Emirati actor Mahira Abdel Aziz scales new heights in The Platform
TV host currently appearing in her first dramatic role on UAE-made Netflix tech thriller
IT’S ONE OF the most-watched epics on Abu Dhabi TV and is so popular the show now boasts three seasons and a run on international streaming platform Netflix. The Platform sees computer specialist Karam (Maxim Khalil), resulting from troubles with his extremist brother Adam (Samer Ismail) and abusive father, invent an open source-based online whistle-blowing programme sharing the same name as the title. Karam’s work transports him all over the world, and in this series he takes in Abu Dhabi. Despite the pandemic, the protagonist and his team continue to move forward with the mission of pursuing truth while he tries to help his sibling. The Platform always looks to portray dichotomous worlds: one looking towards the future and the other, insecure and drowning in conflicts of the past.
Also starring high-profile names including Abdulmohsen AlNemr and Leen Gherra, Emirati actor Mahira Abdel Aziz plays Sheikha and we caught up with her to find out more.
What can you tell us about your character?
Sheikha is ambitious, strong, and a skilled interlocutor. The Platform is my first dramatic work.
How does it feel to be on Netflix? How important is it for local productions to be given the opportunity to be featured?
I’m happy that this work is being shown and I couldn’t have wished for a better start than this. To be honest, I felt the role wasn’t for me at first, but I am happy that the team insisted on my participation. Abu Dhabi is firmly on the world map through the projects undertaken by the country, in addition to the huge works of art that it produces. We will see more and more Arab works on global platforms such as Netflix.
What do you think the series offers an international audience?
The series is closely related to our time today and there is no doubt that the story is a universal one. The series revolves around the lives of two brothers living in a broken family. One obtains secret information and decides to give it to the world by creating a ‘platform’ on the Internet to collect all this information and store the secrets.
How was the experience filming in Abu Dhabi? How do you think being an actor in the UAE compares to anywhere else in the world? As an Emirati, how supported are you by the local industry?
I was reluctant to go through this experience, but one of the things that encouraged me to do it was that I would be filming in Abu Dhabi. It’s no secret acting takes a lot of effort and time that may distance you from your family, but filming in your country helps relieve any stress. Today, cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai have distinguished positions on the global map. They have become platforms for creativity and culture. We are witnessing one of the strongest tourism movements in the world in addition to the fact that the most important stars visit the UAE for business or tourism. I am extremely supported and go a long way in supporting the local industry and you can see this on my social media.
Were there ever any voices trying to persuade you not to become an actor? What advice do you have for people looking to follow in your footsteps?
Actually no, because no one expected me to enter the world of acting. My focus was on presenting TV shows, although my passion for acting was inside me.
I was waiting for the right opportunity to enter this field. The Platform was preceded by an experience on the series Diva on Shahid, but in this I played the role of a broadcaster. While it did contain performance, that is my job. I am happy with this first dramatic work for me, specifically with the character Sheikha, which is one of the main roles in the series. My advice for people looking to become professional actors: just love what you do, do it with passion and success will follow.
How did you find working with your The Platform co-stars? What did you learn from them?
I stood in front of big names such as Maxim Khalil, Abdulmohsen AlNemr, Salloum Haddad, Muna Wassef, Moutassim Al-Nahar and Khaled Al-Qish, and although I didn’t have a scene with them, I’m happy that my name was next to theirs’ in this huge dramatic work. I felt love and respect between all the actors and we spent a long time in rehearsals before filming the scenes, especially between me and Abdulmohsen, so there was a lot of cooperation and respect.
What would be the dream acting job in the future?
I love action in addition to comedy, although comedy is very difficult and I feel afraid because it is one of the toughest areas in which to become successful.
Who are your acting inspirations and why?
The star, Muna Wassef. I love her very much, as she is the lady of the Arab screen and she has a special talent that put her in the forefront. I love how natural she is on the screen.
What do you like to do in the UAE when you’re not working?
Nothing is better than spending more time with family: my daughter Yasma and my husband. I like to arrange my life and my home affairs, and take care of myself. However, I’m not that kind of person who always has free time because I always try to find something to do.
What else are you currently working on?
My ambition is great. I am of course happy with my successes and I hope to enjoy more because I feel that people’s happiness with my successes is greater than my happiness with it. This carries great weight for me to always think about what the next step may be. There is always something new. I am always keen to present shows. Recently, I presented a live show on Instagram, Stars with Mahira, which achieved great success in the Arab world. As for acting, I am waiting for a new movie I have done to be shown and I have received several offers, but I have not yet decided on my choice, so I will prefer to study any new step well before taking it.