Moatasem AlNahar has been destined for the small screen since he was a young boy. Growing up in Syria he would watch TV and became fascinated by the way fictional shows could evoke emotions within us.
After beginning to study Law at University, AlNahar realised his passion for acting was something he couldn’t ignore and he enrolled into an acting programme, taking the passion further into something that could become a career. Today he is one of the most recognised promising names in the industry, with many successful roles in TV and film to his name including the Age of Fear (zaman alkhouf), Khaled ibn Alwaleed, and teen show School Days (ayam al derassa), for which he was nominated for several awards. In 2016, AlNahar was chosen to play a major role in Khatoon, where he played the role of Alzibak.
The success of the show was incredible, and it soon saw AlNahar become one of the most followed stars in the Middle East. Today his career is at its peak, with a number of new projects in the works and plenty more to come. As he is filming for his next project in Istanbul, we caught up with him to discuss the ups and downs of being in the limelight, the realities of being an actor and what’s next for his successful career.
How did you discover your passion for acting and how did you decide to take this path?
It all started at a very young age. When I was a child, there was a TV series that my parents were watching, and I used to watch it with them. It was a fiction series and this experience impacted me. It was the first vivid memory I have of watching something on TV that is created by a person, a person capable of entertaining and stirring emotions in us. At this moment, I started being curious about this talent, this profession: acting, and I started wondering how I can be an actor myself. As a person, I am someone who loves people. I like to do things that make other people happy, I like to move people. When I grew up and after I obtained my baccalaureate, it did not occur to me that I could study acting. I was interested and loved acting, but I used to feel that it is something difficult to achieve, so it was not a realistic and an attainable option for me. So, I enrolled at the Faculty of Law, and I studied Law. After two years, it happened that I met somebody who told me he was studying acting and that there was an Acting Academy with a four-year program. I enquired and found out that I could apply, which I did. I got admitted from the first time and started attending my classes. When I graduated and entered the real professional life, I cannot say I got disappointed; it was exactly like I had imagined it: a tough profession and a demanding one. I started working and taking up small roles, then more important and diverse ones, until I reached to the point where I am today. So, everything started with me at an early age, from my passion of how to make people happy, to me achieving what I like to do.
You just said that it was a difficult path. What are the main challenges you encountered as an actor?
Acting is a very complex profession. As much as we try to explain it and describe it, it is difficult to present it in a way where people can comprehend its real complexity. Nobody will really understand that except the actors themselves. With that in mind, we have different ways of approaching it, either superficially, or in depth. There are people who approached it superficially and did not succeed in achieving the objectives they had in mind. Others approached it more in depth, and here by depth I mean that you must invest yourself totally and deal with all its requirements in both your professional and personal life. Acting is a profession that follows you home in your daily life, day, night, and at all times. Other careers end at a specific time every day and you go back to your normal life, whereas acting remains with you throughout.
As for the challenges and difficulties, the challenges are dual, physical, and mental. The physical challenges are such as those you have seen today while we are preparing for this shoot, and it was only one day. Now Imagine me every day standing in front of the camera morning to evening and sometimes overnight for weeks and sometimes months, relaying feelings to the camera where I constantly must watch and observe myself, so that entails a lot of physical efforts and fatigue while at work. You cannot imagine how demanding it is. I got used to it, but one has to be prepared to the number of physical challenges and be ready to commit to a healthy diet and to a fitness regime that would allow you to endure standing or working for long hours in difficult settings and circumstances.
Besides these physical requirements, the mental difficulties are also there as we said earlier, and you must be prepared for them. These include brain exercises, like reading. Sometimes I force myself to read novels, political books, etc. to maintain my brain fitness the same way I work on my physical fitness. When you succeed in managing these constraints, you can succeed in this profession, and you are up to it. And it is the same for all professions where dedication, commitment and discipline are key.
Do you ever regret having decided to go in this direction?
Despite the challenges, no, not at all. I cannot imagine myself doing something else now. I have never had any regrets, I feel comfortable financially, physically, and mentally. This is a job that always pushes me to be a better version of myself and challenge no one but myself.
If you look today at this industry; would you say it is a fair one?
The nice thing about this profession is that it is fair because you interact directly with the public. The public impacts decisions. Anybody can become famous at any moment with today’s social media, TikTok and others. But to be loved and truly appreciated is very difficult. Anyone can come and ask to be photographed with you because you are famous, but nobody will do it if he does not like you. Let me rephrase that: maybe somebody asks to be photographed with you just because you are famous and you will appear on social media or on TV; but others won’t unless they are big fans of yours, regardless of your fame. And we have several examples. I really love it when children come and ask to have photos with me as this takes me back to when I was fan of actors and wanted to express my admiration to them. So, this profession is fair because the public likes you or dislikes you, it either makes you succeed or not. It is fair because your efforts are rewarded.
We have seen you in very different roles. What role or character would you still like to play or impersonate?
Could be James Bond 007.
Seems you like action movies
Yes, a lot. The problem today is that most production companies have stereotypes on actors and actresses. For example, they might want to do an action movie with Moatasem, but then they say the audience likes to see Moatasem in a romantic movie as they loved him in that role. And here it is like you got framed and stuck in a certain character and these companies wouldn’t want to take risks and embark on new out of the comfort zone trials. All I can say is that hopefully, I will soon be able to produce my own movie.
We know that you are currently working on a new project. What can the audience expect from this new project?
The project we are currently working on is a Turkish-Arabized one. It was made in Turkish and an Arabic version of it is underway. The Turkish version has already made a huge impact and success in Turkey.
Regarding Turkish series, why is it that every Turkish series we take and Arabize turns into a success? What are the reasons behind that? What do these productions have that we don’t yet?
These production companies are very smart, and they know how to attract audiences. They take a simple story, but they add to it a lot of details and touch-ups, so it becomes relevant and that is what audiences like, to relate to a story. Of course, there is another kind of elite audience that doesn’t like this kind of work. Personally, I respect all kinds of opinions, but the majority love it. Also, we sometimes hear criticism as to why do we Arabize these series made in Turkish, and all I can say Is that If broadcasting companies like MBC did not know that these projects are profitable and are well received by the public, they wouldn’t venture into them.
It might be also that the stories they tell are honest and very close to reality, therefore people feel they relate?
Without detailing the character in the series you are currently working on, how would you describe the character in one word?
A romantic character, and a leader.
We were just saying how much the audience likes you and appreciates you, and to what extent the public is the best judge. About friendship and gratitude, if you had to thank people who played an influential role in your life, whom would you thank?
Honestly, there are a lot of friends and people who stood by me, and I’ll never forget that. I would say a big thank you to those who were negative towards me because they made me stronger and a bigger thanks goes to myself because I believed and supported myself.
When we face challenges, sometimes we reach to the point of giving up, what do you tell yourself in such moments?
I often reached that point or felt like I was at the edge of a cliff and about to fall. But I never fell. I simply never surrendered, never lost hope. I would keep on trying and working till I would stand up again.
What do you do in your free time?
Sports. I love sports because it helped me a lot during several stages of my life, and it still does. The physical well-being it provides me with is great. I feel sad when I am unhealthy. During my free time, I try to sleep and wake up early and maintain a healthy discipline. This discipline makes me feel happy. For some people, a lack of discipline makes them happy. This is not my case. I feel happier when am committed and don’t waste time.
We spoke about the importance of reading and following what is happening around us and how much this is important for your work. Which book left a great impact on you?
I read a book, a novel, ten years ago approximately by a German author called Herman Hesse, and the book is called: Demian.
Demian is about the story of a person and his friend. The story reminds me a lot of myself and of my relationship with one of my close friends. It reminds me of my own life experience. This book moved me a lot and left an impact.
To what do you say “No” ?
I say “No” to all decisions that oppose my ethics and interests. I have reached to a point in life where I trust myself and the decisions I take. I also say no to treachery and lies.
Are you scared of failure?
Yes, of course.
You have a very large fan audience in the Arab world. What is a message you’d like to tell them?
I have been through difficult circumstances at times. The Arabic audience, their friendship, the messages I received from them were my lifeline at that time. Sometimes you go through challenges and situations that make you doubt everything. Apart from my family, I felt sometimes that there was nobody by my side; I lost trust in everyone around me. But thanks to my audience, I regained trust and confidence. I used to receive unbelievable messages of support on social media from people I don’t know. This for me was priceless and very precious and I will never take it for granted.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, how would you do it?
Simple, not idealistic.
What else would you like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
Honestly, a lot of things. One of them is to build my dream house, a house I have always imagined and having my own business.
What is happiness for you?
Happiness is satisfaction, Happiness is a decent life. I can find happiness in tiny and simple things.
And what about success?
It is very crucial and I strive to earn it and maintain it.