Lebanese actress Razane Jammal reaches new heights with Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’
DUBAI: In the spring of 2021, Lebanese actress Razane Jammal shot the most difficult scene of her career. She was filming ‘The Sandman,’ a hit Netflix series over 30 years old, and in it, her character was saying goodbye to her husband Hector for the last time, as his beloved slipped away into the beyond.
As the director shouted cut, tears streamed down Jammal’s face. She didn’t want to distract her cast, so only she and co-star Vanesu Samunyai knew the truth — that her tears were real. That same day, Jammal learned that her mother, the woman who helped shape the cross-cultural success she is today, was also moving away from her.
“That was the day I found out my mom had gone into a coma. I was shooting a scene that was the epitome of heartbreak, and I didn’t know what had happened to my mom. I didn’t know if I had already lost her,” Jammal told Arab News.
Samunyai, standing across from her in this scene, was in awe of the strength her collaborator, and now her friend, showed that day.
“She was amazing. She carried so many emotions. And she knew how to bring it out. It was a sight to behold. It was painful, but it was also beautiful how she was able to harness that,” Samunyai says. “That means the most to me with this show, and like just a moment in my life. I will never forget that.”
What was undoubtedly a turning point in his life, could also, in turn, become a turning point in Jammal’s career. After all, “The Sandman,” based on the legendary graphic novels written by award-winning British author Neil Gaiman, is one that has long enchanted the many communities that have felt represented by him. When the series finally hits Netflix on August 5, it could very well take the franchise to the levels of cultural ubiquity of “Stranger Things” and “Squid Game” — and Jammal to a new level of stardom.
“The Sandman” follows Morpheus, the King of Dreams, an age-old concept made manifest in the flesh. Jammal plays Lyta Hall, a woman who dreams of her dead husband every night, slowly realizing that he is not a figment of her imagination but is hiding in the dream world to be with his wife, not wanting to cross over and the leaving behind.
It’s a role that Jammal manages to play honestly with great subtlety – a subtlety that Jammal credits his mother for teaching him how to exploit.
“I was always extra, and my mother was much more subtle than me. I had to adjust to vibrate on her frequency, a frequency that was very soft and very raw and vulnerable and nurturing. I took that from her. She helped me hone my empathy and playing is an empath’s place – if he knows how to protect himself from that precious place my mother taught me to reach,” says Jammal.
“My mother didn’t necessarily know how to protect herself from this place,” she adds.
Jammal grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, a place of both beauty and pain – a place that nurtured Jammal but also gave him some of the most difficult experiences of his life.
“I grew up living a simple, communal life in a place where you have 500 mothers and everyone feeds you and you feel safe – even if it’s not safe at all. At the same time, we we have been through so much trauma, from civil wars to assassinations to losing all our money in another financial crisis,” says Jammal.
But she learned during the toughest times to give and lean on the people around her, from those closest to her to those seemingly strangers to her.
“It gives you strength. It made me appreciate the little things in my life; it made me smile at my neighbor and say ‘Hi’ every morning to the man who sells vegetables, reminding me of the day he told me that if I didn’t have any money I could come back and pay later. It opened me up to others and made me a people person, and it deepened me in ways I’m still discovering,” says Jammal.
Becoming an actress was the basis of her personal dream world – an idea she used to escape the hardships of her country and her home too, as her parents’ marriage crumbled before her eyes. She used her imagination to escape, the same tools she now uses every day.
But acting, of course, is not quite what she imagined.
“I idealized it in my head,” she says. “You don’t think behind the scenes. You don’t think of 14-hour days and six-day work weeks. When you’re six, you think, “I’m going to be an actor.” I’m going to be on stage and everyone is going to love me.'”
Thanks to the hard work Jammal has put in, his dream is well on its way to being realized as his star continues to rise. It all started when she moved to London at the age of 18, quickly booking roles with French director Olivier Assayas and Kanye West, among others.
Over the next decade, Jammal also continued to venture into the Middle East, swinging between opposing legends such as Liam Neeson in Hollywood and Youssra in Egypt. She has now reached a point where she is starring not only in ‘The Sandman’ but in regional blockbusters, including Marwan Hamed’s latest Arabian epic ‘Kira & El Gin’, already the fourth highest-grossing Egyptian film of all time. just a few weeks after its release. Release.
“I started dreaming of Hollywood and wanting to go overseas because the trauma of war made people tell me to go and escape the pain of the area. I’m so happy to “Being brought back to the Middle East, because those are my roots – I didn’t connect with them in the same way back then. I had to get lost to find myself,” says Jammal.
“Now I can not only work on great projects with talented people here in the region, but also work internationally to help contribute positively to how Arabs are perceived around the world. I will always do this to the best of my ability,” she continues.
Jammal must now do so without her mother, who passed away in the summer of 2021. Although Jammal cannot call her for support in the same way she once did, as she celebrates her current successes and working on those to come, she knows she never has to fully say goodbye as long as she continues to live in a way that honors her.
“I’m going to live my life to the fullest, because I owe it to her – to carry her lessons with me and spread everything she taught me,” Jammal says. “I guess that’s my way of keeping her alive.”