Soon after the drama competition kicked off in Ramadan, audiences started grabbing their chairs for their most preferred shows, and anticipating the series’ plots. Among the major famous names starring in shows with dozens of millions in production budget, the star of a short, young production series, started raising the flag of an unpredicted huge success. “Zodiac” is a 15- episode drama, which participated in Ramadan’s hot season, and strongly succeeded in attracting audience attention, and soon after the hearts of the viewers.
Taken from the original story Hazak Al-Youm (Your Horoscope For Today) by the late veteran writer Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, “Zodiac” is the first drama series screened from the late writer’s top hit novels.
The series stars a number of young faces, some of them have been only introduced to people in the past few years, including Asmaa Abu Yazed, Mai El-Gheity, Ingy Abu Zeid, Hend Abdel Halim, and Mohammed Mahran, while others marked their first real appearance in a drama show, including Ahmad Talaat, and Ahmed Khaled Saleh.
The thriller series takes audience quivering into the world of a group of university students who dig deep into discovering the mystery of a famous astrologist in order to write an investigative report about him. However, they end up finding themselves cursed with a “pharaonic curse” that leads to the death of all of them each depending on his horoscope.
For the first time in the Middle East, a thriller and mystery are combined together under one roof with a pharaonic twist. The series screens on VIU, an online streaming platform.
Daily News Egypt met three of the show stars, Mai EL-Gheity, Ahmad Talaat, and Ahmed Khaled Saleh to know more about the details of their roles, how they prepared for them, and the backstage details.
Both El-Gheity and Talaat said that they never got the chance to read the most sold short story of Tawfik.
“When I was offered the role and knew that it was taken from the story, I was afraid to read it in order not to get confused by the written characters and the way “Zodiac” is shaped out of it. However, reading it now, I can clearly see they are two totally different paths,” El-Gheity told DNE.
Walking the same path was Talaat, who is being really presented to the audience in this show through his role (Henry) the warlock.
“All of my life, I yielded with people who are affectionate readers of Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, however, unfortunately, I did not had the chance to read this story before “Zodiac”,” he added.
Unlike them, Ahmed Khaled Saleh, who steadily spoke of his memories as he read the book at a young age, never imagined a day where he would be presenting a part of it to the world.
From Saleh’s point of view, he believes the series combines a number of unique elements, but the fact of combining the pharaonic legacy is a wining card for the show to have the attractive plot capable of getting people to follow it.
The three young stars explained that they met large number of challenges preparing for their roles in “Zodiac”, especially with the lack of an actual reference for such a genre in the history of the Egyptian cinema or drama.
“It took me a long time to portray Mariam [the character] in my mind. She is a normal introvert, that rarely takes easily to people, however, she is also kind and does not know how to break her natural stiffness,” EL-Gheity elaborated.
However, the biggest struggle was the one facing Talaat in presenting the character of sorcerer.
“I could not find any source of information about how he should talk, look like, or deal with people. The most difficult part was to draw the image of Henry in my head, and how he acts when he acts, when he is doing his rituals and bringing back the dark spirit to life. Even when I looked, I could not find any reliable source of acting in order to portray the performance from,” he added.
Talaat had to dig very deep in order to find a real warlock, who approved to open up to the details of spending time in the paranormal world, and allowed him to read some of his used pharaonic words, however he used them to revive positive energy.
“Zodiac” was announced to be the first part of a series chain of Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s stories.
Originally, it was not planned to participate in Ramadan’s drama race. However, soon after the plan changed, and producers decided to enrol it in the schedule.
Having a 15-episode series is queer when it comes to the one-month race. Nonetheless, for the actors, it was a positive step to take, in order to break the repetitive subjects of Ramadan drama series.
“For me, being a part of a concise show, is way better that stretching the series to the double number of episodes it needs in order just to follow Ramadan path,” EL-Gheity asserted.
As for Talaat, he added that this is a plus, that makes the sow gains attraction instead unlike what people may see.
“I have been following 30-episode-long series whose plots can be all presented in just four episodes! And the rest is only a chain of boring, unimportant events, something I do not prefer to be a part of,” he explained.