The charismatic actor is back this summer with a follow-up to 2015’s blockbuster Welad Rizk, the action-packed story of four brothers wading deep into a world of crime and mischief. With his piercing blue eyes and stern stare, Youssef has steadily accumulated the admiration and praise of critics and audiences alike since breaking onto the scene a decade ago, with no sign of slowing down. We caught up with the family man to talk about the sequel, his secret for success, and the kind of life he wishes his little girl to have.
Congratulations! Welad Rizk 2 has smashed box office numbers to be one of the largest openings ever. How did the idea for the second film come about?
A.Y: When they first pitched the idea for part two, I was a bit concerned since Welad Rizk was such an enormous success and garnered a lot of fans. When a movie is so successful and loved by people, it has pros and cons. The pro is that it opens a path for a sequel and continued success, but the con is that it places a lot of pressure on the second film to be stronger and better than the first! You have to please your fans.
How did the sequel measure up to your expectations?
When I received the script for Welad Rizk 2, I definitely saw the potential and felt like it has the strength to stand up to the first film and please the fans, with twists and details that would prove exciting. I had several meetings with the director Tarek el Erian and felt reassured even more due to his brilliance and expertise as a director and his attention to detail and cinematography.
Our primary focus was to enhance all aspects and offer more: more character development, storyline, more action, better tricks and cinematography. The majority of audiences who saw the sequel loved it and thought it’s a stronger film, even if they watched the first movie 10 times! The final result exceeded my expectations in all aspects.
What is the energy like on set playing in an ensemble cast with Ahmed Ezz, Fishawy, Ahmed Dawood and Tyson? It seems like a lot of fun.
If the energy between us as an ensemble cast wasn’t right, neither movie would have been a success to be honest. We have a very comfortable working relationship as a cast, and it’s evident in our behind-the-scenes footage, which fans can look forward to seeing in the future. It’s like working with your friends, and we look out for each other like friends. If I notice something as an actor that can help my co-star, I speak up, and they do the same. This incredible chemistry on set is one of the reasons for our success.
What was your challenge in portraying Rabea Rizk in Welad Rizk 2?
I was challenging and pushing myself to offer a different side to Rabea than fans saw in the first film, I wanted him to be a stronger character. I wanted to develop his character even more and frame certain characteristics in a different light. I seized the opportunity to play out some scenes I didn’t have the chance to in the first film, because this film offered more of an opportunity for action scenes. I’m really pleased I was able to do that!
What is one of your favorite on-set moments during filming?
The funniest moments on set usually happened after the super long days, sometimes we’d shoot for over 20 hours straight and that’s when everyone is basically in a euphoric state due to extreme tiredness – it’s as if we were under the influence! (laughs)
Was there ever a turning point in your life when you realized you were on the right path?
Certainly, in terms of my profession, my ambitions have no limits. If you feel you’ve tasted success, you need to wake up the next morning with renewed ambition for what comes next and never stop reaching for the next level. I thank God for each success, and set my sights on to the next goal.
You’re the proud father of an adorable little girl Hayat. As a dad, do you have any parenting goals?
You wish for a lot when it comes to your kids, but the most important thing is that she grows up to be a strong person. I hope she does what she loves, because when you do what you love, you’re successful in life. I’m going to take raising her step by step, every stage of life needs its own guidance.
You’re big into fitness, tell us a bit about your routine.
For sure, I’m an advocate of daily exercise. Of course, during filming sometimes the day runs very long and we film for up to 20+ hours continuously, so you experience a gap in your routine. But I love fitness, all sorts not just the gym – swimming, tennis, and different types of sports. I love to move!
What do you admire most in people?
Intelligence and humor.
What is fame?
Fame is responsibility.
Era you would love to live in?
The era of Grand Hotel.
Job you’d like to have if you weren’t an actor?
Skill you wish you had?
Sometimes I am lazy.
Bad habit you overcame?
Favorite place to vacation?
Aswan, when the weather is good. Alexandria in the winter.
Fitness, for sure.
Music on repeat?
I love all sorts of music – my favorites are jazz, classics and rai music. Music is on 24/7.
Best piece of advice heard?
There is no such thing as luck, it’s all about when preparation meets opportunity.