If there is one name everyone was buzzing about during Ramadan season, it was Ahmed Dash, the fresh young talent gracing the scenes in the Upper Egyptian family drama Tayea’. Dash is no stranger to critical acclaim. He has nabbed roles in international film festival hits like Photocopy last year and Eshtebak in 2016, starring alongside household names like Mahmoud Hemeda, Shereen Reda, and Hany Adel. We had the good fortune of visiting Dash in his family home for a relaxed conversation about how he was discovered and what his experience has been like coming to grips with this newfound fame and attention. What will the future hold for this bright and eager cinema darling? We found out …
AD: My interest in acting started in grade school, I participated in a school play in the 3rd grade – it was the end of year play, Aladdin. At the time I was more interested in playing football, I just participated in the play because it was a school project for English. Later on in 6th grade, I got cast in a few TV advertising spots and in 2013 at age 11, I landed the role in La Mo’akhza.
That was your breakout role, how did it feel?
It was my first film role and it was a lead role, so it was definitely different from acting in advertisements. I starred against established actors like Kenda Alloush and Hany Adel. This was a proper set with an experienced director, actors, and it was the first time I saw a real film set. Acting in this movie changed me fundamentally, before that, acting in ads was just fun. It’s what made me feel like this was a career worth pursuing.
You have played alongside some of the biggest names in Egypt’s film industry, do you still get nervous?
At first I was nervous, the first few days of being on set in La Mo’akhza. As I have gained experience, it has gotten easier and I don’t feel the nerves.
What was it like hitting the film festival circuit in support of Eshtebak and Photocopy?
Amazing! Cannes Film Festival was a really cool experience. I got about 2 feet away from Blake Lively and passed Shia LaBeouf in the street, just walking around like everyone else. Gouna Film Festival was also really cool; it was organized really well for the first year.
What can you tell us about your role in Tayea’?
Amr Salama reached out and told me about the role of Fawaz. The script was incredible and very well-written. I believe that people connect with Fawaz because his character is sympathetic and the series speaks heavily about family ties and sacrifice.
How did you prepare for the role?
This role needed a bit of voice work because Fawaz is Upper Egyptian. I took dialect classes and also prepared for the role physically and mentally with acting coach Gerald James. I prepared using ‘Animal’ exercises, which require you to inhibit an animal of your choosing and learn how it moves, eats, engages with the surroundings and others. After that you take those qualities and apply them to a human being to bring those qualities out in human form, the way they move, facial expressions, speech, etc. I chose the cheetah as my animal because it’s wild and vulnerable and I believed those qualities apply to Fawaz.
It sounds super interesting; do you find these acting workshops useful?
Definitely. I’ve been working with Gerald James for two years now. The workshops are intense, we have to work physically a lot – connect the mind with the body, and be able to move any part of your body and control it. The process itself is long and intense, and you need to keep pushing yourself against the boredom that can sometimes occur.
How is the experience of working in TV different than film?
TV series in Egypt are usually always for Ramadan, so actors have to shoot up to 14 scenes a day – you have to be quick and efficient, like a machine. You’re controlled by a date, a number of episodes, there is more pressure to get the job done in time. There is no time to play around. A film set allows you more artistry; the cast and crew are a bit more relaxed. You have more time to invest and believe in the idea of the film and work together a common goal as a team.
How have you managed to juggle your studies at school with a busy filming schedule?
I just finished high school this summer, so it was a bit challenging managing to do it all but luckily a lot of shoots were during the summer, so that helped. I’m heading to university this fall and plan to study film formally.
Favorite childhood movie?
Slumdog Millionaire. I loved the story, the acting, everything about it.
Director/actor you would love to work with?
Marwan Hamed, he’s a great director. I loved El Feel El Azraa’.
Music on your playlist?
I don’t really have a playlist; I listen to underground music on Soundcloud.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs! My family has huskies.
In San Francisco with my brother.
Most used App?
Any hobbies or sports?
Football. I support Zamalek in Egypt and Barcelona abroad.
Most admired actor or actress?
Will Smith. He’s very cool!
Person who always gives you the best advice?
My mother … but I don’t really like advice!
Who would you like to meet the most, dead or alive?
Ahmed Zaki. I love all his movies. It would have been fun to have the opportunity to meet him in person.