How did your work in television commercials start? Had you always had your eyes on acting or this choice came at a later stage?
I’ve fantasised about being an actor from a very young age, but I had no idea where to start. I started by doing theatre at school and then got scouted to star in a hair commercial at the age of 13. I had to wait two years before I finally convinced my mom to allow me to enter this universe (her condition was that I had good grades and only on weekends) but once I did, I felt like this is where I belonged. I used every ad as an opportunity to grow and acquire new skills, and slowly climb the ladder. By the age of 18, after many commercials, music videos and short films, I felt ready to take it to the next step. I travelled to the UK to study business while continuing to take acting workshops all over the world during my summer breaks. The second I graduated; I was cast in ‘Carlos’. I handed my parents my diploma and never looked back.
You’ve started your career on such a strong base, starring alongside Edgar Ramirez, Kanye West, Liam Neeson, Hend Sabri and Mariam Abou Ouf to name a few. Tell us the greatest challenges and the most memorable moments of these early projects.
I feel really privileged to have such incredible mentors early on in my career that believed in me and taught me so much. The main challenge I’d say was that I’d have to develop a new set of skills for each job very quickly without knowing if I could actually pull it off. So, it almost felt like I was jumping from a plane without knowing if my parachute would open! But in the end, all these risks paid off and I feel very fortunate to have had these experiences.
The earliest ‘pinch-me-is-this-real? moment!’ would be watching myself for the first time on the silver screen at the Cannes Film Festival. I was only 22 and I felt so proud to be the youngest Lebanese at the time to have made it there. It was also an incredible experience to be representing my country among people I’ve admired for long in the industry.
You’ve started the other way around, unlike what people in the region often do, you started with the Western and global work then headed to the regional. Were there any shocks or restrictions you’ve had to overcome in the transition from Western to Eastern industry?
I’ve dreamt of going to Hollywood ever since I was a kid. So, it’s only normal that the second I turned 18, I first left to the UK then to the States. And I’m so glad I did it that way because it required a lot of energy and strength that I couldn’t necessarily draw on at my age today. And coming back East happened serendipitously. Almost as if it was necessary for me to go, get lost, and then find myself first on the journey back home.
There are many differences between the cultures, but I’ve always embraced these and sort of knew what to expect. I always focus on the positives and the lessons that I can learn. And, I hope to continue working between both worlds because I take great pride in my contributing positively to the Arab representation on the international scene.
Which work in specific do you feel is a turning point for your career and why?
Paranormal was definitely the turning point in my career. I actually just messaged Amr the other day reminding him of how much I appreciate him for believing in me. It’s as if he saw in me, what others hadn’t seen yet. Work just started flooding in after that and the feedback that I got from fans was unparalleled – I feel like I’ve gained thousands of family members!
What was the filming of “Paranormal” like? What is your favourite memory from the filming?
There were daily magical moments on this set and despite the intense schedule it was so enjoyable. I loved filming the dinner scene, it was the first one we shot and I’m so happy Amr decided to go with it first. We actually didn’t know one another so it added authenticity to the scene and we were truly sussing each other out.
Being in the spotlight could sometimes be overwhelming as well as addictive. How do you make sure to stay grounded and take care of yourself?
There was a time where I would get pressured from many quarters to post more, gain followers, share more. But, being an introvert, it didn’t come natural to me and caused severe anxiety. At some point, social media got so overwhelming that I got off from it for a whole year. With time, I’ve learned that I’m responsible for my experience on there and that I can simply log off when I need to switch off. I took the decision to prioritize my mental health even if it can negatively impact my growth on these platforms.
Is there a specific roles, a certain characters, era, or topics, that you would like to play one day?
I feel like I’m at a point where I want to tackle different roles. I’d like to head to the future in some nitty gritty fantasy role or play an evil character like a witch. I’d also love to shine a light on overlooked communities, people with troubled lives and addictions. And ultimately, having just gotten back into sports, I feel I’m ready for an action film.
Tell us three Divaz that inspire you in your life.
My mother Amira Khourchid - may her soul rest in peace - will always be my main source of strength, inspiration and my moral compass.
Hend Sabry - for being my teacher, paving the way for us all and raising the bar with her new series Finding Ola.
Bella Hadid – This woman is fearless! She has shown so much courage by speaking about important issues and has shown her vulnerability by opening up about her mental health struggles.