On the 4th of May 1986, 10:00 AM to be exact, an artistic little boy was born soul-searching; what he later found wasn’t one path to follow but rather many. With an Egyptian filmmaker as a father and an Algerian French-teacher as mother, his background was quite diversifying. “Growing up, I was basically lost. I started knowing what I wanted to do with my life when I figured out what my tools and talents are. I realized that I am an artist, so I decided to express myself through different types of arts,” Ahmed Magdy tells.
However, the road wasn’t initially paved for his plan. “I received my first rejection from the High Cinema Institute, and because of my score, I couldn’t get into my second preference, the literature section, either. Eventually I studied law but have never considered working in that field. Whilst in college, I pursued my artistic career anyway and became part of the Al-Tamii theater group for three years. We played a lot of shows in culture centers and independent theaters, which helped to develop me as an actor and filmmaker. And so, the blurry picture was no longer blurry, because this was who I wanted to be,” he explains.
On the film industry:
Magdy’s journey within the film industry has been quite the ride up until now. He has been an actor, a writer, a producer, the editor and the director behind some of his low budget movies. Yes, he really knows it all! “There is a difference between an artist and a performer. When I limit my job to mere performance, I become physically ill. That’s why with acting, I am specific with my choices. Even when I play villains, it’s because I see something humanistic in them. My character, Ibrahim, in the Albyot Asra TV series for example, was an illegal trader not because he was evil, but because he was lost, and this right there is an idea,” he explains.
Some of the many faces Magdy has put on have required strenuous preparations behind the scenes. “To prepare for the character Eleish in Al-Da’eya TV series, I used to try and stimulate the animalistic side of me. I had a friend who is a hypnotherapist, he had me remember a moment when I was violent so that I could anchor this feeling and perfect the role,” he reveals.
Magdy’s first award-winning performance was in the Ser Alany TV Series, yet his view on this role is rather more critical, “I wasn’t extremely convinced with this role. I was young, I had just started my career as an actor and it was my first time having 250 scenes. I was struggling to find a way to express myself. Sometimes I would get physically ill and words won’t even come out, but I trained myself later that it was okay and that this was my job.”
As big fans of his latest movie Mawlana, we had to ask about his starring role in it and how it was to work in a movie directed by his own father. “I play Hassan, he’s a member of the ruling family (Al-Mubarak). To generate some noise, he decides to convert to Christianity, but they bring in the preacher Amr Saad to convince him otherwise through debate. For me, Magdy Ahmed Ali and Ibrahim Eissa are two fighters against extremism. On set, Magdy Ahmed Ali isn’t my father, he is the director. Of course, he represents a safety layer for me, given that I am working with someone I know on a personal level. On the other hand however, it was also very challenging because I didn’t really know him as a director, and so I was discovering this side of him. He has got enough wisdom within him to twist a scene with one word. He’d tell me one word that would turn my performance around, wake me up, develop me, and upgrade my acting,” Ahmed comments.
This young actor has proven able to adjust to all sorts of challenges. He made up half of the slogans and quotes for his character in Al-Khorog TV series, and he acted his role in Napoleon Wel Mahrousa fully in French. “I graduated from a French school and I have a good accent, so it wasn’t difficult but rather unique,” he assures. And on the movie Ali the goat and Ibrahim, Magdy had a lot to say. “Ibrahim loves music and he is very good at it, but has tinnitus disease. He hears sounds, noises. He doesn’t see this as a disease but rather a curse and so he tries to find his way through. The character is a quiet dreamer deeply concerned with art. That is something he and I have in common.”
You never know what Magdy’s next role will be, but we do know he wants to play Moses. Why he thinks he’d be good at it is a question that popped into our curious minds. “I don’t think I’d be good at it, I just want to do it because I liked Freud’s view of Moses. I also liked Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses, it’s very powerful. I don’t like the soft Disney image of Moses. I prefer this powerful image to represent someone who would climb a mountain to speak to God,” he explains.
This free-spirited artist’s passion for the behind scene roles is just as evident. “There is something special about each role. Writing is about freeing ideas, characters and events. Editing is rediscovering the greatest potential in your material through your own eyes and perspective. Directing is creating a staged scene that could feel true or fake, depending on you. It’s magic. And producing, for me, I like to invest in low budget film as an intellectual idea to discover young talents,” he reveals.
Magdy was first introduced to Yoga in preparation for the character Eleish in ElDa’eya TV series. “I had begun to practice Kung Fu with my Kung Fu master-friend Taha because I wanted to be fit and big as quickly as possible. Taha strongly encouraged me to eat meat despite the fact that I was actually a vegan. It was incredibly hard,” complains Magdy who had become a vegan back in 2008, believing that consuming meat is not good for us or for the Earth. “One day I told him I won’t be eating meat anymore. It took me months though to re-quit meat after that. I was afraid to lose weight again, but I came to terms with the idea, later realizing that a lot of the body builders don’t even eat meat. There is a difference between being vegetarian and vegan, I don’t eat chips or drink Pepsi for example, but it is not that hard to be a vegan. You learn with time, I have started discovering what I can cook and that I could ask a lot of people for recipes,” he says.
By the time he quit meat, Magdy had told his master that he wouldn’t be practicing Kung Fu either. “I said I didn’t want to be a fighter, I wanted to find protection in a subtler way and I wanted to find the root of Kung Fu which is Yoga. I always seek to be as abstract and simple as possible,” he explains. As a simplicity-seeker, does Magdy avoid materialism in regards to possessions? “A little bit. I like my car, and of course I want to have a BMW. I need to get married, and I need to have an apartment. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t got rid of a lot. I was addicted to a lot of things; starting from girls and ending with drugs. I have been battling with it for years and Yoga has definitely paved the way.”
Having only recently taken up Yoga Instructing, Magdy said he wasn’t ready to talk about that aspect of his life, yet that didn’t stop him from turning our office into a fun Yoga class. Apparently, we all breathe the wrong way! “You can fix your life through Yoga. When you practice Yoga or Asana (body positions), you connect your body and mind with the universal geometry. If, for example, you breathe right and sit straight, you adjust your antenna. When you start doing this everything is on the right track, your health, mental status, everything. Yoga won’t help you lose weight, but it will help you on many deeper levels, so when you get there, weight won’t be the issue anymore and you will lose it. You can’t access who you are without combining the physical and the mental,” he elaborates.
Ahmed, who turned to Yoga for protection, found it. “When you are walking in the street, you can be very vulnerable, someone could hit into you, but sometimes when you practice Yoga, you become fully aware, and fully present, you are stronger. It’s how you are rooted, confident and sure. It makes you protected and heard because your actions are coming from who you are, not who you think you are or who you want to be. You may find some Yoga poses helpful, like for example the Tree pose, is how you root yourself.”
It seems as though Magdy’s different facets cease to end! This phone-photographer has 77.9K followers on Instagram, a wide fan-base responsive to his art, and the most popular green table nation-wide. “I just try to document a beautiful moment when I see it. I don’t keep documenting for the sake of being there, to do that becomes unhealthy,” he says, describing his art as “abstract” and “sometimes symmetric”. And of course we had to ask about his green table, “It was my father’s. It is very old. I like it a lot, now it’s my dining table, my office, I do everything on it. So, I take a lot of pictures of it.”
“I first started playing guitar at age 15, but I later gave up on it because I thought I wasn’t talented. To break this idea, I started playing again and again,” he says. Guitar is only one instrument from a long list of rather extraordinary musical instruments that Magdy plays, “I have the udu drum, and the didgeridoo. As I said before, I like to be as simple as possible and I like to find the root. When I was part of the Al Tamii theatre group I used to sing in a choir. I enjoy music, but I don’t professionally practice it. I am not that good, I wish I were more gifted. Despite that, I do believe every human being should play music and have instruments. It is very healthy.” he argues.
On Personal rituals
“Each morning I wake up to Yoga, then I have breakfast and I go on with my routine. I don’t have free time” he claims, justifying that when he is not working, he is also working. “I climb St. Catherine and I fast for days. It’s very healthy for the immune system, for detoxing, and resting your body. It’s a personal path. It is just good to listen to the silence.”
Follow Ahmed Magdy on Instagram @ahmedmagdy86