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More in this section Your future career

Amir El-Masry

Studied: Criminology and Sociology

Graduated: 2011

Place of Work: LAMDA

Position: Student

Why did you choose Royal Holloway?

For me, Royal Holloway had the complete package. Not only is it a world-class research institution and part of the University of London, it is also a beautiful campus outside of London where you meet people from all kinds of different backgrounds. I wanted to be close to London, close to where my family lives, but far enough to learn to fend for myself. One thing you take for granted growing up is that you are often in a bubble where you only come into contact with people from a similar background; Royal Holloway brought everyone together and you can find yourself having more in common with someone from Ghana than someone who lives right next to you. Compared to other London universities, Royal Holloway had that postcard image; I don’t know how to put it into words but it is something that grabs you straight away.

What prompted you to apply for Criminology and Sociology?

I have always been intrigued as to why people commit crimes, their behaviour and motivations and whether it is a conscious decision. Criminals are always portrayed in the media as malevolent, but I’m interested in finding out about the human side. Also, I never lost sight of my overarching goal to get into acting. I thought that the degree would therefore give me the intellectual structure, as well as enabling me to learn about people.

Were you part of any clubs or societies?

I was part of the Drama, Criminology & Sociology, and Law Societies, and also tried out for sports clubs in my first year but found that I was taking on too much. I focused on what would benefit me in the long run and really got into the Drama Society. In my first year I was lucky enough to be selected for the lead in the summer production of Much Ado About Nothing. The audition was a daunting experience as I had never done Shakespeare before, but they are so understanding of everyone’s ability. I didn’t realise that the director and producers were even students! They are so passionate about helping other people, which really reinforced my impression of Royal Holloway as a community where everyone is in it for each other as much as for themselves. It does get harder to manage your time as the degree progresses, but you have to figure out your priorities and be flexible with your time so you can fit in what you want to do.

What was your experience that you have brought to drama school?

My mum used to always take me to drama clubs to overcome my shyness when I was little, but it was at the Harrodian School, which was quite keen on drama, that I developed a passion for acting. During the summer between finishing school and going to Royal Holloway, I was invited to attend a screening of an Egyptian film; it just so happened that Omar Sharif, a famous Egyptian actor, would also be there. He is someone who I really look up to because he is of a mixed background like me, and he’s made it in Hollywood, which is the track I have always wanted to get into. Through mutual contacts, I was able to meet him and he was more than happy to spend an hour chatting to me. He invited me to be his guest at the premiere of the film and it was there I met with the writer of the film, who by coincidence was starting to shoot a film in Egypt. Though they had already cast the boys for the film, he asked me to come and audition in Egypt.

It was my Dad who encouraged me to take the risk and go. I immediately found myself taking on an extra role, spending time on the set, and doing an improvised scene with the main actor. The director really liked what I was doing and before I knew it, he was calling me to ask me to star in the film opposite the main character! He was more interested in me being myself than playing a part, so I was thrown straight into filming improvised screens. (At the end of it I won Best Young Actor at the Egyptian Oscars and got offered to play a leading role in another film). It just goes to show that if you take what you are offered, treat everyone that you meet with the utmost respect, then opportunities can just arise from nowhere. I didn’t know what was going to happen when I went to Cairo, but I took the risk anyway.


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