Interview: May Calamawy and Hiam Abbass Talk Returning as Dena and Maysa in ‘Ramy’

One of the best aspects of Ramy‘s third season is how it expands the relationship between Maysa Hassan (Hiam Abbass) and Dena Hassan (May Calamawy). The show not only fleshes out their relationship as mother and daughter but also shows a different side of Maysa and Dena that wasn’t previously explored.

There’s a lot to talk about when interviewing May Calamawy and Hiam Abbass. Their characters are richly written and developed throughout the three seasons, and they’re both amazingly performed by two highly talented actors. I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about how good they are and their performances deserve the highest praise. In my review of the season, which you can read here, I talked about how deeply moving Abbass’ performance is as Maysa, while Calamawy gets a chance to showcase her comedic skills through multiple sequences, with one, in particular, involving Maysa that’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all year. It’s incredible to see these characters evolve from season to season because there’s a natural progression in their arcs from the first season to now.

It’s great to see Ramy evolve the characters in a natural way. And one of the main things which makes the show interesting is how it never focuses on its protagonist as the sole character of the show. Everyone has time to shine, no matter how big or small their role was in the previous seasons. Take Dena, for example. In the first season, she’s sparsely in it. While she has one episode focusing on her (“Refugees”), the season is mostly about Ramy Hassan (Ramy Youssef). But Dena starts to have a bigger presence in the second season and has her own story that’s equally interesting, though completely different, from Ramy’s. With each season, audiences learn something new about the characters, and in rediscovering Dena Hassan in this season, May Calamawy explained that the family dynamic the show builds made her approach to playing the character again feel natural:

MAY CALAMAWY: You just take it for what it is and put yourself in the situation. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe it’s coming out in a certain way–

HIAM ABBASS: Or maybe you’re a good actress?

MAY: I learned a lot from Hiam! We’re lucky because it’s a family dynamic and certain attributes naturally come out when we’re together. And when a circumstance is thrown in, it almost, for me, feels a bit natural.”

Hiam Abbass agreed with what Calamawy said, stating that “the family sense is great because we all get along very well together. And I would add that, most importantly, when you have good writing, jumping into the character is the most enjoyable process for an actor. And we should not forget what Ramy does for the show. Of course, he’s an actor, and we talk with him sometimes as actors. But he’s the one that created that family. He’s the one that created that show. And he’s the one that keeps meeting other people to be part of that journey. And everyone coming on board adds more and more depth of what we’re talking about in the show.”

Ramy is one of the most important, if not the most important, television shows right now. And for Calamawy, one of the reasons why it needs to be seen is that “a lot of times people don’t make the effort to understand anyone who is either from a different culture or different, as Hiam says, and that’s what causes a lot of turmoil in our lives. And being able to create a TV show is one of the fastest ways to reach a global amount of people. That’s what’s going to force people and, in a gentle way, nudge people to be more interested, curious, and open. Ultimately, that’s what we’re wanting. There’s a group of people wanting to be seen, heard, and expressed. And a group of people who are hungry for that information. And then even if you’re not, you do get pulled into it.”

Abbass added to this and said that one of the main reasons why Ramy is so important is that it’s able to reach a universal audience because it tackles themes that everyone can relate to: “When you look at the topics of what Ramy presents, they are universal in a way. And I think it echoes what May said, the visual language of the show is very universal because it’s easy for everybody to understand and identify the topic, which are so edgy and provocative at times, not provocative in a cheap way, but in a very thoughtful way. The topics that Ramy deals with are things we tend not to think of, and this is the opportunity for us to think together.”

You can watch our full interview below and stream all episodes of Ramy’s third season on Hulu as of September 30:


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

Joey’s Home Movies For the Week of September 26th – Thor Finds Love and ‘Sound of Metal’ Joins the Criterion Collection

BAFTA is Ending its Britannia Awards