Egypt gave us some of the greatest actors in history and still is. Many Egyptian actors found their way to worldwide fame when they starred in Hollywood films. Not all of these Egyptian actors were born in Egypt, some were born abroad, yet they take pride in their Egyptian roots and try to represent this multi-cultured country in the best way. Those actors drew the world’s eyes to the film industry in Egypt and showed everyone the skills they possessed. Skills were rewarded in award ceremonies and worldwide film festivals time after time.
We will begin with the golden days of cinema with Omar Sharif to the second generation of Amr Waked and Khaled Abol Naga to the new age of young actors making it in Hollywood like Mina Masoud and May Calamawy. We bring you Egyptian actors and actresses in international cinema.
Egyptian Actors and Actresses in International Cinema
Omar SharifOmar Sharif is the Egyptian actor who paved the way for other Egyptian actors on the international stage, not just in Hollywood. He starred in world-renowned roles that are memorable in history and still all-time favourites today. He was born in Alexandria in 1932 and began his acting career in the 1950s. Omar then went on to star in American, British, Italian and French productions.
Perhaps Sharif’s most famous work is his role as Sherif Ali in the adventure/ biography film Lawrence of Arabia, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Omar Sharif’s repertoire includes about 20 television shows and over 40 international films, with memorable roles in Dr Zhivago, Monsieur Ibrahim et Les fleurs du Coran and Hidalgo. Omar Sharif won the majority of the awards he was nominated for, from the Golden Globes, the Venice Film Festival awards and the French César Awards.
Khaled Nabawy was born in 1966 in Mansoura and was introduced into the film world by world-renowned director Youssef Chahine. Khaled’s acting career started in 1990 with the Egyptian film Lela Assal, and he’s been unstoppable since then. He starred in many critically-acclaimed films and TV shows in Egypt, such as Ismailia Rayeh Gai, Hadith Alsabah wa Almassaa, Sunset Oasis, Kingdoms of Fire, Finding Ola and Rageen Ya Hawa.
Khaled Nabawy’s roles in Hollywood were also critically-acclaimed. He starred in Kingdom of Heaven, Fair Game and The Citizen. Despite Nabawy’s success in attracting Hollywood directors who offer him role after role, Nabawy stated that the roles he chooses depend on how they present people living in the Arab World. He said that he believes most Hollywood films stereotype those people and would like to change that by accepting roles that conform to his convictions.
Amr Waked was born in 1973 in Cairo, and his Theatre studies helped him hone his acting skills. He landed his first role in 1998 in Gannet El Shayateen by Ossama Fawzy, which won him the Best Supporting Actor award at the following year’s edition of the Alexandria International Film Festival. Waked established his production company, and the company produced its first film in 2012 called Winter Of Discontent, which opened the 69th edition of the Venice International Film Festival.
Waked’s first international appearance came through joining the cast of Syriana in 2005, opposite George Clooney and Matt Damon. His special acting skills landed him his second role in the mini-series House of Saddam in 2008, but perhaps Amr Waked’s most notable role is Pierre Del Rio in Lucy opposite Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. His roles in Hollywood continued after Del Rio, such as roles in Marco Polo and Riviera, and he has been a recurring character in Ramy since 2019.
Khaled Abol Naga
Often called Kal Naga, Khaled Abol Naga was born in 1966 in Egypt, and he is one of the most talented Egyptian actors who also scored essential roles in both Hollywood and international cinema. Abol Naga starred in different films until director Daoud Abdel Sayed gave him his first lead role in the 2001 film A Citizen, An Informant & A Thief.
Since then, Abol Naga’s character choices were all a testament to his many faces, and the awards he collected afterwards prove he made good choices. He won several Best Actor awards from various Egyptian, Middle Eastern and European film festivals, making him one of the few actors who won all the awards he was nominated for.
Kal Naga’s first Hollywood appearance came through his recurring role as Hussein Al-Qadi in the show Tyrant in 2016, which was followed by his role as the informant in The Last Post in 2017. One of Khaled’s most memorable roles is that of Ziyadat Allah in the hit TV show Vikings, which portrayed Khaled in a new and unexpected character. He followed this role by starring in the controversial show Messiah, followed by the mystery film Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears and his role as Nabil in the hit TV show Ramy in 2022.
Omar Metwally was born in 1974 in New York City; his father is Egyptian, while his mother is Dutch. He started his acting career with diverse roles in films and TV shows such as New Americans, Munich, Grey’s Anatomy, Rendition and Fringe. He continued to assume some of his recurring characters in TV shows later on, such as Harry’s Law, Dig, Mr Robot, The Two Princes, The Affair, Treadstone and Big Sky. Metwally was awarded the Chopard Trophy, for Male Revelation, by the Cannes Film Festival jury in 2008.
Sayed Badreya was born in 1957 in the port city of Port Said in Egypt. He had a dream since he was a child, and that was to make it in the film industry in Hollywood. He began his journey when he moved to the USA to attend Film School at New York University before moving to Hollywood. Sayed’s journey is a true testament to perseverance; he worked as Anthony Perkins’s assistant, which enabled him to produce an important documentary, Saving Egyptian Film Classics and the short film, The Interrogation.
Badreya caught the audience’s eyes when he played Abu Bakaar, the man who kidnapped Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film. He has had several memorable films, and TV roles since then, such as Hamdi in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Mustafa Marzoke in AmericanEast, the Father in Al-Masry Life and Falafel in Apple and Onion. Sayed Badreya’s vision is to best portray the Arab-American story, and some of his works, such as T for Terrorist and Chicago Mirage, won awards at the Boston International Film Festival.
Rami Said Malek was born in California in 1981 to Egyptian parents and had an identical twin four minutes younger than him. Rami’s career began with minor roles in different TV shows during the 2000s, such as Gilmore Girls, Over There, The War at Home, 24, The Pacific and The Legend of Korra. His first film role was that of Ahkmenrah in the three films of the Night at the Museum franchise.
Since then, he continued to star in various roles, mainly for the small screen, until he got the leading role of Elliot Alderson in the hit show Mr Robot. This role won him a Primetime Emmy Award and a Critics’ Choice Television award for his outstanding performance. Rami Malek literally rocked the world in 2018 by playing the role of the lead singer of the British rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury, and he swooped the Oscar for best leading actor in the following year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Malek’s latest notable work is the role of Lyutsifer Safin in the new James Bond film, No Time to Die.
Rami Malek is the first Egyptian-American to win an Academy Award for his role in Bohemian Rhapsody!
Mena Massoud was born in the Egyptian capital Cairo in 1991 and immigrated to Canada at a few months old with his family. Mena’s acting career began in 2011 with recurring roles in various television series such as Poser, The 99, King and Cut to the Chase. His big break came through his regular as Jared Malik in the romance/drama show Open Heart in 2015. After this, he continued to play more roles in different TV shows.
Massoud rose to fame when he starred as the childhood favourite street hero Aladdin in the live-action adaptation of the classic film opposite Will Smith in 2019. Aladdin put Mena on the list of Egyptian actors to watch for. The Egyptian Ministry of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs’ appointed him as its ambassador in an initiative encouraging Egyptians living abroad to speak Arabic. Mena Massoud’s latest work is Prince Thomas in the film The Royal Treatment, which is a production by Netflix. He is also expected to be seen in an Egyptian film called Fe Ezz El-Dohr.
Ramy Youssef was born in 1991 in Queens, New York, to Egyptian parents and later grew up in New Jersey. Ramy’s career began as early as 2009 with minor roles here and there; then he had his first recurring role as Kevin in See Dad Run, followed by Samar Swailem in Mr Robot. Youssef wrote his most successful role yet called Ramy, in the show that would later win him a Golden Globe in 2020. The show is based on Ramy Youssef’s experience as an Egyptian-American Muslim living in America. Ramy received high praise for the performance, in which he is the lead actor, for accurately representing the lives of Arab Americans. The show got three award wins and 15 award nominations.
Yasmine Al Massri
Yasmine Al-Massri’s Egyptian roots are through her mother, while her father is Palestinian. She moved to Paris when she was 20 years old to study. Her acting career began by starring in the Lebanese film Caramel in 2007, which earned her and the entire film crew great reviews from the Cannes International Film Festival in the same year. Yasmine’s big break in Hollywood came through her recurring roles opposite John Malkovich in Crossbones and opposite Priyanka Chopra in Quantico. Yasmine Al-Massri won the Jury Prize at the French Riviera Film Festival for her role in Refugee in 2020.
May Calamawy was born in 1986 to an Egyptian father and a Palestinian mother in Bahrain. She had some small roles since 2006, such as Kelly Spencer in Thursday, Aisha in Djinn and Mona Alsnany in Madam Secretary. May’s first recurring role was that of Faiza in The Long Road Home; then, she landed the role of Dena Hassan in Ramy Youssef’s hit show, Ramy.
It was the role of Layla El-Faouly, the Scarlet Scarab, in MCU’s hit show Moon Knight. May is the first ever Egyptian superhero to be featured by Marvel, especially one that meticulously represented Arab women. May Calamawy’s name was on every tongue since she appeared on the show beside Oscar Isaac and the fact that she’d done all her stunts by herself as well as kept her naturally curly hair during the show, that made her character relatable.
Amir El-Masry was born in 1990 in Cairo before moving to London and spending his life there since then. He started his professional career in 2008 with the great comedy Ramadan Mabrouk Abul-Alamein Hamouda opposite Mohamed Henedi, which won him the award for Best Young Actor at the Egyptian Oscars. It was when Amir joined the crew for Jon Stewart’s debut film Rosewater that marked the beginning of enlisting his name in the international film industry. Amir’s talents were affirmed by his role opposite Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager in 2016.
Since then, Amir El-Masry starred in many critically acclaimed roles, such as Omar in Lost in London and Sayed in The State, and he had recurring roles as Dante in Age Before Beauty and Ibrahim in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Amir’s highest critically acclaimed role was as Omar in Limbo in 2020, which earned him several award nominations and the BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor. After this role, Amir continued to star in several TV shows such as Industry and The One.
Amir’s most-anticipated role is portraying British-Egyptian tycoon Mohmed Al-Fayed’s younger self in the hit Netflix show The Crown.
Rosaline Elbay was born in Cairo, but her days were divided between Egypt, the United Kingdom and the United States. She initially studied Archeology but decided to follow her passion for acting and attended Drama School. Elbay began to attract attention when she played Tona’s Monther in the Egyptian show Diamond Dust, followed by an unparalleled performance as Sarah in Qabeel in 2019. That same year she scored the role of Amani and became a series regular in the dramady show Ramy by Ramy Youssef.
Rosaline is one of the lead characters in Jigsaw, a new Netflix show. She is highly critical of the stereotyping many Middle Eastern actors and actresses are subjected to in the TV and film industry, and she hopes one day she will be able to change that.
Yasmina is the youngest Egyptian star on our list; she’s only 16 years old and has a rich list of achievements. Her career started as early as nine years old through various commercials and campaigns, and she worked in National Geographic Kids Abu Dhabi as a presenter. Yasmina began to attract significant attention to her acting skills with her short film The Shadow of Cairo, which was nominated for the Jury Prize as the Best Short Action Film at the New York International Children’s Film Festival.
Yasmina El-Abd’s passion in life is to best represent minorities on the screen and try to convey their problems to the world as best as she can. After starring in the Netflix loveable show Finding Ola, she became a regular in the HBO MAX adventure series Theodosia.
Zeeko Zaki was born in 1990 in Alexandria, Egypt, before his parents immigrated to the USA. His film career in Hollywood began with the role of Gus in Stuck in Love in 2012. He then continued to star in numerous TV shows like Homeland, Revolution, Under the Dome, The Game and Satisfaction. He also starred in different films and short films such as McDuffy: The Urban Eagle, Tuesday and Allegiant.
Zaki also had several recurring roles in notable TV shows, like Akmal Barayev in Six, Hamid in 24: Legacy and Matt Darzi in Valor. Zaki’s most prominent hit role yet is his character Special Agent Omar Adom ‘OA’ Zidan in the FBI TV series, which he has been perfectly playing since 2018. The show’s makers stated that the FBI role initially featured a Latino agent, but after Zaki’s captivating audition, they changed the character to fit Zaki’s Arab-American background.
Sammy Sheik was born in 1981 in Alexandria, Egypt, which he left when he was 18 years old and moved to New York to pursue his theatre studies. In 2005, Sammy got his break when he was featured in the satire comedy film Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. Since then, Sheik has been on a roll appearing in many notable shows and films including roles in 24, NCIS, The Unit, United States of Tara and Nikita. His film roles include parts in Attack on Darfur, Walk a Mile in My Pradas, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Charlie Wilson’s War.
One of Sammy Sheik’s critically acclaimed roles is his role opposite Bradley Cooper in American Sniper in 2014. The United Nations Population Fund chose Sammy as its goodwill ambassador for the Middle East Y-Peer, a program focusing on youth education. He travels the world on behalf of the organisation, promoting their work in the 36 countries where the organisation is active.
Mido Hamada was born in 1971 in the Egyptian capital Cairo before his family moved to Germany. After a sports injury, Mido moved to England to study theatre, which helped him discover his love for acting and kick-started his acting career. He appeared in many theatrical works, such as Spinning Into Butter and Hamlet, at The West End and The Royal Court Theatre. During this time, Hamada starred in several film and TV roles, such as The World of Tomorrow, Path to 9/11, State of Mind, Homeland and 24. Mido’s recent roles include recurring roles in Emerald City, Counterpart, Veronica Mars, Foundation and Mammals.
Egypt has always been a pioneer in the film and TV industry, and these proud Egyptian actors and actresses attest to the talents of the people of this culturally-rich country.