It's one thing to air a talk show or a sarcastic comedy over the month of Ramadan, but it's a whole other affair to launch a drama that cuts through the clutter and demands the attention of critics and viewers alike.
Without a doubt, the popularity of Al Hayba over the past two Ramadans has left audiences across the Arab world asking for more of the Lebanese-Syrian drama series. And the good news is that production planning is well under way for a third season, with filming expected to kick off in two months, says director Samer Al Barkawi.
And there's a new female lead: last week Lebanese actress and singer Cyrine Abdelnour announced on social media that she had been cast to star in the third season, Al Hayba – The Harvest, opposite famed Syrian actor Taim Hassan, taking on the lead role filled by Nadine Nassib Njeim in season one and Nicole Saba in season two.
Following the huge success of the show in 2017, news of Njeim leaving was a shock. She said the reason she turned down season two was because she felt the role wasn't as prominent as the man's lead role in what she described as a predominantly male story.
Director Al Barkawi told The National that the importance of the role was not necessarily in its time on screen, but rather in its significance to the sequence of events. Despite the popularity of Njeim and Hassan as a pair, who have collaborated together on three different television productions in the past, critics are betting on the success of Abdelnour and Hassan.
Created by Cedars Art Production, the new season has a strong team behind it, with Syrian Kurdish veteran Hozan Ako serving as scriptwriter. Season two was a prequel to season one, so we're not sure when season three will take place, but Al Barkawi reassures fans that there is nothing standing in the way of a fourth and fifth season too.
The chemistry between Hassan and Abdelnour
After conducting reading sessions with the actors, Al Barkawi said he was extremely happy with the chemistry between Hassan and Abdelnour. “We are promised an amazing new duo that will dazzle viewers," he said. Meanwhile, Abdelnour posted a photo on her Instagram page with the director, commenting: “With the sweetest heart - director Samer Al Barkawi”.
Speaking of the show's success, Al Barkawi says: “It is always hard to achieve the exact same success in new seasons as the first one, and this is a well-known fact with a lot of different examples, simply because beginnings always have a new flame and that special sheen. I also don’t deny that the departure of a leading actor to star in a new series would also play a major role [in the success of the show] in many cases”.