Meet Dubai resident now Marvel’s ‘Moon Knight’ star, May Calamawy

Estimated read time 9 min read

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Meet Dubai resident now Marvel’s ‘Moon Knight’ star, May Calamawy

May Calamawy didn’t know much about the newest Marvel story to make the move from page to film when she originally auditioned for Moon Knight.

“I didn’t know anything,” she admitted while chuckling as she spoke to The National through Zoom from a New York apartment so close to the subway that it makes a rattling noise every time a train passes. “So I just started to buy a few comics. On the iPad, there is a Marvel app where you can read [them] all. I was just getting to know the world.”

She isn’t the only one who feels this way. Moon Knight, a Marvel superhero created by writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin and first appearing in the mid-1970s, is one of the company’s lesser-known characters, far from the enormous popularity of Spider-Man or Captain America.

Moon Knight, on the other hand, is unquestionably ideal for inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marc Spector, a former CIA operative, obtains strength and agility through a meeting with the Egyptian moon deity Khonsu.

The show’s ties to Egyptian culture continue with the addition of Mohamed Diab as the show’s director. Calamawy was ecstatic to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Egyptian director behind such critically acclaimed, politically charged films as Cairo 678 (2010) and Clash (2016).

“Seeing the type of work Mohamed does … I was curious what he was going to bring from his experience to this project,” she claims. “I knew that authenticity is a very important thing for him.”

While Oscar Isaac was cast as Spector/Moon Knight, Diab wanted an Egyptian actress to play Layla El-Faouly, a mystery character from Spector’s past. When Diab met Calamawy, who is best known internationally for her part in the TV comedy-drama Ramy, he was immediately impressed.

He thinks she’s going to be a huge star. “The moment she did the first audition with Oscar, the moment she read, she blew our minds … as she started the show, everyone wanted to write her more [scenes] and make her role bigger,” he said.

Calamawy, on the other hand, thought she and Diab got along stating that during their phone call she felt they clicked immediately, with that, they had a good relationship. Furthermore, the farther she delved into the universe of Moon Knight, the clearer it seemed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

 

“I mean, I love Marvel, and I love how lighthearted it is,” she further said. “But when I started reading some of the scripts, I was like, ‘Oh, OK, I feel like maybe this is gonna be a little bit different.’”

 

That is undoubtedly correct. Spector is a character with DID (dissociative identity disorder), a real ailment that causes him to unknowingly acquire multiple identities, including that of mild-mannered British museum worker Steven Grant. Moon Knight is the MCU’s first character study, according to Isaac, who plays so many roles. However, the fact that Spector must deal with cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) suggests there will be plenty of action as well.

 

Calamawy, 35, spent two months with an amazing team studying how to perform stunts. She shared that she learned so much and she finds it fun, she also added that she had two stunt doubles.

 

It didn’t take long, especially because the physical aspect of her work was so alluring. She admits that it was addictive, “I’m like, ‘Oh, I love action now.’”

Calamawy saw the opportunity to portray a story based on Egyptian history and mythology as more than merely flexing her muscles. “It’s a dream to be able to represent Egypt in that way,” she says. “I was always like, ‘Well, I live in the States. And I don’t know if I’m going to work in the Middle East a lot.’ And so this has bridged that gap for me, in a way that’s fun. This is cool, because I don’t think we’ve seen Egypt in this way.”

Calamawy, an Egyptian-Palestinian, was born in Bahrain and lived there until she was seventeen years old when she moved to Boston to study industrial design. She spent five years in Dubai before returning to the United States to pursue a career in acting.

She admitted that she has always wanted to work abroad, “There’s a freedom that you get over here with what you can and can’t talk about. And I feel like it’s just more of my purpose to be able to share everything.”

Djinn, an Emirati supernatural horror film directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, gave her her first big break in 2013. Things picked up once she joined the cast of Ramy, a film starring Ramy Youssef as an American Muslim living in New Jersey. It felt special to play Dena, Ramy’s sister.

Calamawy is currently filming the third season of Ramy, which she is looking forward to.

When asked if she would work with Diab again, she answered she would “again and again.”

“Yeah, definitely. All I want to do as a performer is be authentic, and share truth. And if we have an opportunity to unapologetically do that, I would love to. I would work with Mohamed again,” she remarked.

How does she feel about her profile growing throughout the world now that Moon Knight is due to premiere on Disney+?

“I don’t know,” she says, Calamawy admitted that it’s a bit scary and overwhelming.

“It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘I don’t know what to imagine, because I haven’t experienced anything remotely close’. So I have to just wait and see,” she added.

From March 30, ‘Moon Knight’ will be available on Disney+. KMB/Expat Media


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