I started to sit with real-life delivery men to find out how they react and speak, until I found a funny guy among them who used to rhyme all his words as if they are song lyrics. I befriended this guy and became close to him; he inspired me to make Zizo’s rhymes, and from this point came Zizo’s quote that I used to say in the series ‘Ana Zizo elly el-ashbah kolaha talamezo’ [I am Zizo and all ghosts are my students].
The series was my first cooperation with Nelly Karim and Kamla Abo Zekry and my second with Asser Yassin after Men Daher Ragel movie.
Was Zizo your first comic role?
I performed comic roles before in plays, short movies and in the series El-Amaleya Messy [Operation Messi].
You are a multitalented actor, singer, director and actor, which talent appeared first?
The first talent was singing, which started when I was in school. I was a member of the school troupe and I used to sing a new song each semester. Since I was a kid, I’ve been playing the oud, drums and rebab. I composed all my songs and I also used to act in school.
I started working as a director of TV ads because I studied theatre and cinema in Egypt and the US, so I applied what I studied to direct ads with a cinematic flavor. The ad for me was just like a 30-second short movie. I worked as an ad director for a long time because this was my main job. I worked for many huge advertising companies in Egypt, Dubai and received many awards. I directed a number of hugely successful ads like Ana Wad Kholasa lasa, which featured renowned Egyptian comedian Mohamed Henedy. I appeared in a scene in this ad; and it became a trend at that time on Instagram and Facebook. Then, I started to be somehow famous or in other words people started to know my face because this ad achieved booming success. People used to send messages to Orange on their official Facebook page and say ‘we want to know the account of the guy who was riding the motorcycle in the ad’, who was me.
Now, I have my own advertising company named ‘Mr X’, which produces ads and video clips that I direct. I directed video clips for famed Egyptian bands like Sharmoofers, Disco Masr, and performed a number of ads for big brands through my company.
You’re an actor, singer and director. Who comes first? And what do you focus on more nowadays?
I consider myself an entertainer, whether in front of the camera or behind it. My first priority is to make an entraining piece that people like and feel entertained while watching through any artistic medium of the ones you mentioned.
You took part in a number of international plays, tell us more about this experience.
I was a member of a theatrical troupe named El Warsha for seven years. El Warsha is a renowned Egyptian international troupe that has performed plays in different countries around the world. It was founded by the veteran Hassan El-Gretly; and a number of veteran Egyptian actors were members in this troupe, such as Sayed Ragab, Arfa Abdel Rasoul, Mohamed Henedy, Abla Kamel, among others.
I learned a lot from this rich experience. We used to have tough and extensive rehearsals for six or seven months then go on a tour around the word to show our plays. I participated with El Warsha troupe in the biggest theatrical festival in the world: Festival d’Avignon in Paris. We also used to roam different Egyptian governorates to perform our plays.
Hassan El-Gretly is considered a huge theatrical school. In order to play the role of a man from Upper Egypt, he sent me to stay with a family there for two weeks to learn their correct dialect. To take part in a play with El-Gretly, you have to memorize not only your role but all the other roles in the play. His plays include not just acting but also singing, dancing and narrative art.
Tell us more about your previous cinematic experiences.
I participated with the late great Mohamed Khan in Abel Zahmet Seif (Before Summer Crowd), El Ma’a w el Khodra w El Wageh el Hassan ( Water, Meadows and Lovely Faces) with Yousry Nasrallah, Men Daher Ragel ( Born to a Man) and Haz West el Balad. I participated as well in a number of short movies, such as Tameem and Fahim with Mahmoud Maged; and it was screened online.
Before participating in Abel Zahmet Seif with the great Khan, I did an audition and I was accepted. Then, one of Khan’s team members called me and asked if I knew how to ride motorcycles. At that time, I didn’t know how to ride but I lied and said yes; then, he told me to come to the North Coast the next day with my motorcycle to shoot a scene there. I told them I can’t travel with my motorcycle, so please get me one and they agreed. I went to one of my friends who owns a school for motorcycle training and asked him to train me to ride one; he said ‘This is impossible in one day’. I told him I have to and I will learn and I did it; and nobody there noticed that I was not professional in riding motorcycles, but later, I became professional and this helped me a lot whether in Orange ad with Henedy or in Zizo’s role in B100Wesh. Nelly Karim told me that the actor should have experiences in different fields and things because you will definitely use these experiences in the roles you will perform in the future.
You worked with big names, whether actors or directors. Who enriched your talent and helped you the most?
Of course Hassan El-Gretly, and Kamla Abo Zekry as well. I learned a lot from her; and she gave me a really good opportunity through Zizo’s character. The great Nelly Karim helped me a lot, Asser Yassin, Islam Ibrahim, and Reham Haggag whom I worked with on the TV series Carmen. Also, Cairokee band star Amir Eid supports me a lot; and Egyptian producer Begad Omran believed in me as a singer and produced my songs.
What do you consider the milestones in your career as a singer and as an actor?
As a singer, of course, Ya Negm Ya Star which I recorded for the Egyptian legendary football player Mohamed Salah; it went viral in a short period of time. I received a lot of awards for this song, such as the best music video in 2018; and it was considered one of the best songs made for Salah. As for acting, [I would say] definitely Zizo’s role in B100 Wesh.
What are your upcoming projects?
I am currently preparing for a new song with Amir Eid. I love Eid so much on both the personal and the professional levels; I am one of his fans and he encourages me a lot. I have a song that I will make with El-Madfa’agia. When Eid heard it, he said he wanted to join us in and to sing a verse to encourage me and make the song more popular.
How do you work on enhancing your talent?
I took three workshops with Luke Leiner and Khaled Diab. I took a number of workshops in the US, mainly studying theater.
Your father is an architect and you initially studied architecture. Did he oppose you working as an entertainer?
At the beginning yes, he wanted me to work as an architect but later he became so proud of me after he saw the steps I have taken in the artistic field. My mother always supported me because she used to play piano; and our relative is the veteran director Hossam El-Din Mostafa, so her family was an artistic one.