Since the moment Netflix has announced its intent to premier its first Arabic original series this year, the anticipation and excitement began! As the series title suggests, Jinn is a young adult fantasy adventure mixing themes of Supernatural and Teen Soap Opera drama.
We met with the four leading characters of the show; Salma Malhas who plays Mera, Hamzeh Okab as Keras, Sultan Alkhail as Yassin, and Aysha Shahaltough as Vera, and we had a chitchat with the rising stars about the show, their roles, their expectations for Jinn, and together we delved into the world of Jinn.
For Hamza: From what we saw from the first episodes of the show, Keras is not a typical Jinn, the way he dresses & talks…How did you prepare for such a unique character?
I fell in love with him instantly. I love how unique and different he was; it made playing him an even more challenging experience. We attended many workshops before the shooting, and director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya guided me to how to get into the character and portray it in way that is not stereotyped. We worked on adding features to it that I hope the audience will find appealing.
For Salma: Mera seems like a person who is mad at the world, and we can sense that she is a bit bipolar. Can you explain more what this character is going through?
She might seem indeed bipolar, but I think this is how a girl her age would act. For instance one minute you will find her fighting with that guy, the next minute you will find them having a drink together. One minute she is active and sociable, the next moment she unenergetic and wants solitude. This is how most girls her age behave; their actions don’t always make much sense. Mera has gone through a lot; the loss of her mother, her constant trials to connect with her father, so even though she looks like someone in control of her life, she is a bit lost, and trying to figure out who she really is.
For Sultan: Yassin has a Peter Parker aura about him; he is the nice smart kid who gets bullied at school. Weird stuff is about to happen to him. So what should the audience expect from this character, and what challenges did you face playing it?
Yassin is a quiet character, which made him a bit hard for me to crack and see who he really is, so I had to dig deeper into him, his background and all the details of his life. I started to use memories of the incidents that we both have in common; my feelings, my thoughts and put them into my performance. The audience should expect a major change in Yassin’s character; he will be going through an internal battle that will certainly affect his life. I am so glad I am playing such a multilayered character and I can’t wait to see if people will love him and his journey.
For Aysha: Your character, Vera, so far is the most mysterious one on the show. At first sight we see a nice girl, and suddenly a darkness came over you. How did you prepare for such an unpredictable character?
What really helped me with Vera was the fact that each on of us played a key part in creating their own characters, to the point that no one knows the character better than the actor playing it. The creators of the show, Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, Elan Dassani and Rajeev Dassani would brief us with our characters and we’d have to build a backstory, so I know things that the director doesn’t know. Vera has secrets that only I know about.
For everyone: We all know that most of the teens and people in their early 20s don’t watch Arabic series anymore, so as teens & actors why do you think they will watch your show?
Hamza: We really hope they do. What makes this show special is that it revolves around the lives of teenagers. Most of the cast are really in their teenage, therefore we are portraying our characters as true as we can. For instance, the writers listened to us when we had comments about the dialogue; they always encouraged us to point out if there was something written that wasn’t something teenagers would really say, or that needed to be tweaked, which allowed us to feel connected with the show. We are glad to be truly portraying the lives of a certain segment in society in a very faithful way. Also women are underrepresented in the Arab region, so this is a very exciting show because Salma’s character is one of the most powerful characters!
For everyone: How do you think the international audience will react with the show?
Sultan: We wish they will fall in love with the story, because even though it happens in an Arab country, the similarities between the lives of teenagers worldwide are quite strong. It doesn’t really matter where they are from. We hope this will make the international audience connect with our show.
For everyone: Is it true that all the cast refer to one another by their character’s names?
Sultan: That’s true! It’s a little trick that helped us stay in characters throughout the shooting of the show. The minute I step in the car to go to work, I ask everyone to call me Yassin. It helped me focus more on portraying my character.
Hamza: My name is even saved on everyone’s phone as Keras.
Aysha: I had to admit that I didn’t like this trick. As soon as the cameras stop rolling, I prefer to go back to being myself, not Vera. Distancing myself from the character while not working helps me figure out who I am as an actress.
We thank the stars for such an inspiring interview and we wish them all the best with the show.