In Conversation With Egyptian Model-Turned-Actor Omar Sharif

from Cairo straight to your screen

A career in acting is only rarely handed on a silver platter, unless you were fortunate enough to be born a nepo-baby. In reality, success in this industry requires multiple years of dedicated practice, countless hours spent rehearsing, as well as robust resilience in the face of rejection. But sometimes, all it takes is a stroke of fate. Just ask 25-year-old Egyptian model Omar Sharif, who landed his first major acting gig without so much as filming an audition tape. 

Spearheading one of MBC’s newest releases, Batn El Hout on the media company’s own streaming service Shahid, the Cairo native (not to be confused with the late great Egyptian actor Omar Sharif) takes on the role of Cash, the right hand of a local drug lord named Marwan, who he assists in his daily business all while wrestling with his own moral compass. Finding himself suddenly catapulted to the forefront of the region’s silver screen scene, the rising star, who already enjoys envious levels of popularity on social media, explained that his transition into the world of acting was coincidental— maybe even fate. Others will simply say he was in the right place at the right time. 

 

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“I remember sitting at a restaurant, wearing an all black outfit that caught the attention Ahmed Fouzy, the director of the series,” Sherif told Mille. “He didn’t seem to be aware of who I was, or of my big following online. It just felt as if my style alone was enough for him to consider me. From there, he immediately began telling me about the role and how it would be mafia-related, which is already something people tend to identify me with because of my aesthetic,” he recalled. 

As an official member of the cast, the young model-turned-actor joined a star-studded line-up of names, which featured several prominent regional icons, such as Ahmed Fahmy, Somaya El Khashab, and Asmaa Aboul Yazeed. The role, which marked Sharif’s  debut on television, was a smooth and relatively trouble-free experience, given the guidance of those who surrounded him on set. 

“This was my first full role, and I didn’t find it very difficult as acting is something that feels quite natural to me,” Sharif confessed. Finding his character to be quite similar to who he is in real life, the Egyptian influencer had an admittedly seamless time filling his on-screen persona’s shoes. With alleged ease, the 25-year-old contemplated whether a different script or crew would have made his first few steps on the small screen much more challenging. 

Whilst doing so, he emphasized on the production team’s support. “I believe that the most important source of guidance comes from the director,” he mused. “Luckily, I befriended ours which made the whole process more fluid and enjoyable,. I can only imagine what it would be like with someone you don’t creatively align with,” he continued.

 

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But as the old adage goes, all that glitters is not gold, and in Sharif’s case,  behind-the-scenes issues nearly tainted his overall experience. Upon Batn El Hout’s release, the creators of the Ahmed Fawzy-directed series were issued a 100,000EGP ($3,236) fine by the Egyptian Actors Syndicate, who claimed that the casting of TikToker Karawan Mashakel went against the union’s core principles, values, and standards. Speaking on the entire affair, the budding actor revealed he didn’t understand or agree with the move— a stance which aligns with his own rise in the scene as a digital celebrity on Instagram first. 

“I see social media as a huge casting agency,” shares Sharif. “To be honest, if I were a director and spotted someone on my feed, I don’t understand why I wouldn’t be able to consider them,” he questioned. “Many of those who create content online are generally seen as ‘fools’ by society, which makes me laugh. If someone has the drive to act, shoot, and edit a video on their own, and then post it, why try to stop them? If they believe they’re artists, and even if no one else believes them, who am I to say that they are not?” he continued. 

“The syndicate’s role is important, that goes without saying, but I find it counterproductive to not be able to bring people in from TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube— who knows? The outcome might be better than bringing someone who’s classically trained,” he said.

Boasting a rich portfolio spanning the realm of fashion, music (as a harmonica player), and now acting, the multihyphenate’s range extends beyond what first meets the eye. With an unusual ability to float different artistic avenues, his versatility mirrors a deep understanding of the creative spectrum. Though juggling between three separate disciplines isn’t an easy feat, Sharif isn’t showing any signs of backing down as he equates challenges with opportunities for further growth.

 

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“Before Batn El Hout, I was more focused on music, which I only wish I could play more of,” he notes,  claiming that the show’s widespread positive reception and popularity pushed him to pursue his new-found career in acting. He also reveals that he has a role in an upcoming film called Raml amongst other commitments, which will likely fill up his busy schedule. “It’s important to be conscious of your whereabouts as well as the opportunities that come with it,” he rationalized. 

“Modeling, acting, and music go together. I’d like to reach as many people as possible, one will always shed light on the other, and they’ll each come handy in different situations,” he said. “If I’m good at something, it makes me want to work more, and eventually, it can help change mentalities and ideas in the country and maybe even the region.” 

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