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Meeting Manal

Giving her first interview with an Egyptian or Arab media outlet, Code Red star Manal Al-Feitury speaks with Egypt Today about her rise to fame
By Sherif Awad

It’s not easy getting a break in the acting industry. Just ask Manal Al-Feitury who has taken on jobs as a singer, model, dancer, teacher, studio instructor, therapist, sports masseuse and waitress before landing an acting role. But even while starring in a feature film, the aspiring actress has no time to rest, dancing at festivals, dressing as a policewoman for a bar promotion in Shoreditch and modeling jewelry and swimwear in Jamaica.

Born to a Libyan father and a British mother brought up in Pakistan, Al-Feitury has lived in London all her life. She attended The King Fahad Academy then went on to specialize in applied behavior analysis of children with learning difficulties. But at the age of twenty-four, she changed careers and stepped into the entertainment business, landing a handful of performances in London’s West End. Her previous credits include the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, My Family, Hooked, Big Bruvva The Musical and The Blues Brothers.

“I started my acting training at the London School of Musical Theatre,” explains Al-Feitury. “By studying dance and vocals in addition to acting, I managed to perfect an ability to adapt to any role or situation. I used to love belly-dancing when I was a child but to perform professionally is another story. I was lucky enough to get cast in an American sci-fi horror film called Code Red that became my film debut.

Code Red, which was released last year and in which she played Ana Bennett, a NATO doctor who tries to save herself and her daughter Miriam (Mya-Lecia Naylor) after a nerve gas attack in Bulgaria, garnered Al-Feitury critical acclaim. Shooting went on location for eight weeks although it was a low-budget thriller without an A-list star. The film crew makeup artists were those who worked on the award-winning The Life of Pi and were tasked with transforming the actors playing people afflicted by the nerve gas into zombies.

But it was a stroke of luck that landed Al-Feitury the role in the first place. “They first cast Mya as the daughter then needed to look for an actress who looked like her in order to play her mother,” says Al-Feitury. “I guess Mya was my angel: because of her I got the role of her mum. Later I developed a strong on-set bond with her, perhaps because of my extensive experience with children as I also often worked for charities teaching performance and confidence building skills to disadvantaged minors.”

While Code Red went straight to video in some countries, it got a cinematic release in a few Arab countries like the UAE and Kuwait. “I got many Arab fans writing to me through my website when they watched Code Red in Dubai and Kuwait,” shares Al-Feitury. “It was so nice to be recognized across the Arab world and by your own people.”

Speaking of her brief nude scene in the movie, which was censored on Arab screens, Al-Feitury says, “I know about all cultures and religions and I think spirituality comes down to each individual. I believe you can’t judge somebody for his sins just because they make something you don’t like. I also don’t have a problem with my body or sexuality as woman because it is everything I am every day… and also I am an actress.”

Although her first love was the stage, Al-Feitury is looking forward to making more films. “[Perhaps] I’ll move to the US to make it big in Hollywood.”

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