Karim Kassem: Making a Mark on the Small & Big Screens
A graduate of AUC theater, Karim Kassem has been working steadily in film and TV making a solid name for himself and building a cinematic legacy. Hot off his international debut in Sawah last year, the young actor has been hard at work creating a buzz with the sequel to Welad Rizk last summer and the critically acclaimed TV series Mamlaket Ebless with Ahmed Dawood. Now he is busy filming the Ramadan series Lama Kona Soghayareen and preparing for the sequel of his first film Aw2at Faragh.
CWM: Tell us a bit about your upcoming role as Wael in Lama Kona Soghayareen, the anticipated Ramadan 2020 show. What attracted you to this project when you were approached?
K.K: The plot of the film revolves around a group of five who became friends at university and now work at the same agency. I play Wael, the joker in the group. He believes so much in the good of people and is shocked and upset when he sees drama unfolding within the group. Throughout the events of the movie, Wael discovers the dark side of his friends.
The show is set on the AUC campus and you are AUC alumni, did this bring back fond memories?
Definitely! Going back to the Greek Campus to film was an amazing experience. Reliving all the memories of my time there and filming scenes where I actually used to hang out with my friends was cool.
Tell us about the experience of playing Hamassa in Mamlaket Eblees.
Playing Hamassa was certainly different because playing a character in this kind of parallel universe was liberating in a way! It meant I didn’t have to stick to the rules of playing a sha3by character in a typical sense, it gave me freedom to explore and try new things. I didn’t expect so much audience feedback on the show since it debuted on a new streaming platform, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many people watched it and responded to it!
Aw2at Faragh was one of your first projects and now there’s a sequel coming up. What does it this project represent to you when looking back at your career so far?
To me, Aw2at Faragh represents the first time I was in front of a camera and appearing on the big screen. It was the first step I took to achieving the dream I had since I was a kid, the dream of becoming an actor.
Are you excited about Aw2at Faragh 2? What can fans expect?
I’m very excited to be reunited with the Aw2at Faragh crew, I think it’s going to be really truthful and representative of this generation’s experience – whether it’s daily struggles, conflicts and the fight to survive. Hopefully the Coronavirus won’t delay the project though!
One of your noteworthy projects last year, Sawah, premiered at four different European film festivals. How does that make you feel?
Yes! I was honored that Sawah premiered at all these film festivals, and it screened at over 20 film festivals around the world. It was also released on OSN and inflight entertainment on airplanes, which is amazing. I’m happy that so many people saw it and gave positive feedback! I’m proud that I took part in the project, but I’m not planning to celebrate in any particular way – I prefer looking ahead and tackling what’s next. There’s no time to celebrate!
Is there any character you’ve played that you feel particularly close to and relate to more?
There are many roles I played that I feel close to, but if I had to choose one, I’d choose Moe from Exterior Night. It’s one of the closest characters to my heart. Another character I relate to is Amr from Aw2at Faragh.
What’s the most challenging part about being a working actor and choosing this as your career path? Did you ever have to deal with people close to you doubting your decision?
I think the hardest thing about my career is the sense of doubt and uncertainty of what’s coming next. We don’t ever really know what we’re going to do next year in terms of projects, the maximum time frame for knowing what you’re going to be working on is maybe six months.
Maybe you believe in a project and something goes wrong somewhere, either in the production or the direction or the marketing, and then it doesn’t get the results you want. So, there’s also an element of frustration, because even if you believe in a project you are still only one small part of the big machine.
Fortunately, my whole family was supportive of my career from day one and I’m very grateful. They used to come watch me at my school plays all the way through university, they supported me completely when I decided to switch my major from engineering to theatre. The fees for my university studies were large amounts and it wasn’t easy for them, but they agreed to support my dream regardless. I’m very thankful for that!
What is the most rewarding part of acting in your experience and what would you advise young aspiring actors to do when starting out?
I believe the most rewarding part is the love of the audience, and when you hear someone say that your work is inspirational. When you realize that you can affect people’s lives even in a small way by playing a role, it’s very rewarding. Also, when you visit these characters, situations and emotions that you wouldn’t probably feel in your own life, there is a scary feeling, but it’s also rewarding to go there and feel these scenes and characters.
The travel involved in acting is also a big perk and reward! I get to see these beautiful places around Egypt and outside; it’s awesome, I feel very lucky and fortunate.
April is our Earth issue and we hear that you are a supporter of Very Nile, an initiative to clean the Nile. What made you choose this initiative and what differences would you like to see being made in your community?
I got involved with Very Nile because on a personal level, I am very concerned with the environment and the cause and effect we have as human beings on our surroundings. I felt compelled to join as many initiatives as possible to support the environment and bring as much awareness as possible to this issue.
Even though my fans and followers are young, they should be aware of the issues we face. I’m hoping to continue supporting and sharing the news about what these important organizations are doing, and encourage people to find alternatives to plastic and reduce their waste.
Best day ever?
My 30th birthday! I was in Spain and got lost an hour away from the city on the beach with a friend of mine.
At the moment, Parasite, or Les Misérables, which premiered and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival last year.
I love all animals! I don’t have any pets at home, but I love them all.
Language you want to learn and speak fluently?
Spanish and Italian.
A bad habit you wish you could quit?
Doing stuff on my phone before bedtime and when I wake up. It’s a horrible habit. Also, just being on my phone more than a couple of hours a day.
A weird food combination you really like?
I like to add Sweet Thai Chili on most of the things I cook, even eggs and pasta sauce.
One thing you wish you could change about society?
So many things… I wish that people would regard environmental problems more seriously, stop animal abuse and not treat it as secondary, battle against harassment and the abuse of women. It should be a top priority for us. These are basic rights, whether it’s it is the rights of women, children, or animals, or the right to live in a clean and safe environment … we live with the effects of this every day.