We met the impressive Amina Khalil after wrapping up filming for this year’s hit series Khally Ballak Min Zizi that openly tackled ADHD and mental illness in both adults and children.
The social drama stole people’s hearts, and Amina Khalil’s performance left everyone stunned. We just had to know more about how she prepared for such an important role and her views on the matter.
By Aliaa Elsherbini
Do you think that the audience got the right message, the one you intended?
Absolutely yes. There has been insanely amazing feedback and awareness on mental illness and the importance to treat it as no less than any physical illness that people might have. Amina Khalil
It is a very important subject, and I was blessed to be working with an amazing team of writers and a fantastic director that were able to treat this topic very cleverly through an entertaining show that also highlights an important aspect of our world.
How did you prepare and research for such an intricate role?
This is by far one of the most challenging roles that I have played. There were a series of things that I did to prepare. The first thing was to read the script because a lot of the answers to the questions I had were already in there.
When you understand the story and Zizi’s reactions towards different things, they already give you this graph of how she functions, her triggers, and where she comes from, and this was a very big gift that the writers were able to create.
Having such wonderful writers, Mariam Naoum, Mona El Shimi, and Magdi Amin, was a big help. Mona is also a psychiatrist, so the script was coming out of research and factual evidence, not guesses.
The second step was to understand. There was a lot of reading involved to understand ADHD, childhood trauma, and dysfunctional parental relationships. I had to understand what mental illness does to a person if it is not acknowledged until old age, how to grow up your whole life not understanding and just being labeled as “crazy” and how tormenting that might be. Amina Khalil
I had to understand, chemically, what happens to the brain of people who live with ADHD and the different turbulences that they go through. I also had to understand more about what it’s like to live with ADHD and around people who have it. It took a lot of Googling to be able to truly wrap my head around what a person with ADHD looks like.
Thirdly, there was a lot of observation. I have a lot of people in my life with ADHD. I know people in my family, friends, people that I have seen occasionally, and people who are close to me who have it.
As an actor, you become very observant of the people around you in general, for whatever role you are playing. There are certain evident mannerisms, physicality, and ticks that people with ADHD have, so I observed them and was inspired by the lives of people around me. I took some of those things, and I put the puzzle together of how I wanted to create the character of Zizi. Amina Khalil
And that is when the last step came in, where there was a lot of work between me and the director, Karim El Shenawy, where we were able to lay down all of the information we had and create Zizi. Which mannerisms is she going to have, physicality-wise, how does she move, how does she walk? How does she sit? And how are we going to hold on to that throughout the series? Because there had to be a sense of continuity.
Continuity is important because she can’t start the series walking a certain way then be different halfway through. However, some things are liable to change after she starts her healing process and going to therapy.
It was such an interesting journey to go through and to create this character. Then it was interesting to un-become a lot of things that she had become over the past thirty-some years of her life.
Mentioning dysfunctional parental relations, do you think if Zizi had gotten the required attention and care from her parents when she was younger, she would have grown up to be different?
Absolutely. The earlier you notice, and the parents accept, research, understand and take action towards the mental illness, in Zizi’s case being ADHD, then definitely this person’s journey changes. We have the characters of Tito and Zizi in the show. Zizi was unaware of her ADHD until old age, and the reason she started to get help was that her life was falling apart.
Zizi couldn’t keep a job she had never really worked before, had a series of failed relationships, was getting a divorce, and did not have a good relationship with her family. She was suffering in her life, which led her to seek help, as opposed to Tito, who is still very fresh and young, which allowed her mom to learn how to deal with and handle her.
You can see Nariman (Zizi’s mom), who has lived her whole life unable to deal with Zizi, and on the other hand, Hoda, who can comfort and help Tito at a young age. Because Hoda had noticed and accepted that Tito has ADHD, so she started behaving accordingly.
ADHD patients are not crazy, they are just different. They need a different way to handle things, and you need specific ways to get in their head. So, of course, it is much easier when the person themselves knows they are touched by a mental illness because, in turn, they can understand why they do certain things and it’s not because they are crazy or energetic, but it is because they function differently.
So, in turn, people around them will learn how to act. The problem when people go undiagnosed is that they get into a loop of misunderstandings and sadness. The earlier you find out and acknowledge that you have a mental illness the better way to live a better life.