Smart, wild and handsome is this new young bundle of talent called Asser Yassin. With passion and dedication yet with utmost respect for his profession Asser rose like a phoenix from the ashes and captured our attention on the silver screen.
During his studies at AUC, majoring mechanical engineering, he discovered his devotion for acting by mere coincidence and became addicted shortly after his first play. “Actually, I never really had acting in my career path nor did I ever imagine it, I mean I was even too shy to audition and risk being in an embarrassing situation. Through a coincidence I got a small role in an AUC production by Mohamed Bitar and ever since I became addicted and no semester passed without me being in a play”, Asser explains.
Apart from an active theatre presence during his college years, Asser managed to engage and act in several short films. After graduating in 2003 acting should dwell to be his main aim and pursuit. In order to maintain close to what he likes most he worked as an assistant at AUC to combine earning a living with staying close to his first passion, the stage. Shortly he was casted by Khairy Bishara for the Ramadan TV series “Malh El Ard” which was his first professional experience. “I must say it was not a very pleasant experience, yet it taught me a lot about the industry and about persistence. It was not what I expected at all. I guess it was the transition coming from the bubble of AUC productions to the real industry; you’re losing your virginity somehow. They don’t really care where you come from or who you are, treating you like an extra not a new actor. But again it taught me a lot, if I didn’t have enough persistence this would have been the twist in my sobriety. Yet I took it as a challenge not to let this come between what I love doing. I also learned a lot from Khairy Bishara, we spoke a lot about cinema, acting, philosophy and culture, which helped me a lot in foreseeing what might happen later on”, he adds. Only when he got casted for “Qalb Habiba” (Habiba’s Heart TV series), “YacoubianBuilding” and “Halim” he started considering acting his fulltime occupation. Right along followed “Ala Ganb Yasta” (Pull Over Driver!), Sherif Arafa’s Egyptian version of ER “Lahazat Harega”, “Ehna Etabelna Abl Keda” (We met before) as well as “Al Gezira”. “My role in Halim was very small, whereas in “Lahazat Harega” he (Sherif Arafa) gave me a bigger role topped off by entrusting me with the role of the villain in “Al Gezira”. He constantly challenged me by giving me space to develop and contribute to my character. This trust gave me confidence yet a huge responsibly to meet his expectations. The fact alone that I was placed amongst calibers like Ahmed El Sakka, Hend Sabri, Basem Samra, Khaled El Sawi and of course Mahmoud Yassin is the biggest motivation ever to try to stand out and prove myself. It’s break it or make it! This was surely a turning point for me professionally and artistically. Based on that Waheed Hamed casted me for “El Waad” (The Promise), although it was screened way after “Zay El Naharda” Asser adds.
I like the way you pick your roles, they very diverse yet fit you like a second skin, what’s the pattern behind your choices?
“So far I did different genres and characters by that I discovered what my limitations are and at the same time present myself in different manners, to avoid being labeled in a certain category. I think that acting in general or what makes an actor successful are the choices he/she makes. It’s all about taking the right choice, a scheme; there are many actors who might not be as talented yet take very good decisions and vice versa. You have to consider all elements involved and measure it right based on yourself.”
Tell us about your latest release “El Waad” where you play the lead.
“I was quite scared from “El Waad” (The Promise), I found it was too soon for me to take the leading role in a film, especially that I was quite content with the roles I had played and the lead wasn’t my aim at that point. But with a great scriptwriter like Waheed Hamed, director Mohamed Yasin and Mahmoud Baraka as producer I just had to reshuffle my thoughts. It was a great challenge and my fear and respect towards a leading role was big as you have to captivate the audience until the end of the film, else it would be a failure. Thank God that on artistic, personal and commercial level the critique was quite satisfying. I am trying to develop and improve so I am also very thankful and receptive to constructive criticism and I am more interested to hear negatives to be able to overcome them rather sitting on my laurels. Overall “El Waad” did well as a film and of course moved me a step forward for leading roles. Now I have a bigger responsibility to make the right choices to maintain a certain standard. I don’t mind at all playing supporting roles as it is all about the type of role and the artistic value. I don’t want to make a step backward artistically or commercially and deliver less. For me this is not related to the size of production or the size of the role as much as it is related to the role itself and the production quality.”
It has been often said that you have the potential to be the next Ahmed Zaki, what do you say about that?
“Well, I am sane enough not to put myself into this challenge as I am not in the place at all to compete with a legend. I think it is very distracting I just want do a good job that’s all.”
Who are your favorite screen partners?
“I had great chemistry with Arwa, it was great working with her. We did a lot of characterization together for the film and had a very good communication level. Arwa is a great actress and it’s basically her first real experience and she did great. She had a very difficult role to play as well. It is so easy to fall into cliché or underplay it, so she did a great job. I also acted with Farah Youssef in short films such as “Beit min Lahm” (House of Flesh, by Ramy Abdul Jabbar) and “El Shaghala” (The Maid, by Heidi El Seman). Yara Gobran is a close friend and we did theatre together.”
Do you have any taboo roles?
“No. I don’t to limit myself at all. Again it’s all about choice.”
What’s your dream role or character?
“I don’t have one, again this is limiting somehow.”
Do you aspire to act abroad?
“At first when I started it was my aim but then it somehow faded into the background. I realized that if I want to succeed internationally I need a solid stand locally. I event tend more to be part of a local production with international standards, regardless of budget size, that is eligible for participation at acclaimed festivals. The essence is to maintain a standard of an international actor in quality and value.”
Which director would you like to work with?
“Luckily, I worked with most of them already. Dawood Abdel Sayed was one of my first aspirations and thank God I am working with him now on “Rasael el Bahr”. I like working with Sherif Arafa a lot and would also love to work with Mohamed Khan, Osama Fawzi and with Alejandro Amenábar (Chilean director, writer and composer).”
How do you handle the hype about you since “El Waad”? Did things change?
“I haven’t changed, I am still the same guy and I behave like I always did. I am a normal down to earth guy and the best thing is to remain close to family and friends as this helps maintaining normality and to stay on the ground. I am a very private person and don’t disclose my personal life, somehow you have to protect the people who are close to you as they did not sign up for this.”
What do you think of the current Egyptian cinema?
“I think it’s going ahead in terms of production capacities. In the past 10 years there was a process of acquiring experience by adapting different techniques from abroad without very much adapting it to local culture or industry factors, which can only result in an unharmonious outcome. I think this caused the core of the film, which is the script, to be a little bit neglected. If you have a great script, the film is bound to be good regardless. In the heyday of Egyptian cinema a script used to be mastered and fine tuned in two years, one for the scenario and another year for the dialogue. Now this process has boiled down to 4-6 months and is not even an original. Yet, very recently and I very much respect Mohamed Hefzy for that, this has changed. Hefzy is one of the few who opened a vent for many talented writers which diversify script writing thus film production. This is truly an asset to the industry and a refreshing change as well as a motivation for me. It’s like being part of a new movement aiming at doing new cinema true to its origin somehow without compromising.”
What are you looking forward to change in Egyptian cinema as a representative of your generation?
“There is this distinction or label of either being a complete commercial film or as they call it “Festival Films” with high artistic value. I would love to do the smart mix of commercial and artistic drama that combines entertainment with art and a good production value. Another aspect worth noting is that in Egyptwe have so many good ideas for script development, in contrasts to the western industry where most ideas have been exploited to the extent of adapting screenplays discussing different cultures and view points to generate new stories. Whereas we still have so many new ideas yet they are circumcised by censorship. Censorship in general limits art and the mind. In addition, some script writers customize their work on certain actors, which is also very limiting. So limitation after limitation you end up having a very traditional outcome assuming that this is what the audiences want. There is so much going on at the moment, horizons are widened and dynamics allowing a new generation of filmmakers and writers are moving faster and I am enthusiastic about the outcome as I believe it will be great.”
Do you know what women want?
“Stability, appreciation, respect and control at the same time. Each one in a different sequence and dosage but I guess that’s pretty much it. Regardless of the different roles played at certain points in life I believe that women are the core. The core of creation and reproduction, like nature and earth both are feminine not masculine. The man’s natural assigned role is to provide and protect. So regardless of the sequence of career or lifestyle at a certain point you go back to your own nature.”
What is your ultimate dream?
“I want to keep acting until I die. I want to go as far as I can. I want to have kids and moreover be a role model for my kids.”