Elsy Fernaine: «The actor needs a third eye»
With her husband, Georges Chalhoub, they represent the perfect couple but also one of the pillars of the Lebanese dramatic scene. Her beginnings, at a very young age, were in the golden age of Télé-Liban. As an experienced star, Elsy confides to Prestige her thoughts about the Lebanese dramatic scene.
- You have chosen very young to be an actress. Among the many roles you have played, which one is dearest to your heart? I did not choose the profession of an actress. My acting skills were discovered at the age of 8 while I was in school. A teacher, skilled at scriptwriting, incorporated acting into the children’s program. Inspired by my features, she predicted I would be talented to play drama, she tested me and appreciated the result. I started playing in the school theater, and the plays were sometimes presented at Unesco in an inter-school competition. I have also participated in children’s programs such as Mama Afaf or Friend Jinane. My parents did not approve of my choice to become an actress. When Télé-Liban offered me at a very young age to play dramatic roles, my parents refused. At 18, and by coincidence, I went with my teacher to Télé-Liban, without the knowledge of my parents, because I wanted to start in this field. This time, the management offered me to be a program presenter, and my parents agreed, considering this option more seriously. Among the many roles I have played, the dearest to my heart is that of my debut on the series «Memories of a nurse». Then I participated in several series, including «Les Misérables», in the role of Fantine. I was supposed to continue in the role of Cosette, but I did not manage to do it since I was pregnant with my first child. Recently, I played a special role, that of Mounira in «Achraqat el chams».
- Which role would you like to play now? I dream to play the role of Amina, a character of our great author Gibran Khalil Gibran. A mystical woman who lived in a forest of Mount Lebanon, who sought to be close to the spiritual world, to wisdom so that the people of the whole world could live in peace, without discrimination or fanaticism. The character and the problem are timeless, more than ever necessary in our time to create a rapprochement between people, to ward off extremism. To live well together, with nature, seize the positive energy of the universe that people ignore because they are absorbed by the noise, the life of the world. Their approach of the universe is rather superficial, they reject the positive energy that could change many things in the world if each of us carried this energy in his heart.
- You were among Golden Night guests to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Murex d’Or. In your opinion, what is the added value of a prize received in an artist’s career? Especially you have been awarded a Murex d’Or in 2001? To be awarded a prize, specifically the Murex d’Or, brings added value on a moral level. This implies that our performance is appreciated, that our way of playing the role has been a great success. The public has nominated me to be first, since all the artists, as well as all the artistic works, are divided into categories, and put to the vote of the public via the Internet. The Helou brothers persevere through the years to present prizes to deserving artists. Having been a member of Murex d’Or jury, I can confirm that the activity of the jury is completely impartial, the awards are granted to the most deserving people, who have the favor and the unanimity of the public and media. This competition helps to raise the level of TV series and actors who challenge themselves to be the best, whether in terms of scripts, staging, or production. Local production houses are thus setting the bar very high to compete with Turkish or Syrian series, and as a result, the Lebanese TV series is seen in the Arab world, on Netflix, which accept only works meeting the criteria of quality … These awards have set the challenge for the realization of better projects.
- What do you think of the young generation of actresses? Recently, there is a great improvement in the performance of the actors, in their sensitivity, the simplicity of their expression, the image they reflect. They are more interested in being professional rather than relying on their image. The actor is required to be more concerned with the content than the image. However, there is still a category of actors for which the image is more important than the content, they need a professional director to mentor them. When an actor plays, he is absorbed by the script, the text, hence the need to have a third professional eye that captures the dramatic work, not only on the technical level but also on the level of performance. This helps the actor and helps to value the entire work. My advice to the new generation would be: be simple.
- How do you evaluate the level of Lebanese cinema or TV series compared to their competitors in the Arab world? In my opinion, it is important that television or cinema convey messages because people don’t read anymore. Television is in every home, and the public likes to go to the movies. I am for works with an aim, and against satirical works. I know that the world is not perfect, but even comical situations must include a certain class, the respect of the spectator. It is better to accustom the spectator to the best and not to the insane anecdotes, vulgar, just to provoke laughter. To a certain point that parents are ashamed when they watch these kinds of programs with their children. I wonder how a respectable media authorizes the broadcasting of such programs. This is not allowed. We owe it to ourselves to maintain good principles and certain social values in order to raise enlightened generations. We need programs that awaken intelligence, elevate the mind. The human being is not made only of senses and desires, he has a logic, a brain. Some movies, for example, like The Insult are serious, they respect the viewer. Similarly for the films of Nadine Labaki, who created the difference in Lebanese cinema besides other names…Interview Conducted by Rita Saadé