An Egyptian business major student finishes his second year of college. As he enjoys a break in New York, he gets the news that he failed his exams. He decides to stay in New York without a plan for the future. It never occurs to him then that one day he will become a star in a Number One trending film on Netflix and eventually work alongside other stars like Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto in the eagerly awaited and much-discussed television series WeCrashed. Now, as he sits down for an in-person interview in Los Angeles, Ferris can confidently say, “I am not in a hurry for the Oscar, so one step at a time.”
After competing with 250 other actors, Ferris won the role of Mubarak in the recently released Apple series WeCrashed. The story is inspired by the real events of the collapse of the international company WeWork: though reviews have been mixed, the series is aired in over 100 countries and regions with a production budget of 75 million dollars. Although Ferris’ part in the series is a supporting role – he portrays the real-life Emirati billionaire and major investor Khaldoun Khalifa AlMubarak – it is a consequential one, and it could provide the opportunity for him to climb the final steps to stardom.
“So this company had made a big profit, around 46 billion dollars, and from all that growth it dropped, just like a rollercoaster, to zero,” explains Ferris of the premise of the series. “They decided to tell the story of this company: the company’s CEO, who is played by Jared Leto, was called Adam Neumann.”
When Ferris set out on his journey to stardom, he knew there would be competition and hardships awaiting him. The first obstacle he faced was his financial situation, which put his dream on hold for a few years: he was in his late twenties before he finally made his move to Hollywood to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Following his graduation in 2013, he launched his acting experience with a two-line role that he performed in the Paramount Theater. This opened the door for him to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild. He also got an agent to get him into auditions. Before even a year had passed, he secured a brief appearance as Captain Cook in the television series Community, which he followed with an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, the year after.
“I have made good progress in Hollywood so far,” he comments. “Most of Hollywood’s casting directors know me, and it’s not easy to reach that level. It takes a lot of hard work and so many auditions. You miss the opportunity of getting so many roles, but you become known.”
With the goal of getting known, Ferris took on several acting opportunities as a supporting character, some of them essentially stereotypes of Arabs. He took the role of Bassam, a Syrian refugee, in The Final Barrier. In a rare instance, he played the main role in his favorite project, Fireflies, in which he also played a Syrian refugee suffering from racism. The Raof Zaki short was released in 2017 and received seven awards.
“This film, because it was silent, was a new experience to me and was a challenge to bring out my skills and to be able to express everything inside me only with my facial expressions. And it was one tough role,” Ferris says.
As for his role in Rogue Warfare, Rogue Warfare: The Hunt, and Rogue Warfare: Death of A Nation, in 2019 and 2020, he played an evil and dangerous Iraqi whose goal is to take revenge on the United States. Regardless of the nature of the role, it was the main role, and it was the role that highlighted Ferris’ acting skills and opened the door for him further to showcase his abilities. The last of the trio was Number One on Netflix, which jump-started Essam’s journey on the road to fame.
“To me, that was an important role because it was a main role, so I was able to express everything inside me in those scenes,” he says.
“The producer Andrew Emilio DeCesare called me and said ‘We are Number One! Number One! Number One!’ at 10 a.m. I woke up and I couldn’t believe it,” the actor recalls. “I immediately turned on the TV and I found it at Number One, so I started jumping for joy at home like a monkey. I was so happy and it was a very nice feeling. You know when hard work pays off and you see the results at the end, it’s an indescribable feeling.”
Luck isn’t the only factor in Ferris’ pursuit of what might be the dream of millions of Arabs and others. In fact, his journey is an example of consistency, passion, and ambition where climbing the ladder of fame seems like following a manual to success. With that attitude and the recent inclination of Hollywood to cultural diversity, it will not be a surprise to see Ferris soon starring in a film similar to The Royal Treatment, or standing in the position of Rami Malek.
“I hope that within the upcoming years I can get stronger roles in bigger films,” says Ferris. “Not necessarily Arabic roles but roles of different characters that I can perform.”