Mem Ferda is a London actor born in Chelsea who became intrigued by acting from a young age. After completing two degrees in BSc Honors Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (M.B.A.) he then went on to pursue acting professionally. He has played many ‘baddie’ roles such as Kamel Hannah (The Devils Double), Vladimir (Ill Manors), Hakeem (The Veteran) and more. In recent film ‘Pusher’ Mem portrays the character of Hakan, though capable of extreme violence he is warm and friendly with aspirations of getting out of the drug game to follow his dreams of owning his own business.
From a young age you were fascinated by the art of acting, where did the fascination stem from, and what led
you to take it seriously?
As far back as I can remember I have always been curious and intrigued by other people. I would frequently watch TV, then, mimic what I had just seen the actor do.
At college I studied ‘A’ Level Film Study, which added to my fascination and thirst for Film and Acting. In my teenage years, I worked as a male model part time whilst studying, which eventually resulted in a London Agent signing me up for Television and Film work.
I went on to pursue and fulfill my passion for Acting by doing a Post-Graduate Diploma in Classical acting at LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). After LAMDA, I was snapped up by a mainstream Acting Agent and many doors opened for me and my career really began.
What led you to have two degrees unrelated to acting even though you knew you wanted to purse acting?
Both my parents encouraged me to pursue a more ‘stable’ profession. My eldest sister was a solicitor and hence they wanted me to follow in her footsteps. My father was devastated to learn that I had been studying Psychology instead of Law. His influence was overwhelming; I felt I had let him down; he wanted me to take over his businesses, so I decided to do a Masters degree in Business Administration (M.B.A.)
You’ve had a colorful past being held at gunpoint, being suspected as a drug smuggler at the Serbian border and narrowly avoiding being
a getaway driver in a real life heist. Were you a bad boy when you were growing up?
I was rebellious in my teens, hanging out with some unsavory characters and often in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. I never set out to be a ‘bad boy’ as such, but I seemed to be awestruck by such characters and found their way of life extremely exciting.
Did all these things and witnessing an assassination attempt on your father toughens you up, and helps you understand the roles you played?
These happenings would certainly of had an effect, without a doubt. When developing a character one does draw upon personal experiences, so yes, it has helped me formulate an understanding, having had first hand experience of these situations.
Is it hard being from the UK to get into acting, especially in American films?
It used to be, because there was a clear divide between what constituted as an American production and what is clearly a British production. However, it is now more a collaborative arrangement and the line is now significantly blurred. I do well being based in the UK and working in both ‘British’ and ‘American’ productions.
Do you feel as an actor you can get stereotyped easily into certain roles?
Yes, you can. In fact a vast majority of actors get stereotyped. It’s actually a good thing, as it gives you a voice, an established identity and a niche to grow from. It is exhaustively competitive out there, so to establish yourself an identity to later develop from is vital. Once this is set, you then battle to change industry professional’s perceptions of you, to expand and show your real range and versatility. This is what I’m doing now. I’m being very cautious about every new role I am being offered. Its time to break the chain and make the film-world sit up and take notice!
How different is acting in TV to film?
In terms of acting technique, or creation of a character, there isn’t any difference for me. However, given the choice of which I prefer as a medium, I’d choose Film over TV. Television is much quicker in terms of the speed at which each scene is shot and the whole production process in general. It reaches out to a wider audience much quicker. Film however is a lot more controlled, slower, process. Budgets are bigger, and subject matter for films tend to be more creative, which is what I like. Also, films tend to tell a story through the journey of a single strong protagonist with supporting cast, which I prefer, compared to television which tends to have stories consisting of a few lead characters and is more an ensemble cast set up.
To date which role have you enjoyed the most, and which one suited your real character the most?
It is hard for me to single out one specific role as being the one I enjoyed most of all. I find most parts I undertake, do give me a gratifying sense of achievement. The role of Kamel Hannah in ‘The Devil’s Double’ is one, which comes to mind, as it was very challenging and I love a challenge. It was demanding both physically and mentally, I had to go from being euphorically drunk to confused and terrified in an instant.
None of the roles I’ve played to date would be a true refection of my real character. But each role I do play has elements and pockets of my true character embedded within them.
Tell us about the recent film you have been involved in ‘Pusher’?
PUSHER is an English language remake of the original Danish cult movie by Nicholas Winding Refn, which he wrote and directed back in 1996. Set in London instead of Copenhagen, it is about a week in the life of a drug pusher named Frank.
The film is a no-holds-barred, gritty and real, journey into the underworld of the drug pusher. It will be extremely entertaining with flashes of humor, hard-core action, violence and a twisted plot.
What advice would you give to up and coming actors?
They need to be aware that acting requires total unrelenting dedication 24/7. Determination, sacrifice and focus are at the top my list. It is a way of life, not an occupation. There are no guarantees of success, but when it knocks at the door, it is as if you’ve been invigorated by a new life force. Hardest of all is rejection. After 16 years in the industry it is still hard to take, it doesn’t get easier. Also, it is good to have some prior Drama school training. Ultimately, I don’t believe they can teach you how to act. But their usefulness is in helping you channel the talent you may have, to act effectively.
What’s next for you in the world of acting?
I can next be seen in supernatural horror, feature film, ‘Parallel Hell’, in which I play a lead role. Other features I have coming up are Gridiron UK, A Place Between, and The Unbeliever.
Anyone who’d like to keep updated on future projects can do so via website www.memferda.com