Amin El Gamal was born to shake up the world – which is not surprising considering that he was quite literally born during an earthquake.
The Egyptian-American has been busy making a name for himself in the acting world after graduating from Stanford University with a Bachelors degree in Drama. The actor further developed his craft and knowledge after acquiring a Masters in Dramatic Arts from the University of Southern California.
Amin has history in TV, film and theatre, with each role as diverse as the last – he has a true talent as he is able to turn his hand at any kind of character. You may recognise Amin from The Newsroom, and Shameless, as well as productions and workshops at South Coast Repertory, the NY Public Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Pasadena Playhouse, A Noise Within, Musical Theatre West and the LA Phil.
As well as acting, Amin has a passion for activism, standing up for equality and representation of minorities. GLAAD, Black Lives Matter, Reading to Kids, and Equality California are just some of the causes that he supports.
2017 is set to be a breakout year for Amin as he appears as the villain ‘Cyclops’ in the new season of Prison Break. He will also appear in the films Message from the King and Namour. Amin has also been starring in The Librarians. Last night saw the exciting finale of the show, in which Amin was at the centre of all the action. His pivotal role in the show is certain to propel him to higher heights.
We caught up with Amin to discuss his incredible role in The Librarians (if you haven’t watched it yet then you might want to stop reading because, SPOILER ALERT), his upcoming role as Cyclops in Prison Break, switching off from acting, and his activist work.
Check it out below!
Hi Amin, thank you for speaking to us today! First off, the exciting finale of ‘The Librarians’ aired last night and you were at the centre of it all. Please tell us all about your role.
In The Librarians, I play Apep who is the Ancient Egyptian god of chaos and pretty much the super villain of this season. On the show, Apep’s spirit has been unleashed from a mummy at the Boston Museum of Science and he’s been possessing different characters throughout the season with the goal of world destruction. In last night’s episode, Apep was revealed for the first time in all his fabulousness and he had a big showdown with Noah Wylie’s character Flynn.
Was it difficult to keep your character’s true involvement a secret?
It was super hard to keep my mouth shut because the whole experience was just so ridiculously fun. I mean, my character comes hurling out of Vanessa Williams’ mouth. Like, how could that not be the greatest thing I will ever do in my life?
It was also my first time acting on a mainly blue screen set and my first time playing an Ancient Egyptian character (something I’ve always wanted to do as a person of Egyptian ancestry). The CGI element and the fact that no one really has any idea how Ancient Egyptians spoke allowed me to let my imagination run wild. It’s rare that you get to tap into that goofy, make-believe energy of childhood and we really got to do that on this show.
Also, hanging out in the pixie forest that is Portland (where the show is shot) with the likes of Vanessa Williams, Rebecca Romijn, Noah Wylie and Dean Devlin was such a joy and privilege. They are all excellent humans.
In April, you’ll be appearing in the new season of Prison Break as Cyclops. What can you tell us about your role?
Much of the new season of Prison Break is loosely inspired by The Odyssey, so that probably gives you some idea of the role Cyclops plays in the show. If what I was trying to do with the character succeeds, you’ll see the underpinnings of what makes someone who we might write off as “evil” an actual human being. But you can also expect lots and lots of fights, crazy chases and all around dope action sequences.
Cyclops is set to be terrifying – how do you prepare yourself to portray that role?
Because the character’s situation is so bleak and his actions so dark, my primary task was to find his humanity. Though he’s loosely based on a monster, the character in Prison Break is a real human being. So for me, focusing on his wounds – emotional and physical – and coming from that experience helped me find the motivation to do the scary things he does.
Digging into such a sad and misguided psychology definitely takes a toll. For me, I found strength in doing my homework: researching his situation in an unflinching and nonjudgemental way, and finding the ways that I personally connect to his needs.
Also, I spent a lot of time working on the physical stuff. I did some fight and arms training to prepare, and even had to learn how to drive a manual truck (in about five minutes in the Moroccan desert!). So, just trying to make sure I didn’t stall the damn truck or accidentally punch Wentworth Miller in the face kept me present and engaged.
Prison Break was such a well loved show, and its comeback is highly anticipated. Do you feel pressure with regards to joining such a show?
The Prison Break fandom has already been so kind and welcoming to me on social media and I’m really grateful for that. The new season definitely feels very current and takes on some risky subject matter, but from what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.
You originally come from a theatre background. Do you have a preference when it comes to theatre or TV/film work?
Ooh, hard question. Theatre is definitely a bit more of a joyride and I tend to get to play a wider variety of characters on stage. The hustle and communion of theatre is something that is really sacred to me. That said, I also love the subtly and depth of working on camera. So I guess I kind of love it all? Is that a copout?
It’s known that you can turn your hand to any role, but how do you like to switch off from the acting world in your spare time?
I’ve been getting into watercoloring lately. It forces me to chill and go with the flow, like literally. I also do a lot of volunteering when I can and write the dumbest songs on my out-of-tune guitar. Oh and I have a pesky orange tabby named Pickle who wants to play tag all day and night.
Coming from an Egyptian descent yourself, you’ve always pushed the boundaries for equality and responsible representation of minorities. Can you tell us about some of the activist work that you do?
I see acting as activism. I mean, just having a queer actor of color with a Muslim background on a broadcast show is a big deal, I think.
And yeah, I do get frustrated with the stories that we insist on telling about Arab and Muslim people. I have yet to play or see a person who is truly like me in film or on TV. As a child, I struggled with a lot of self-hatred for a long time and a big part of that was not seeing people like myself represented in an authentic way. But even more than that, I really think the stories we tell on TV and in film can help influence our implicit biases. Like, I spend a lot of time thinking, if we hadn’t been repeatedly fed this narrative of black criminality for years and years, would so many cops pull the trigger on innocent black people in the heat of the moment? I think entertainment can help shift the narrative and maybe even save lives.
I’m still figuring out how I can have the most impact for good and I challenge your readers to do the same. In the mean time, I go to all the rallies I can, try to share knowledge on social media, volunteer in my community in Los Angeles and create spaces where queer people of color feel safe. I’m beginning to write more as well. Hopefully, by sharing my story openly, I’ll be able to help dismantle some of the harmful stereotypes that people like me face every day.
Thank you to the wonderful Amin El Gamal for his time!
Amin’s new indie film Namour is set for release in the US on March 15 and will be available on Netflix. The new series of Prison Break kicks off on April 4.