Amr Youssef: Reflections on Acting, Influence and Family
November 01, 2019
Born in 1980 to a small family of five, Amr Youssef always knew that he wanted to be an actor. He always had a passion for the arts and knew he wanted to pursue that passion. However, when the time came for him to pick a major for college, he chose a more traditional route and studied International Law, thinking that that was his true calling. Despite that decision, he always craved a career in media. In 2002, his wishes were granted when he received a couple of roles in TV advertisements. A few years later, in 2005, he began a job as a TV host with Rotana Cinema, where he would stay for two years. Fast forward almost 15 years later and Amr Youssef is one of the most prominent names in Egyptian TV and cinema, headlining a sizable amount of blockbuster movies and very successful dramas. Seeing as HE Magazinealways takes pride in being on the frontlines of getting exclusive interviews with pioneers in various fields, we sat with Amr Youssef for a quick chat on life, art, and cinema. Quick-witted, charismatic, and humble are just a few of the words that spring to mind to describe Amr Youssef after talking to him. It’s because of these qualities that it comes as no surprise that he reached his current status in such a short period of time.
Youssef starts off our conversation by telling us how much he enjoys doing what he does now and how lucky he feels to get the chance to do what he loves every day. This prompts us to ask him how he got into media in the first place since his area of study was very unrelated. He sighs nostalgically as he recalls how he would always inquire about any casting calls or acting openings. His diligence in finding an entry into the world of media landed him a couple of roles in TV ads, followed by a hosting gig with Rotana Cinema. These opportunities came along at a time when Youssef was very young and still a law student. Knowing the traditional and somewhat conservative methods of thinking that most Egyptian parents tend to adopt pushed us to ask Amr Youssef if his parents objected to this sudden and drastic career shift of his. Youssef was quick to deny any objection on his parents’ side, vehemently stating that his family always supported his dream of being an actor and pushed him towards pursuing it.
Amr Youssef’s persistence and his parents’ support and belief in him paid off when in 2007 he made his acting debut in the Egyptian hit drama El Daly, opposite megastar Nour El Sherif. It is believed that this role is what kickstarted Youssef’s acting career, and upon mentioning it he gratefully remembers how he was recommended for the role by producer Mohamed Fawzy, auditioned for it, and got it. He fondly remembers the experience of El Daly as a huge educational opportunity as he was acting across from cinema and TV superstar Nour El Sherif, whom he states taught him a lot of what he knows now. Youssef states that he learned from his very first acting experience that being zealous and persistent is far more important in making it as a successful actor than good looks. A very calm and collected person, Youssef seemed to get slightly bothered by anyone generally implying that an actor could reach success based merely on his looks, adding, “I’ve been working in the field for 20 years; no one keeps working that long just for their looks. It’s your work ethic and talent that push you forward.”
Seeing how passionate Youssef is about acting and cinema and how animated he gets while speaking about these things, you would never imagine him doing anything else. But in the spirit of provoking exclusive answers out of him, we ask Amr Youssef what he would have wanted to be if he wasn’t an actor, and for the first time he seems lost in thought.
After carefully considering his answer, he states, “I have no idea. I’ve never wanted to be anything but an actor, and I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I’m very lucky I get to live my dream.”
Being a considerably successful model of an Egyptian public figure, one can’t help but wonder if Amr Youssef has people from whom he can seek guidance or look up to. When asked about his role models, Youssef states that he doesn’t like to put certain people on a pedestal, but rather he chooses certain qualities of successful people he’s encountered that he aspires to acquire. Amongst these qualities, he lists persistence, self-discipline, and ambition as key factors to reaching success. When pushed to name at least one role model though, he quickly mentions his dad saying, “My dad to me is the most important person on earth. He was my confidante and my best friend.”
With an acting career that has spanned almost 20 years, Amr Youssef’s list of cinema and TV projects is quite extensive. From comedy to tragedy, he really has done it all. This pushed us to ask him if there is a certain movie or show that he would call his favorite. “They’re my babies, you can’t ask me to pick a favorite!” he quickly says. He then goes on about how every work has its own allure and charm, but what he really likes about all his projects is how diverse they all are and how they’ve given him a wide range of acting opportunities. He reiterates that the one thing he’s always seeking as an actor is diversity in his roles because it’s vital for an actor to always evolve and push himself to new limits in order to stay relevant and in demand. With that statement, we ask Youssef if there is a “dream” role that he would like to play or a certain character he would like to portray. He answers that generally there are a lot of new emerging controversial topics and characters every day that he would like to tackle through his roles. He adds that there are a lot of unsung heroes in our regular, everyday lives such as doctors or engineers or police officers with extraordinary stories that he would like to tell through TV or cinema.
A long and diverse acting career also means that Amr Youssef has worked with a lot of leading figures in Egyptian cinema, which begged the question of who amongst all these big names did he enjoy working with the most. “I’ve been very lucky with everyone I’ve worked with. I’ve enjoyed working with everyone and have learned a lot from them. Tarek El Erian, Hady El Bagoury, and Amr Salama as directors have a special place in my heart. I also loved working with Dina El Sherbiny and Mohamed Mamdouh a lot. There are a lot of people with whom I’d still love to work but haven’t had a chance to such as Mona Zaki, Ahmed El Sakka, and Kareem Abdelaziz,” he answers.
With the fiery passion and love for acting that Amr Youssef possesses, it’s hard to imagine anything about the profession that he doesn’t like, but still we had to ask him what he thought the hardest thing about his job was. He very diplomatically says that it’s a job that requires a great deal of mental and physical effort. “It’s a full-time job. Not a nine to five one. The crazy and inflexible working hours take a huge toll on you, and if you don’t enjoy the job you won’t be able to put up with the sacrifices it requires from you,” he says.
Since HE Magazine is a lifestyle magazine, we could not wrap up the interview with such a major public figure whose professional and personal life are always in the spotlight without delving into the life of Amr Youssef. We start off by asking him how he met his wife, superstar Kinda Alloush. He immediately gets animated and fondly recalls how they first met on the set of Bartita in 2010 and became friends right away with the friendship later evolving into love and finally marriage in 2017. We ask the actor how his marriage to Kinda Alloush changed his life and he immediately says that “everything became better”. He goes on about how he feels more stable and settled since he got married and about what a wonderful thing it is to have a companion in life whom you trust and whose opinion you value, calling Kinda his “best friend” who he goes to for everything.
The union of this power couple is one that was and still is heavily talked about in media seeing as both parties are very well-known stars, which made us wonder if Amr Youssef believed that actors should only marry from the field. To this, he very wisely says that love has no rules and while it might be easier for an actor to be with someone from the field since they’d understand the tough nature of the job, it is not a must.
In addition to getting married, Youssef recently welcomed a baby girl, Hayah, with his wife. Fatherhood is a valuable gift but also one that comes with changes and sacrifices. “Being a father is the greatest feeling in the world. You always hear about what a great feeling it is, but you never fully know until you try it,” Youssef says about fatherhood. He comments on how he’s become calmer and more mature after becoming a father and how he enjoys watching his daughter grow and become more playful and inquisitive every day.
While on the topic of fatherhood, we ask Youssef about what his reaction would be if his daughter grew up and wanted to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become an actress. To this he says that if Hayah’s desire in life is to be an actress then he would support her choices but only after making sure that she knows how hard the profession is and how many sacrifices are required to make it in the industry. “Ill support her dreams no matter what she sets her heart on,” he adds.
An actor is a public figure. Through art, social issues can be discussed and brought out to the open, playing a role in shaping collective mindsets. Recently there has been a shift in Egyptian cinema, with many actors and directors trying to shed light on important public issues through their work. We bring that up and ask Amr Youssef if he thinks actors have a responsibility towards the public to speak up regarding important social issues. “I’m not for or against anyone deciding to speak up or not speak up. Actors are human beings after all,” Youssef remarks. He adds that personally he likes to shed light on important social problems through his work because a film could last forever while a speech he gives stating his opinion publicly will soon be forgotten and won’t really leave an impact. Youssef believes that rather than stating public opinions or taking stances, public figures and actors ought to employ themselves in public or community service. Furthermore, he thinks that people in more privileged positions such as himself should put their time, effort, and money to good use and help those less fortunate in society. Youssef is a goodwill ambassador for Awladna: a charity organization for kids with special needs and a cause that is close to his heart.
In line with the theme of social impact, we ask the movie star if when reading a script, he considers the influence his role is bound to leave on society at the time. “Not every role has to be an educational role, some are just fun fictional roles without any deeper meaning to them and that’s fine,” Youssef answers. He believes that actors should deliver impactful deep roles with complex stories but should be able to play light characters as well.
To wrap things up, we ask the superstar to give a word of advice to aspiring actors to which he shares, “Consistency and stamina are key. Nothing is forever in our field, and if you want to stay on top, you have to always work on bettering yourself.”
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