Remember City of Life, the Emirati film directed by Ali F. Mustafa, which won over critics thanks to its portrayal of the different types of people living in Dubai?
Well, if there is a television show we could liken to the hit movie, we’d say it was MBC’s 04 (Zero Four).
The drama, which has just finished its second season, stars Khalid Najim, Momin Noor, Nicholas Mouwad and Mohammad Al Dosari as four young men from different nationalities and backgrounds living in Dubai.
04 shows what expatriate life can be like for Arab guys: one’s a conservative Jordanian, while the other is an Egyptian torn between good and bad. The rebel of the bunch is Lebanese, whose naughty ways tends to rub off on his friends, including the young Kuwaiti.
The show has proven popular with audiences, including those who do not understand Arabic (the show is subtitled in English, a first for MBC). Set to continue for two more seasons, the cast and crew is currently shooting Season Three across various locations in Dubai. One of these is Festival Centre, which is the location for 04’s mall shoots.
During a break from filming, the cast appeared at the shopping centre to meet with fans and sign autographs, and tabloid! was there to meet Najim, Noor and Mouwad to find out more about what’s coming up.
Momin Noor (Hassan)
Originally from Alexandria, Egypt, Noor plays Hassan. His notable television appearances have been in Shireef wa Nus, Al Jameaa, Abwab Al Khowf and the film Ala Al Hawa.
Q: Tell us about your experience so far with 04.
A: It has been very interesting, and it has been something very different from anything else I had worked on. For example, this is the first time a show is titled with a number or a symbol so to speak, rather than a full title, and it is also translated. In terms of work, it is also very interesting as all of us have come from different backgrounds and all of us had our own previous work in our respective countries. It was a first in many things.
Q: What attracted you to the role of Hassan?
A: I was attracted to the show because I loved the concept. I loved the fact that it shows the good and the bad within the lives of the four guys. It shows that wherever you live, life is not perfect. These guys work and live their [lives] and sometimes get up to no good, but it is a realistic [account of] expat life. In terms of the character, it came about after I was nominated for the role after I appeared alongside Amr Waked in Abwab Al Khowf. When I read the script, I instantly knew I wanted to take him on. I loved the character. He almost kind of annoyed me so much that I had to take on the role.
Q: Have you experienced expat life yourself?
A: Well, kinda. Although I moved to Dubai for the role, [I] hadn’t lived in the emirate beforehand. I am originally from Alexandria, but I moved to Cairo, and also lived with guys in an apartment. So I kind of know how it feels to be in that sort of situation.
Q: What’s next for Hassan?
A: Well, we’ve finished Season Two and I think he has become deeper. Right now, he is still confused between Mai or Teema, and doesn’t know who he wants to end up with. The problem with Hassan is that he is very impulsive and does not think before he does things. He thinks with his heart rather than his head.
Q: You guys film quite a bit in Dubai Festival Centre, and we’ve heard it can get a little distracting...
A: Yeah, when we’re shooting, we do get stopped by fans and stuff, but it’s great. But it’s sometimes funny when people treat you like your character.
Q: Are you working on any other projects?
A: I have projects in Egypt, but I don’t want to take them on while I am still shooting in Dubai for 04.
Q: Are you worried about the state of the industry in Egypt at the moment?
A: I am waiting to see what happens. I cannot judge something before it happens. I am not worried about working in Egypt, but the coming days will show. Plus, we have a lot of shows coming up in Ramadan, so the real picture [about the state of the industry] will emerge after Eid.
Q: Finally, if you could have anyone guest star in 04 — someone you would love to appear with — who would you choose?
A: Oh, it would have to be the great actress Mervat Ameen. I adore her.
Khalid Najim (Wissam)
Born in Amman, Jordan, Najim plays Wissam. He has appeared in numerous Jordanian productions, including Du’aa ala Abwab Jahannem and Saadun Al Awaji.
Q: Were you based in Dubai before being offered 04?
A: No, I travelled here for the role. I had travelled to the UAE three years ago, but just for a quick vacation, so it didn’t give me a lot of time to familiarise myself with the place.
Q: How did you research the role of Wissam?
A: When I moved here, I went out onto the streets and did my own research. I would connect with people to find out why they were living here. So I got all these answers and put them all together and that’s how I came out with the character of Wissam.
Q: Wissam is quite a complex character, and is quite conservative. Did you find it challenging taking on such an intense role?
A: Any human being has the potential of choosing the wrong path or having negative experiences, but it shapes your character. What’s funny is that when I was researching Wissam, I met an Arab Wissam and a foreign Wissam. This type of conservative character does exist in the Arab world.
Q: So what’s next for your character?
A: I cannot reveal much, but he continues to live with the guys but there is still tension between them.
Q: And what’s next for you?
A: I want to do a lot of projects. I studied acting and directing, and while I consider myself just an actor right now, I would love to direct a personal project. Something like a documentary. But I cannot focus on anything else while shooting 04 as this is my main priority right now.
Q: Is there anyone you would love to work with?
A: If I had the chance, I would have loved to have worked with the great late Egyptian actor Ahmad Zaki. He was just brilliant.
Nicholas Mouwad (Ziyad)
The Lebanese actor plays Ziyad. He first made a name for himself hosting Rotana Cafe, before appearing in TV serials such as Ruby, Metl Al Kezb, Ila Yara and Dahaya l Madi.
Q: So your character has been causing a lot of problems for the guys, hasn’t he? What’s happening with Ziyad?
A: Ziyad is still going to be making some wrong decisions, and he really doesn’t know what to do; whether it’s about work, his love for Nadine or his drinking. He’s not going to be going on a lot of adventures like before — he is going to try to get his life in order. However, the four characters are becoming more mature as well.
Q: Ziyad is in love with Nadine, but as soon as she breaks off her engagement, he is no longer interested. What’s going on?
A: Yeah, stuff has been happening between them in the last couple of episodes, but they’re not going to end up together. Ziyad is afraid of commitment and he showed how much he loved her, but as a typical guy, as soon as she stopped being with someone else, he stopped pursuing her.
Q: There’s a large Lebanese community in Dubai — since you do not live here, did you take tips from any guys here?
A: I live in Beirut, and I just come to Dubai to shoot the show. I obviously had to research the character very well and find out how Lebanese guys live over here. So I took the opinion of Lebanese people, as well as non-Lebanese people. It was important to learn how guys lived, but also how other nationalities saw them. And the feedback I have received has been good so I am very happy I met people’s expectations.
Q: Fans can continue to interact with the characters after the show online via various social media channels. What’s the worst thing people have said about your character?
A: I think the fight between Ziyad and Wissam hit a nerve with a lot of fans, because the scene involved religion, so it wasn’t nice for either characters. My only problem is that some fans did not differentiate between me and my character, so when they see me in the street, they’re like, ‘Why are you so mean? Why are you drunk all the time?’ It’s not the real me.
Q: You’ve appeared in various shows in Lebannon before 04. Does it bother you that the Lebanese entertainment industry has a reputation for producing too many manufactured performers, like Myriam Klink?
A: You know what, every industry has the good and the bad, and no-one has the right to stop Myriam Klink from singing. I don’t like her songs, and I wouldn’t watch her, but if she wants to sing and somebody gave her the chance, then who cares? To be honest, talentless people do not last. If a model decides to become an actor or a singer, but is not talented, they’ll only last for so long. For example, my role in Ruby was not originally offered to me. There was a model doing the role, but then the director did two shoots and said no, and that’s when they cast an actor.
Q: Finally, who would you love to work with?
A: Yousra and Sherihan. I used to be in love with Sherihan; our director is Egyptian so he is always taking the mick out of me for this. I also adore Naglaa Fathy.