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Ramsi Lehner: Breaking on to the Big Screen

Ramsi Lehner is everywhere these days, whether he's DJing, doing voice overs or starring on stage and screen. A Jack-of-all-Trades, Mona Daoud finds out why acting stuck and what advice he has for those looking to make it big.

Recently he has been showing up everywhere, in some rather interesting pieces of work including the major hit Harag we Marag. The multitalented Actor/Musician/DJ/Artist, Ramsi Lehner, is insatiable when it comes to the world of arts and everything in it. Acting, however, is his playing field and where his heart of heart rests. Ramsi Lehner’s works includes a documentary on drug awareness with Amr Waked, and a whole list of impressive series including El gam’a, Lahazat Harega, Kesset Hob, Hekayat Banat, Moga Harra, Mariam, Ha’ Mayet, El Beyut Asrar, and the amazingly theatrical and engaging El Saba’ Wesaya. He has also performed in a Hollywood movie with Antonio Banderas called Black Gold or Year of the Falcon. (Yes, sometimes movies have two names.)

With so many people being interested in acting without knowing what the industry entails and how to go about it, we ask the rising star how he got to where he is, and what acting means to him.

Tell us about your acting journey...

I started acting in high school when I was 13 or 14, then I went to AUC where I majored in Theatre. Towards my last year there, I suddenly lost interest in being an actor. No one knows this. And I don’t remember what exactly triggered this, but something must have.

So what brought your interest back?

In 2004, I got a call from director Ahmed El Attar asking me to join in on a project. I was very reluctant given how I felt about acting back then, but then I agreed to do it and before I knew it I just found myself following El Attar all over the world when I had initially said no. Then, in 2008 Mahmoud el Lozy, for whom I have a soft spot since he had been my professor for years, called and told me to go to this audition and I went because I just listen to what he says (laughs). And then I got the part which was the lead role in Alwan Tabee’eya (Natural Colours).

What scares you about the job?

It’s not resistance to acting…It is resistance to mainstream industry. Fame is really scary, and really tough and really hard work. I love the theatre. I always know my schedule but it’s not the same with TV and cinema. In a nutshell it puts a very big strain on my nervous system. A lot of screaming on set and shouting. But it was also an amazing experience. It is a big world of amazing people and experiences.

You know what I think my problem is? I tend to be a little capricious… One day I want to start a business, another I want to delve into music, then there is my passion for drawing. I am so in love with each and every one that I do not want to give up my hobbies and dedicate myself completely to acting alone. So it’s not resistance. It’s fear of losing myself.

You recently did The Last Supper on stage; do you enjoy theatre more than cinema?

Not necessarily, because there are many things in cinema that are more enjoyable. But the stage does have its appeal. Being on stage and connecting with people on the spot whether actors or audience is an incredible experience. There is energy in the theatre.

My objective with cinema and TV is not fame. However, fame is the measure of your success in TV and cinema. The more known you are to your audience the more roles you will get everywhere.

Did you ever have other jobs?

First I worked with my father as an archeologist in 1998…Digging mainly. Then I taught high school. After that I worked in an advertising company as a copywriter and I also did jingles and music. And to this day, I still DJ. Acting is the most consistent thing I have ever done in my life though.

What should those who want to break into acting do?

A lot of networking. Networking involves a degree of socialising. Also go to auditions, don’t nag and don’t be sticky. There’s a ton of luck involved in this. A great idea is to actually go to acting school. It’s good to be educated in the craft. It’s not all just about feelings and good looks. Going to acting school is great networking for the field. If you’ve already graduated, take a few workshops.

Do you recommend any?

There is Attar’s Studio Emad El Din, Luke Lehner’s The Actor’s Instrument, Marwa Gebril’s workshop, and there’s Studio El Momasel by Ahmed Kamal. You also have Shady Khallaf and Mohamed Abdel Hady. You could do the round of all of them over two years or so. You get to learn, as well as network.

What should a person expect being a part of the world of acting?

Expect a lot of hard work; people will want them to give their hearts and lives and souls to a project which may not be very well paid at all. It may take a couple of years to get paid in some cases. On the positive side, if you work hard and are willing to give it your best, people will remember you and will want you on other roles. No part is too small. Be memorable. Expect the craziest working hours any field could ever experience. They are so random and long…long..long…incredibly long working hours. I did a 36 hour day once.

What is your dream role?

Anything that pushes me out of the comforts of my physical self is a dream goal. Literally being a totally different character. There aren’t many roles like that, at least not ones I’m offered.

Is it enough to live off of acting salaries? Is there a minimum pay range?

It is very inconsistent. Sometimes there is no pay, and if there is, it is very little. And sometimes it is good pay, but it takes a while for you to get paid. You would need another job related to the field like dubbing or voice overs.

Is it different for women and men breaking into the business?

It’s easier and harder for women. Harder because I’m sure some people try to take advantage of that situation, and I know a lot of women actresses that don’t give in to that. It is easier though in the sense that once you break in it’s faster sailing for a woman than a guy.

What are your thoughts on society’s perception of acting as a lowly job? 

Every job has that. Apart from the moral controversial issues that may or may not happen behind the camera, actors are willing to put themselves in the face of the public, being vulnerable, and play all roles, the bad and the good. And people may judge you for the role you play. When I first broke into the business, I was eager to find the secret world everyone is talking about out of sheer curiosity, but all I found was a lot of decency, and family people.

What is acting to you?

Acting to me is not always a successful process, but a process of putting myself in somebody’s shoes with the least amount of judgement and least amount of resistance to who they are so I can represent them as human beings when I’m playing the role. Sometimes you get so carried away that you enjoy it. On a philosophical level. It’s about not judging…you don’t want to present a one sided view. We must always remember that everyone has someone who loves them.

Do you feel that being in the spotlight helps you to speak out about things?

The older I get, the more it scares me being in the spotlight. I don’t think an actor’s political opinion should matter, we’re just people…I act…I don’t wanna be held accountable for the things I say. I change my mind every day. I’m just a person.

If you could say one thing to humanity and they would listen, what would you say?

What I would tell people in a nutshell is that we should all be more compassionate in our lives. We should definitely, consciously do so in the times when it is the most difficult.


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