Fun, adventurous and hardworking Cynthia Khalifeh started out in her career when she was only 11 years old. She first popped on to the scene as a host on MTV Lebanon, before appearing in multiple films and TV shows. Her latest project Wadi El Jinn will be released on Viu in 2021.
By Mariam Elhamy
You started out at a very young age; how challenging was it and how do you think you’ve developed since then?
When you grow up in the spotlight, it’s definitely challenging especially when everyone else your age is doing something different. You’re supposed to please others, present something meaningful and you’re always watched.
All this definitely affected me somehow, but I’m happy with the balance I’ve reached with the help of my family and the environment I surround myself with. It’s very important to always remember to surround yourself with real friends and family to maintain the balance between the industry and your personal life.
I think it’s more challenging now as an adult though because I think more, I judge better and I consider risks better. When you are young, all you think about is just doing the thing you love.
How was it hosting a show on MTV Lebanon? Would you go back to hosting?
Yes, I will definitely go back to hosting, perhaps a concept of my own someday. I really love hosting because it’s me, Cynthia Khalifeh, personally talking to the public and not a character I am portraying.
Right now I’m focusing on acting, but I really appreciate the influence that comes with fame, and I truly believe we have to use this influence for good. So yes, I believe that I will go back to hosting someday to be able to speak directly with the public because I have a lot to say.
In your personal life, what are your hobbies and interests?
I like to go out a lot, to travel to new places or do something active outside home. Also, I love people; I love my friends and family. I love food, I love music and dancing so in my free time at home I’m either watching something or listening to music all day long.
What do you think are the pros and cons of being a celebrity?
The pro is that our hobby is our profession. We do what we love to do, which is really good. The con is that you get to a point where you don’t really own your life fully. Your life becomes scattered between your own personal life, what the people are expecting from you and what your work is requiring from you.
Our job isn’t that easy, I don’t own my schedule or my time and it’s impossible to plan ahead for what I want to do and it’s been that way for the last good 10 years of my life. The con is the unstable lifestyle, but having my hobby be my profession is something I’m very grateful for.
We’ve seen you under many different lights, which character did you relate to the most?
I try to put a bit of me in every role but I really relate to the roles that are a bit more complex maybe because I’m a complex person or maybe because I like a challenge and I like to be varied, so the more the role is well-detailed and written in a different way the more I love to play it better.
Which film genre do you love the most?
It keeps on changing but today I’m really into fantasy and thrillers. What you see on international online platforms is what’s working and what’s being very well marketed, it’s what’s new to the eye and it’s more complex and appealing so yes I’m going with the flow.
What do you think makes an actress successful?
One: Perseverance, because it’s a very hard path, for every 20 noes there’s one yes. No matter how big you are you always want to do something and you won’t get it. So perseverance is the key.
Two: Discipline for sure, because along the way life can take you to many different paths and places and the light, attention, lifestyle or money could blind you, so you have to maintain yourself or else you’ll wake up late to shoots or you won’t be there and this will ruin your career forever.
Making the right decisions at the right time is very important too, saying no to some projects and being selective is okay and might bring something better afterwards. So basically perseverance, discipline and the passion that never goes away.
Who do you look up to?
Ultimately my role model is my mom, although she’s working in the medical field. She’s amazing, supportive and smart. In my own industry, I love Meryl Streep a lot, not because everyone loves her but because in every role she’s a completely different person. She’s always up for the challenge and doesn’t mind being ugly or insane for some of her characters.
We’re surrounded by many beautiful ladies who are probably talented but don’t push themselves to play unconventional roles. Nobody looks good when they’re depressed, tired, sad or in a breakup, so I like actors who are not afraid to do that on the screen.
What do you think of Wadi El Jinn and of your role?
Honestly, Wadi El Jinn is a forward-thinking film, it’s definitely going to be the hit of the season because of all its components. It’s is the first-ever pan-Arab fantasy thriller with 75% of its stakes being CGIs and after-effects that are done in post-production.
Meaning that some of the characters are animated and are created in after effects after the actual shooting takes place, this makes the show way too big for anything that has ever been done before under the genre of thriller-fantasy. I proudly compare it to Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, I think it’s the new GOT of the Arab world.
On the other hand, the writing is incredible! I’ve never read a script so complicated yet so well structured. It was being rewritten for over two years in the writers’ room so it’s not a monopoly of one guy’s writing. We all participated in our characters and their development.
It’s just different than anything I’ve ever done before. It’s on an online platform for a new fresh audience and I really believe it’s going to be good, please watch it on Viu in 2021!
How was it acting with characters that aren’t there or pretending that something is chasing you for example?
Well, it’s kind of insane. When you see a person talking to the wall it looks insane, but it’s also such a huge acting experience. In one scene we had to face a huge crowd of horses or monsters coming to kill us and of course none of this existed in the studio.
It’s called creative acting and it’s one of my favorite kinds of acting because it’s actually what I’ve studied. It’s cool just imagining all of this happening around you when you’re in front of a green wall. It was hard at the beginning for everyone to understand what we were doing but with time it got easy and we try to be creative with it.
Describe yourself in three words
Ambitious. Genuine. Clumsy.
First celebrity crush?
Dusk or dawn?
Do you snore?
Place you most want to travel to
Los Angeles, Hollywood again.
Favorite junk food?
Favorite childhood TV show?
Ed, Edd and Eddy
Last Halloween costume you wore?
A character from the 60s
Cookies or brownies?
Brownies of course!
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Can you say a word in Spanish?
Como estas? I can say a sentence!
Do you believe in fate?
Are you sure you want me to answer in one word? That’s very hard. Um… I don’t.
Would you want to live forever?