Documenting a largely unfamiliar past is never easy, but the historical drama “Kingdom of Fire” rises to the challenge superbly.
The series, now streaming on Starzplay, is set in the early 16th century when the Ottoman Empire set out to conquer Arab territories. The show follows two heroes — Selim, an Ottoman prince, and Tuman Bey, a child taken as a slave from Circassia (now southern Russia) to Egypt who grows up to lead a popular uprising against the Ottomans.
Egyptian actor Khaled Al-Nabawi, who plays Tuman Bey, told Arab News about his “dream role.”
Al-Nabawi’s career has spanned more than two decades and includes several Hollywood movies, but he said: “I was dreaming of Tuman more than 20 years ago. His story is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever heard.”
The actor grew up learning about this historical period. “My father told me that when the Turkish came to Egypt there was an invasion. So I wondered, after I became an actor, if I would get the chance to play this role,” he said.
Al-Nabawi said that the series documented the lives of characters who lived 500 years ago, so he felt “great responsibility.”
He read widely on the era before the shooting started.
“It is the least anyone could do to play such a part and I was honored to play Tuman,” he added.
Besides the mental preparation, there was also a lot of physical effort. Al-Nabawi trained with horses and learned how to use swords. His fitness routine included swimming, running and yoga.
“You are on a horse fighting, with lots of dust and sand, wearing heavy costumes, so it’s not easy,” said the actor.
The film, shot in Tunisia, was directed by American Peter Webber, best known for “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “Emperor.”
Al-Nabawi said that he is happy with his roles in Hollywood films, including “The Citizen,” “Fair Game” and “Kingdom of Heaven.”
“These are films I chose. I get offered a lot, but I choose what suits me, what I like as an actor, what I believe I will enjoy, what I believe as a person, and also what suits me as a human being coming from the Arab world,” he said.
However, Al-Nabawi said that he has rejected offers because of stereotypes associated with Arab characters.
“I need to fix the stereotypes they have about us,” he said.