Lebanese comedian Adel Karam reveals all about role in Netflix's Dollar
Adel Karam with Amal Bouchoucha
WHY ARE WE always surprised when comedians turn in brilliant dramatic performances? When Jim Carrey won a Golden Globe for Man On The Moon (1999), or Robin Williams an Oscar for Good Will Hunting (1997), we were all sat around thinking 'how did they do that?' We'll tell you how they managed it: making someone laugh is the most challenging of all the arts, so compared to getting complete strangers to roar in approval, acting is a doddle. Lebanese stand-up Adel Karam has produced the same effect in his latest show Dollar, which is currently streaming on Netflix. An Arabic original, the programme tells the story of a one dollar bill that's worth a whole lot more.
It starts when advertising mastermind, Tarek (Karam), is tasked with coming up with a million dollar idea for the launch of a new bank in Lebanon. He is successful but will only share his idea with the CEO. Something, however, is off. The bank's hard-hitting young CFO, Zeina (Amal Bouchoucha), can sense it. But can she put the pieces of the puzzle together before things get out of hand?
Set in modern day Lebanon, with an entire Arabic cast and directed by renowned Syrian director, Samer Berkawi, we spoke to Karam to find out more.
What are your thoughts on the popular reaction to Dollar? Did you realise you were making something special when you were on set?
It was no surprise for me since I realised how professional and light it was while shooting on set. It was simply a reflection of the language we normal people speak and the lives of most young Lebanese working professionals.
What was your experience working with Amal? Did you two enjoy the evolution of your characters' relationship?
Amal is such an amazing person both inside and out, a real talented actress. Algerian by origin and Lebanese by nature, especially in her accent, our chemistry during the different scenarios on set was key to Dollar's success.
Do you think the series shows Lebanon to the world? Are you proud of how Beirut looks on film?
This is the best question I've been asked about Dollar. I truly feel that the series reflects a bright image of Beirut, its modern lifestyle and business culture, and also includes some breathtaking and beautiful shots of the city.
How important do you think it is for Netflix to produce native Arabic content both for a regional audience and to let the world into a culture with which they may not be familiar?
Netflix is a leading entertainment platform and has surely discovered the importance of its audience in the Middle East and the Arab expats abroad. And I can't be prouder that I was the first Arab & Lebanese person to produce a Netflix original back in 2018, Adel Karam Live from Beirut, and to now star in another Netflix Arabic original series with Dollar. Entertainment not only bridges the cultural divides but opens new windows for us artists to be watched and recognised worldwide.
What are some of you favourite series on Netflix?
I've been a huge fan of Netflix since day one and I've almost watched the whole library! My favourites are Ray Donovan, Ozark and Peaky Blinders.
How was your experience working with the director Samer? How did he help your process?
Samer is a distinguished director and film maker. I've been admiring his work since his debut with Sabbah Brothers and especially in Al Hayba. It has been an honour for me to work under his supervision.
As someone known for their comedy, has serious acting always been high on your list of priorities? Is it something you wish to do more?
I am an actor by nature. I've participated in several local cinema productions and hits, including starring in the Academy Award nominated film The Insult. Now, my focus is on the new series I am working on with Sabbah Brothers with whom I am contracted, and my TV Show on MTV, Beit El Kell.
What can we see you in next? And when can we look forward to a new stand-up show?
Stand up is always my passion. I will do my best to arrange my schedule to write my new show for next summer 2020.
Who are your acting and comedy influences?
It is more admiration not influence.
Actors include Daniel Day Lewis and Sean Penn. For comedy it's Dave Chappelle and Gad El Maleh.
If you had to go on Tarek's journey in Dollar for real, what would you do differently?
I would have tried to convince Zeina to start a relationship, get married, form a family and work properly to earn a living instead of stealing the proposed million dollars.
Adel and Amal searching for the money