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Waking up to watch Ashraf Hamdi on OTV has been like morning coffee for many housewives cuddling in their sofa’s to watch their favorite TV show with its charismatic presenter, but here is the even better news, Ashraf Hamdi’s upcoming plans are jam-packed with acting, scriptwriting and directing.
With a passion for music and dancing Hamdi landed a summer job in Hurghada in one of the hotel’s animation teams where he managed to work his way into directing and doing the choreographies of their shows. Being a dentist with a bigger passion for show business he juggled both for a while until he took the risk and turned his back on dentistry, “I put in comparison the most successful dentist in the world and the struggling actor and I chose the struggling actor”, Hamdi explains.
When OTV opened its operations Hamdi was casted and became one of the most prominent faces of OTV. With some short films in his reel and own scripts he is armed for what is to come. One of his roles that was in an independent film called Wingrave that became one of twenty best selling films on Amazon.com and has been officially on DVD in the U.S. in which he played a parapsychologist. Wingrave was written by Ahmed Khalifa in 2006 and was out in 2007. “It was independent, low budget, experimental yet perceived great feedback”, he comments, “The premiere of Wingrave was at the British Council. It gave me credits officially and placed me on imdb.com. In my show reel I did lots of characters that make me look more professional for producers to see me acting different characters and that validates my abilities to act different roles”.
Tell us what are you up to these days?
I’m done with a Ramadan TV serial with Yusra "Aard khas" and with Leila Elwi in “Hala wel Mestakhabi” it’s only 15 episodes and I acted in about 3 or 4 of them. I’m working on a movie after Ramadan with Mariam Abo Ouf the director. On OTV we changed and we will introduce new things in “Sabahak Sokar Zeyada” and we’re planning to do a sketch comedy show. I wrote a movie in collaboration with Dina Kouzman and it’s a Hefzy production but after the recession it has been postponed until next year. Last but not least, I’m preparing series that is going to be a TV hit I hope and will be filmed with international techniques, it’s like CSI called “Sharm”. It’s a mixture between action, comedy and drama and I’m the supervisor of the script, the producers are Tarek Fahmy and Mohamed Abdel Wahab, owners of Media Light Production who created successful shows like “Helhom Belhom” and “Darak”.
In your point of view, what are the major differences between Egyptian show business and filmmaking abroad?
The field in Egypt is more difficult than in other countries. Abroad, if you have a good show reel you could act easily but here in Egypt there are a lot of dilemmas and lots of sneaky techniques people use to get into showbiz. I’m following Matt Damon’s style, he used to write his movies and he offered to act his script and by this he came to light.
Being an international actor requires professionalism; would you play roles like gay, Jewish or terrorist?
I actually did a gay role on theatre at the British Council, and they wanted to do it without going to the obvious as people here act the obvious which is often a mimicking of a gay character. I didn’t want people to laugh about it as it’s not a comedy and it was well received. I may do a gay character but never nudity, and if a character of an Arab terrorist has dimensions I’ll go for it, but if the character was to bomb a plane and go home I would reject the role.
Which characters of your favorite movies you acted in your dreams?
“Atonement” was awarded a Golden Globe, the main character is my dream role I would love to do something like that, the character was in a journey and every actor likes to do a journey. The Fountain by Hugh Jackman in which he did 3 different characters would also be very interesting for me.
As a script writer, do you have a dream plot?
I hope that when I tell you this no one steals the idea (laughs); I want to do a movie on espionage. There is something about Egyptians which is if they mastered languages no one will stand in their way. I speak different languages which facilities my career. Raafat El Hagan was great work, but it would have been better if they didn’t speak Arabic and spoke Hebrew instead. I want to do an Egyptian movie like that, I’m working on it. I’m writing a film also on super heroes. This would be great in Egypt and also movies which race time like “Time to kill” and “24”. This season there is a downfall for movies because of the scripts and I don’t want anything like that.
Which film genre do you prefer?
All! I want to make the best comedy and receive an Oscar for a great drama. We are preparing a horror movie called “Lahzet Daaf” on ghosts as Egyptians prefer ghost stories. It’s like “The Ring”, a couple who lived abroad and came to Egypt and then the horror in their lives starts to burst. It is also produced by Media Light.
If there was an “Ashraf Hamdi Show”, what would it be like?
It would be a sketch comedy it is like the Dave Chapel show, in which he plays lots of characters in a cynical attitude each episode. I am preparing something like that at the moment.
Most of morning shows target women, so as a male presenter, how is it like working on something like that?
All mothers like me (laughs). Now, it is not only mothers anymore, based on the season we also have teenagers and youth in general watching our show, which we tackle in some segments. We thought that 12 pm would kill the program but we were wrong. We take calls from all over the Arab world, Iraq, Lebanon, Dubai, when lots of people call the show you realize how much you are being watched.
What do women want from media?
What women want from media is to feel emotionally satisfied. Why people liked “Nour” so much? It’s like every other TV series but for the first time a very neat production with nice homes, pretty actors and images. In our morning show, we make cooking easy, give women the chance to call in live and ask the expert on an opinion from the convenience of her own home, cover issues like relationships with guest hosts like Amy Mowafi and Mimi Gamal in “Al Osool” on Sabahak every Saturday.
What’s the future of your media career?
Filmmaking would be my career definitely if it worked out. I want to be an international actor. Omar El Sherif introduced Egyptian cinema to the world and I would love to try to walk in his shoes. It’s very difficult but if you have high hopes you could reach it.
What are you reading these days?
I just bought Chicago by Alaa El Aswany, I like The Yacoubian Building. I like sarcastic books like “Masr Laysat Omi Di Merat Aboya” (Egypt is not my mother, she is my stepmother!). I like Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist it influenced me a lot. I read opposition newspapers and I’m a fan of “Al Yom El Sabea” (Seventh Day Newspaper).
What’s on your iPod?
I like R’n’B, I recommend the new Black Eyed Peas album. I adore Justin Timberlake and have lots of his concerts at home. Ramy Sabry is the best singer these days in my opinion and I also like Mohamed Adaweya, Abd El Fatah El Gereny. I was in a Hip Hop group when I was little, it was called Black Moon and was the youngest group in clubs and venues I was thirteen and left it when I turned eighteen, we used to make choreographies and competitions it was a serious thing.