Mohamed Farrag, the Arab actor currently starring in MBC’s ‘Room 207’ — has overcome self-doubt to become one of the Arab world’s most-acclaimed leading men. It was a difficult thing to do, but to be unique, he did it the hard way.
MBC Shahid’s new series “Room 207” is arguably Farrag’s finest work yet, and is just beginning to light a fire across the Arabic-speaking world at the moment — establishing him as a leading man, and vindicating his entire approach to acting.
“If there’s one thing I want to change about this industry, about the mentality of acting in Egypt, it’s this: Anyone can be well known — if I kill somebody, I’m going to be well known — but what’s the purpose of that fame?” Farrag says. “Fame shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a side effect.
At 39, Farrag has reached the point where he’s earned the right to make such proclamations. After all, he contributed to the success of Mona Zaki’s super-sized 2021 Ramadan hit “Newton’s Cradle,” which became the most-watched Egyptian series of the year and continues to find an audience on Netflix, with many declaring it the best Arab series in years.
“Room 207,” since its first two episodes debuted on October 31, is being rated even higher, gathering big enough audiences to make a second season a foregone conclusion even with only half the first having aired.
If the series that moves Farrag directly into the spotlight would get that sort of immediate reaction, then, is nothing of a surprise. He has built years of goodwill from being committed to scene-stealing performances across film, television, and theater. What could be even more surprising about the show is that it is a homegrown Egyptian horror series that has become more famous. In general, horror is a genre in which only imports receive acclaim in the Arab world.
The series is also based on a novel by acclaimed Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, the third adaptation of his work since his death in 2018. The last, Netflix’s big-budget bet “Paranormal” (2020), failed to find an audience despite a massive promotional push, and while “Room 207” may share a passing resemblance, it is resonating in a way that other adaptations have not, capturing what made Tawfik’s ideas go beyond the shelves for decades.
The project holds a very special place in Farrag’s heart – due to the vibes, the writing, the cast, and the way it is shot – he truly loves everything about it.
He told newsmen in Dubai that “I think I’ve grown up now. Some elements have changed in my character, and it’s clear in my life, in my work, and in the way I see myself. I used to put so much hate on myself, but I’ve found a way out of that. I started to like myself, and I started to be able to watch my work up on the screen with pride.”
In some way, the project also reminds him of those years at home, when he would join his sisters to watch movies on VHS until they found a scene they liked in particular. Then they would press stop, and he would quickly scribble down the scene from memory. Then they would act the scenes out together and record their best performances.