By Kareem Awad
Netflix is now one of the biggest production companies in the world, having produced smash hit series such as Stranger Things and Narcos. Although the company has licensed a number of Egyptian and Arab TV series, JINN is the first ever Arabic TV series produced and released by the platform in partnership with Lebanese production company Kabreet Productions. Similar to Stranger Things, JINN is primarily a show about friendship with a supernatural twist. A group of talented Jordanian teenagers fill the cast and now lead the way for Netflix’s production in the region, as it will be aired in 190 countries worldwide this season … stay tuned on June 13th!
CWM: How did you audition for the show and how were you picked up by Netflix?
Hamzeh Okab: For me it was a special case. Netflix was interviewing different schools, and a friend of mine that auditioned told me about it. Then, in February 2018, I saw the official announcement and the call for auditions and decided I wanted to try it out. So I started with an online video audition, and then I got a call back for a face to face interview, and the rest is history.
Sultan Alkhail: Actually it’s a long story. Once I heard that they announced the show, I read the press release and decided I had to be part of JINN. So I started Googling as everyone does and I reached Rajeev Dassani, the executive producer, who referred me to the casting agency that was taking care of the auditions. It was a really long process, it took about 2 months and a half, but it was very educational.
Aysha Shahaltough: A friend of mine who works in the film industry asked if I wanted to audition and I said, “Yes, of course!” I had to send in a video and it was a really long process and I had to keep reminding myself not to be sad if I didn’t get that part.
Hamzeh Okab: This is my first time acting in front of the camera. Before that, I acted in many school productions. Ever since grade 5 I’ve been in every production for my school.
Aysha Shahaltough: I acted in tons of plays at schools and small projects at university.
Sultan Alkhail: I began acting at the age of 8 and was always fascinated by this field. I tried to experience everything from acting to lighting and directing. My experiences include theatre and a couple of small projects.
How have you been coping with filming such a big show while still being in school/university? Was it difficult?
Hamzeh Okab: I’m not going to say it’s easy. It’s been quite difficult and there have been a few obstacles on the way, especially since this is my last year and I’m applying for universities. So it’s been stressful trying to be Keras for 12 hours a day and Hamzeh for 12 hours a day. But I love the challenge and I’m trying to overcome it, and I think that I’m doing a good job.
Sultan Alkhail: I study Theatre Arts. I knew that I was going to shoot and have to study at the same time so I organized to have a limited amount of subjects, just two days a week.
Aysha Shahaltough: I study Design and Visual Communication. I’ve got 5 days of class a week. I missed two days this week and I’ve got a lot to catch up on.
What do you think you brought to your character?
Hamzeh Okab: Keras is sort of the outcast of the group. Everyone looks at him weirdly and the way he interacts with people is strange because he is new to this environment, having just moved to a new school. I actually went through the same thing so it was easy for me. I lived abroad and when I moved back here I faced these challenges where I had to learn the language and learn how to interact with people again. So I understand what Keras is going through.
Sultan Alkhail: I can’t say that there are a lot of similarities between Sultan and Yassin but he’s a very interesting character. Yassin suffers from bullying at school and I find it interesting to play such a character that represents an issue that happens too often.
How has your experience been as a first time in a big production?
Sultan Alkhail: It has been interesting and exciting at the same time. You feel responsible because you really want it to be a big success. I’m trying to enjoy the process because it is fun and I’m looking forward for people to see the outcome.
Aysha Shahaltough: I’m interested in the film field so it has been exciting to be on an actual set and see how things work. I’ve been learning a lot. I met a lot of lovely people. It’s been lots of fun!
Sultan Alkhail: I always believed in the supernatural. But at the end it has nothing to do with what you believe or not, just use your imagination.
Aysha Shahaltough: I personally do not believe in the supernatural and I still do not believe in the supernatural.
How much do you think about having a show that’s going to be available in 190 countries, seen across the world?
Aysha Shahaltough: I try not to think about it since it’s still not out. We had a media training yesterday and they were talking about it and I thought to myself, “I still don’t believe you guys!”
Sultan Alkhail: It’s crazy! I don’t want to think about it!