A man of diverse talents has captured the hearts of Egyptians this year as Hatem in the Ramadan Series Taht El Saytara. His talent as an actor has been appreciated before that in Hollywood, and now that he’s had his debut leading role, it’s being appreciated here as well. Dhafer L’Abidine is as captivating as his true self as his roles suggest. We sat down to talk about his career, aspirations and life.
You’ve started out as a soccer player, you’ve done Hollywood movies, American series, Egyptian series and even some videogame voiceover. What do you consider a challenge now?
Challenges are always there. Every job is a challenge. It doesn’t matter how small or big the role is, it doesn’t matter the language or the accent, the audience needs to believe that you are the character they are watching. Voice over and video games need a different technique as you are building a character through your voice alone, but the objective is still the same.
What are the differences between seeking an acting career in Egypt/The Middle East and in the US?
They both have big TV and film industries. There are differences in how the industries are structured, but what you need to succeed in either of them is perseverance. You have to keep working hard and try to improve yourself and wait for your opportunity.
You’re working on a project with Tom Hanks, tell us about that.
I’m only present in a couple of scenes but still it is a great honor and experience to be acting in a scene with Tom Hanks and to see how he approaches his work. Tom Hanks is a very talented, very professional and very humble actor, an inspiration.
I’m happy that the audience reacted that way to the relationship of Hatem and Mariam
Women have been saying Hatem is an ideal partner during the first week of Ramadan, then as the relationship changed, their opinions changed. How have you felt about the sudden admiration and then disappointment?
As an actor you do your best to be true to the character and his journey in the story. The change of the audience’s opinion in Hatem was right as his attitude changed. I’m happy that the audience reacted that way to the relationship of Hatem and Mariam. It means they believed the characters and their journey in the story.
Has this experience given you a closer look at drug addiction? And do you think the series could help people better understand what it’s like?
Yes the experience helped me understand drug addiction better and its effects on the addict and his entourage. It think the director and the writer did an amazing job at creating a series that is entertaining and at the same time educates people about a very important disease which is drug addiction.
I think a lot of people are addicted to Social Media
Addiction is not always to drugs. Your character’s second wife is addicted to plastic surgery. Do you think people need more awareness regarding that?
Yes, addiction is not always to drugs. It could be to anything… smoking, drinking, food, Shopping… etc. Any addiction could hurt. The idea is to have a balanced life and stir away from all excessive behavior.
At this day and age, what are people most addicted to?
I think a lot of people are addicted to Social Media. Social Media can make you forget that relationships and friendships are better and healthier when people actually meet each other.
There are a lot of female actresses trying to break out of their “pretty” shell. Does it work like that for men too? Do you feel like your looks might get in the way of you being taken seriously as an actor?
I think it is a problem that actresses or actors could face and they need to work hard to get away from it. The main thing is try to choose roles that are different and challenging. If an actor or an actress is talented the audience will see that. Perseverance is key.
What are your expectations for the next 5 years?
I’m happy with how things are going on a personal level and on a professional level and hopefully that continues.
It was a great experience to be involved in such a high profile film and to work with the four SATC ladies
Was working on Sex and the City different from Middle Eastern productions?
It was a great experience to be involved in such a high profile film and to work with the four SATC ladies. I have nice memories of the experience and the cast were wonderful on both personal and professional levels.
How was it like to work on a movie that has such a strong female following?
Sex and city is a cult series with a huge following all over the world. I tried to not think about that when I was filming. I just focused on the acting side. It is enough pressure to be with working with such brilliant actresses.
Do you know what women want?
To be happy.
Photography by: 35mm Creative Studios
Styled by: Farah Hanna
Hair by: Mahmoud Farouk