Ramadan 2021: Egyptian actor Sabry Fawwaz on his multiple roles this season and why the Arabic ensemble drama is here to stay

The veteran stars in four series this year spanning drama, mystery and comedy genres

Sabry Fawwaz stars as Dr Sami in 'Khali Balek Men Zizi'. Twitter
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If there is an award for the hardest working actor in Ramadan, it would go to Sabry Fawwaz.

The Egyptian is starring in no less than four high profile series with supporting roles alongside superstars.

In MBC 1's Moussa, 10pm nightly UAE time, he plays the cantankerous aristocrat Shahab Basha and nemesis to titular character played by Mohamed Ramadan.

In the lavish Qasr El Nile, also on MBC Drama at 7pm daily, he is the patriarch of a scandal plagued powerful family and shares prominent scenes with star Dina El Sherbiny.

In Welad Nas, available on streaming service Viu, Fawwaz is domesticated in the role of Eissa, a father coming to terms with a bus accident severely injuring his child.

While in Khali Balek Men Zizi, screened on MBC Masr at 7.30pm daily, he displays a dry comic timing as Dr Sami, an anger management counsellor treating Hisham, played by lead actor Ali Qassem.

Characters with depth

With an acclaimed career and a popular figure within the Egyptian film and television world, why is Fawwaz, 53, still pushing himself three decades on?

“It’s the work that keeps me excited,” he says.

“If a role doesn’t move me first, then I don’t see how it can touch the people.”

Fawwaz describes himself as a character actor and prefers inhabiting impactful roles rather than leading a superficial drama.

While he won't say which of his Ramadan's work he enjoyed the most, his enthusiasm for Qasr El Nile is apparent.

“The actual premise, which looks at the effect of a particular crime is familiar of course, but that’s not the central appeal of the show,” he says.

“What drives it is the different relationships between the characters, with the viewers looking on to see if these strained bonds can be healed or not.

“At the end of the day, it is really all about taking the audience along with you and making them care about the story”

Bringing his own style

It is a view point honed since making his debut in a small role in the 1990 historical  drama Al Wisiya.

Fawwaz then made his name with affecting portrayals of Umm Kulthum's composer Baligh Hamdi in the biographical series Umm Kulthum (1999) and 2006's Halim, the latter a biopic on late Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez.

He describes each job as a deep dive into various human emotions.

“That essentially what the work is to me,” he says.

“My job is really to sketch the character out. I use my experience to bring out different aspects from the way he speaks to his mannerisms. That’s what is exciting to me and it’s why I try to take on as many different roles as I can.”

A joint effort

That variety and frequency of roles are easier to find as Egyptian dramas take on a more collaborative bent over the years.

Where before the Ramadan drama was solely anchored by its lead stars, remnants of which remain today with Mohamed Ramadan dramas Moussa and 2020's El Prince, a majority of series today star an ensemble cast.

It’s a shift allowing Fawwaz to take on up to four roles each Ramadan season for the second year running.

“This is no longer an experiment but now a feature of the industry,” he says.

“This is because if you look back over the decade, you will find that from all the shows that shined, they all had an ensemble cast.

“It shows that this is the tastes of the viewers right now, which is to see strong actors working together.”

You can catch up on all the episodes of Moussa, Qasr El Nile and Khali Balek Men Zizi on MBC’s online platform Shahid.