They call him “Joker”, the Lebanese drama. Because he can play evil roles with distinction, just like those related to goodness, romance, poverty, wealth, and others. The Lebanese actor Asaad Rashdan, whose artistic career has passed for nearly 50 years, still enjoys a remarkable presence in drama. Locally and in the Arab world, his name brightened and his acting abilities emerged in more than one work, as in “Paranoia”, “Ward Jouri”, “Prince of the Night”, “Prestige”, “Challenge” and “The Quay of Strangers”, among others.
Rashdan is currently appearing in “Asmaa from the Past” with director Elie Maalouf in a role close to the guest of honor, and he does not deny that it is an ordinary role, but he is waiting to embody one of his sweetest roles in another collaboration with Maalouf entitled “Zaytouna”. And he comments: “I am not against the appearance as a guest of honor, provided that it is pivotal, and this is something I presented in many works that left an impact on the viewer.”
In your conversation with him, you turn rich pages from the beginnings of the Lebanese drama until today. Today, when local production is no longer the pinnacle of its era, Rashdan remains one of its original pillars. He comments to Asharq Al-Awsat: “Local production still has its audience and followers, and this segment of people is only interested in the story of the work. Do not scrutinize the techniques or the output processes. As in any other country, local production represents this close relationship between a country and its people. Currently, only a few of its producers remain, such as Marwan Haddad and Elie Maalouf.
“Joker”, the Lebanese drama, played hundreds of roles
And he does not forget to praise Lebanese producers such as Jamal, Raed Sinan and Sadiq Al-Sabah, who contributed to the prosperity of the Lebanese drama industry, as well as to coloring it with local foundations of directors and actors.
Is he satisfied with his current role in “Asmaa Min Al Past”? He replies: “I do not consider it a pivotal role, but I do my job perfectly. There is suffering that I live like other colleagues of my age, especially since our material wages are declining with the decline in the exchange rate of the lira against the dollar. Personally, I am not optimistic about what is happening to Lebanon. In fact, it can be said that I have given up hope that things will return to their previous state.
Asaad Rashdan walks between the points, as he has not yet despaired and has not surrendered to a bleak reality, but at the same time he continues his career out of his passion for acting. In his opinion, there is a group of actors who are lucky, while others strive to survive and continue. What do you mean by “lucky”? He explains to Asharq Al-Awsat: “I mean that ages play a major role in the resounding launch of an actor. We have the names of young actors who are recognized for their professionalism and their proposition on the scene. Bassem Mughniyeh, Youssef Al Khal, Badi Abu Shaqra, and others seize the opportunities that are presented to them, which is natural. On the other hand, paralysis and interest play their role in this matter. Because some production companies apply it in their acting choices.
According to Rashdan, the local Lebanese drama suffers from some imperfections, such as the slowness in the directing process, as well as the adoption of a traditional, non-modern style in the plot of the work as a whole.
Regarding the difference between yesterday and today in this context, he says: “The difference is vast, and there is no room for comparison between the two times. In the past, the first reliance was on actors and talents that left their mark on the screen. Who among us does not remember Mahmoud Saeed, Abdel Majeed Majzoub, Samir Shams, Elie Sanifer, and others. These were people with talent and never studied in art institutes. Today, financing plays the biggest and most important role, but these people built the Lebanese drama and established it with beautiful productions and texts within works that do not exceed 13 episodes. Today, this rule is spreading again; Because short works shorten the time and there is no place for boredom, just as they reduce making mistakes and wasting time photographing a car wheel or a horse or any other detail. The method results in lengthening, which is not in the interest of the work or its scenes. Technology has overturned many rules, and keeping pace with the times is a necessity, while some of our local businesses are still languishing in another era.”
Asaad Rashdan describes himself as an intelligent actor who is well versed in many sciences. Because he was superior in his studies and even in his university. “I am a very sensitive person, and I have a great emotional level, but I am nervous at the same time. When I act, I use all these elements together and borrow them at the necessary time in order to embody the character I play in a way that convinces the viewer. In my opinion, the basis for success for the actor is his talent, and then other elements come that he strives to crystallize in his work.
Asaad Rashdan, speaking to you about life today, dives into sentimental matters to the extent that you feel that he is an ascetic in the world, neither fame nor lights nor glories attract him or care about achieving them. “Today, I am more inclined towards sentimentalism and philosophy, as I feel that through it I can be ready to leave. Even my private stuff no longer meant anything to me. I donated the majority of my library’s possessions to a friend who is a lawyer, and I did not hesitate to give my children some other possessions that were dear to my heart. My view of life at the age of seventy has changed and is no longer the same as when I was young. I have many questions about the secret of existence, trying to find answers to them, and thus I am ready for the zero hour and the transition to another world. I never talk about it out of desperation or resignation or suicidal ideation. I am attached to life and I still give each time what it deserves, but I have become more realistic and try as much as possible to maintain the integrity of my health.
Positive energy still inhabits Asaad Rashdan. The stages he went through in his life, including ups and downs, and he stopped acting for about 15 years, after his emigration to America, increased his experience. He says: «I am present today for any role, as acting is my passion, and I meet many offers from this standpoint, but the roles at my age are less, and two or three people can benefit from them, no more. Therefore, we hardly notice the presence of representatives of my generation, such as Tony Muhanna, Issam Al-Ashqar and Gord Diab.
His loss of friends dear to his heart may have affected his lifestyle, as he was saddened by the absence of the closest to his heart, the actor Pierre Chamoun, as well as the painter Pierre Chedid. He turned towards sentimentalism and became more and more immersed in the mysteries of life and death. “We all reach this stage with age, and it is good to enter it at an earlier age. The issues of faith, philosophy, and sentiments provide us with maturity and experiences that may be the most important in our journey.”
On the other hand, Rashdan is proud of what he has achieved so far in the world of acting. He remembers his beginnings when he acted alongside the late Sabah in the play “Sitt Al-Kul”, and in the series “Al-Baraka” and “Its Name is No”, as well as in the series “Paranoia” alongside Qusai Al-Khouli. And he concludes, “I know very well that I have great energies, and that I could have used them in a more important way if I had the opportunities.”