Ahmed Magdy is quite the artistic guy. He’s the kind of person who inspires you by how he does everything with passion; starting from acting and all the way to yoga instruction, playing music, and taking pictures of ‘his green table’. Till this moment Magdy is still not the actor we’d see every day on our TV screens –even though we all wish to- but his smart choices are sure one of the main reasons behind his success.
Did being born into a family that’s into the cinema industry push you to join cinema school and start acting?
I’ve never started acting. It has always just happened. Back when I was young I used to go with my dad to locations, I’ve always loved that world. One time I went with him while shooting a movie called Hekayat El Ghareeb which was starred by Mohamed Mounir, I remember my dad just threw me in front of the camera on one of scenes and Mounir just held me as I kept crying. Real acting happened in the school’s theater which was followed by the next step for me: the movie Asrar El Banat, I was only 14 back then and my whole role was only one scene. Up until this moment I had no idea what I’ll do with my life, but I’ve always wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps. It was very vague who I am and what I’ll be doing in the future. It then hit me that I want to go into filmmaking, I started making my first short movie when I was 20 or maybe even 19. From that I went to cinema school and I finally started making friends at that point of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever found anyone who’s interested in the same world I was interested in up until this point.
We’ve noticed that every role you do is extraordinary, we’ve seen you as a psychiatrist serial killer, a poet, the hopeless romantic, and each and every one of those roles is always significant. How do you choose your roles?
I consider myself lucky. The fact that I get offers means I’m lucky, there are lots of people who are very talented and they don’t get the chance to show it, that makes me feel that I’m blessed. I try as much as possible to never repeat a role twice. And most importantly I put lots of effort and consideration in choosing who I work with, maybe even more than what I actually do; the whole team is what makes a project successful.
Speaking of smart role choices, what attracted you towards doing Hassan in Mawlana?
I’ve always wanted to do things differently when it came to cinema, I did so more than once and most recently in The Gate of Departure, Ali the Goat and Ibrahim, and Mawlana. Hassan in Mawlana is different, he’s a one of the ruling family seeking to make some noise by trying to convert to Christianity, a matter which was never tackled that deeply in the Egyptian cinema before.
The problem with Al-Ahd is that we have to stick to the same producers that produced season one which did cost them a fortune; even though it succeeded, but it didn’t reach what was expected. Also, gathering that number of stars again would be a very difficult mission. Moreover, I believe that Mohamed Amin Rady himself is so eager to discover and make up new stories, however, I believe he’ll be ready if the producer showed any interest in season 2 of Al-Ahd.
You’ve been through lots of hard events and obstacles that would normally hold people back, and you totally got over it, you’re successful now! Do you believe that getting over these hinders is easy business for everyone?
I believe that it’s not the simplest thing to do, but I learnt how to use my experiences good or bad as energy to push myself as far as possible. And lately, I started believing that everyone has energy buried deep within them, this energy is just like the sun; it has no dark side, it’s always shining and growing, and every experience you go through will make it shine brighter. It’s the norm to move forward and to grow more with every experience; good or bad. Think of it as fire, you don’t have to throw roses in it to make you warm, you can throw trash and it will grow just fine. Same thing applies to us, your bad experiences will make you shine brighter.
If you could sum up what’s wrong with the Egyptian cinema industry, why are the majority of the movies going towards one theme with almost the same plot?
I think this is happening everywhere, if you focus on Hollywood movies you’ll find even worse plots. It’s almost always a hero who chases a bad guy to save the girl. Mainstream is always shit. People who do art have to fight a battle to bring their art to the light, maybe because of their different views. I believe that that’s the normal, as long as you recreate a stereotype, you’ll be welcomed. And it’s okay, that’s the case because mainly cinema is considered a business in the end of the day. Yet, you should just embrace and support art when you see it.
Does fame bother you?
Not much. There’s always some kind of craze after Ramadan or any project or movie I work on, but then the wave goes by. What actually worries me is invading my privacy, that thing I can’t tolerate.
What pushed you towards being a Yoga instructor? How did it all start?
It all started with me trying to find the truth, I’ve always tried to find the answers to who I am, why I’m here, and what should I do with this life. I kept digging for answers everywhere until I found Yoga. I started learning from YouTube videos and it changed my life. I felt so peaceful, happy, and blessed, and I thanked God and thought that this is it. If I ever find something as simple, peaceful, and deep like that I’ll definitely try to learn it.
Does it bother you thinking that people –girls specifically- come to your yoga sessions just because you’re the instructor?
No, it’s okay. The moment they sweat and all the makeup fades they know that they’re here to learn something. I can spot a girl who’s here for the yoga and the one who’s here to see me; the one thing I care about is that they both leave learning something.
What’s the story behind your green table?
This table is in my favorite corner at home; it became where I study and where I eat. I also like top view pictures that are trending nowadays, pictures like from where Arabs stand and from where I stand. I combined those two things and started taking pictures on my green table. And it’s kind of a project I want to work on about the importance of going green, being vegan and saving Earth.
What’s your dream role?
I don’t believe that there should be something static you’d want to imitate. You should be able to inspire people with what you do, I know I’m succeeding when I inspire people. But mainly the one character I truly want to play would be Prophet Moses from the Freud view.
Would you tell us more about Bab El Wada3?
We started working on Bab El Wada3 in 2007, the movie has seen the light in many different festivals. It won 14 awards from 2014 until now. However, the movie went public in cinema Zawya for two weeks only.
Are there specific people that you want to work with?
Well, internationally there are many people, buy mainly I’d love to work with Vincent Gallo he’s my favorite director; he acts, directs, writes, and produces, which is exactly what I’ve been doing, and I’m actually doing that in my next feature film which is coming out next year, Vincent Gallo did inspire me, and I want to use my work show him what an Egyptian guy can do.
Locally, I’d love to work with Yousry Nasrallah, Ahmed Abdallah is also one of the people I’d love to work with one more time, we worked together on Microphone before and now we’re working on Lail Kharegy. Karim Hanafy is one of the most brilliant directors that I worked with too; Karim works on a trilogy the first part was about death and I can’t wait for the second part which is about love, and finally my father Magdy Ahmed Ali. I Also would love to work with people who are still trying and experiencing new things as long as they’re serious about it.
You’ve worked with your father in Mawlana recently, how was that any different than working with any other director?
Well, it was definitely surprising to me, seeing that new aspect of a calm, wise, simple and genius director. That definitely improved my performance. It’s not the first time for me to work with my father; I’ve worked with my father back in 2008 in Asafeer el Neel however I wasn’t that old and experienced to understand everything going on around me.
Do you prefer being behind the camera or on screen, and why?
I like being front, behind, next and anywhere near making movies. I wouldn’t choose, they both complete how I express myself. The difference is that acting is like walking on a garden; you can take the flower immediately, but directing is like planting the tree; making it happen, it takes time and effort to make it happen.
Good news is we’re seeing Magdy on screen again really soon in “Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim” and it seems brilliant!