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Egyptian actress Ghada Abdel Razek embraces toughest TV role yet

Egyptian actress Ghada Abdel Razek speaks to us about her new political drama Al Sayida Al Oula and maintaining respect in the industry.
Ghada Abdel Razek, left, in a scene from her new political drama Al Sayida Al Oula. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Media
Ghada Abdel Razek, left, in a scene from her new political drama Al Sayida Al Oula. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Media

With the football World Cup and overcrowded Ramadan television schedules, viewers may have missed some key dramas that ran throughout the Holy Month.

Now Abu Dhabi Al Oula (owned by Abu Dhabi Media, which publishes The National) is offering the opportunity to catch up, with many shows available online for free, including the hit political drama Al Sayida Al Oula (The First Lady) featuring the Egyptian actress Ghada Abdel Razek.

It is the 43-year-old’s most powerful role yet – she portrays a tough-as-nails-wife who is determined to get her husband elected as Egypt’s next head of state.

Abdel Razek has a word of caution: her character is not based on any real-life figures; instead, she wanted to present a more nuanced portrayal of Egyptian first ladies that is far removed from the ceremonial figureheads people are accustomed to.

“First ladies are normal people, but, due to their position, they are subject to the protocol that affects them and their behaviours during their time in office. So it is only natural that they become more aware of their behaviour,” she explains. “People wonder how the first lady behaves at home, how she eats, how she drinks. The first lady is a human being just like everybody else. She pulls her hair back and may sit on the floor or eat with her hands.”

Sayida Al Oula is only the latest successful venture for Abdel Razek.

Born in Cairo, she began her career with several television commercials while studying computer science at Cairo University.

She got her first dramatic roles in the early 1990s with small parts in soap operas before landing critical acclaim in the film drama Lamadah (Chatter Box) in 1999.

Abdel Razek then used her new-found clout to lead and produce a number of successful Egyptian television dramas including Aailat Al Hajj Metwaly (The Family of Hajj Metwaly), Wadi Al Feran (Valley of the Rats) and last year’s Ramadan hit Hikayat Hayat (Life Stories).

With many actors continuing to star and sit in the producer’s chair to exercise maximum creative control, Abdel Razek eventually decided to concentrate on one discipline.

After the hard work of producing and acting in Hikayat Hayat, she chose to stick to the latter when it comes to Al Sayida Al Oula. “I can never take on the role of producer and actress in the same project again,” she admits. “I might produce again, but for others, because production issues detach you from the state of acting. I deem my acting career more important than my work as a producer. The fact that I love my acting work also helps. I care for all the details and I make sure nothing is missing.”

With more than 20 years’ experience and diva status fully earned, Abdel Razek says she is not shy about expressing her opinions on set, particularly when it comes to working with today’s young crop of television directors.

“I have experience under my belt, so my advice is useful on certain matters that they would otherwise miss due to their limited experience,” she says. “I give my opinion on certain details, such as the scenery and other things right up to the moment ‘til the director says ‘action.’”

With the Egyptian television industry as cut-throat as its American counterpart, Abdel Razak puts down her career longevity to sticking to her code.

“It’s all about respect,” she says. “Do not talk about me disrespectfully. Be polite with me, especially if I am your elder or I have far greater experience than you as an artist. This respect should also encompass my family, my daughter and my personal life. This is where I draw the line.”

• All episodes of Al Sayida Al Oula can now be watched at www.adtv.ae.

sasaeed@thenational.ae

Updated: July 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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