Moon Knight's May Calamawy on making history in the MCU: 'Surreal'

While scoring a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is big enough for some actors, for May Calamway, she's actually making history with her role in the new Disney+ series Moon Knight as Layla El-Faouly – the first Arab character in an MCU series or film.

Moon Knight is an exciting series that follows Oscar Isaac in two roles, one as Steven Grant, a mild-mannered gift-shop employee, who, unbeknownst to him lives with dissociative identity disorder, meaning he suffers from blackouts and memories of another life. And the other is Marc Spector, a mercenary who shares his body with Steven. Marc is granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god, making Steven's life a living hell.

Moon Knight's May Calamawy at the show's premier
Moon Knight's May Calamawy shared with Yahoo Lifestyle how it felt to make history with her character Layla in the new Disney+ series. Photo: Getty

May's Layla, an archeologist and adventurer, is a figure from Marc's past and acts as an ally to both Marc and Steven as they try to fend off their enemies while being drawn into a deadly mystery surrounding the Egyptian gods.

Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle about the history-making role, May shared that she hopes it inspires other actors.

"It really feels surreal," she told us. "It's like I'm just excited that I'm part of this project. So then when I remember, 'Oh, yeah, there isn't another Arab character,' it's a great feeling because I hope it just opens the door for so many others and I hope that like it makes other women, and men, you know, actually stand up to like wanting to be an actor."


She continued, "It's not the most common job to do over there. So I hope it inspires people."

When asked how she felt about shooting in Egypt, May, whose father is Egyptian and mother is a Palestinian-Jordanian, revealed that she was proud to see the country represented in a real way.

"I have such a huge amount of pride because of that," she shared. "I think it's just like working with [director and executive producer] Mohamed Diab – and it's a testament to [executive producer] Kevin Feige's work and our producer Grant Curtis – for giving Muhammad that freedom to really be authentic and ask for what he needs to represent Egypt in a way and I think it's cool to have Egypt in modern-day against Egypt with the backdrop of like, its, you know, the mythology and the gods and all that rich history."

May Calamawy and Oscar Isaac in Moon Knight
May stars alongside Oscar Isaac in the show, which sees him play two roles – Steven Grant and Marc Spector, two people who couldn't be more different. Photo: Disney+

Speaking of Oscar Isaac, May said she loved working with the Star Wars actor, describing him as "always just so fun and generous".

With Oscar playing two roles, sometimes within the same scene, May shared how it changed her performance.

"He's so good, that I knew who he was every time, when he would embody the role," she told us. "And I found that Layla naturally, even me, like I was more guarded around Marc or I'd be more nurturing and like playful around Steven."

She added, "And I'm generally a big goofball, and that's how I like to be in between takes. And he's like, no matter what he's like right there to play. And so it was fun. I like how light he could be within such intensity."

Speaking about the appeal of Steven and Marc's Moon Knight, May shared her thoughts on what makes him interesting.

"Well, we really meet him at this like juncture where he's very much in turmoil and like an internal struggle, and throughout the show, you watch how it leads to a space of integration," she said.

Moon Knight
May told us that what she thinks is most interesting about Moon Knight as a hero, is his struggle. Photo: Disney+

Explaining further the actress added, "And really, many people have that, we all have that in us – we can play different roles. As an Arab woman, I'm like, I knew how to be two different people growing up so that I wouldn't get in trouble or whatever, you know?

"And obviously this is a different situation because it's an actual condition, DID [dissociative identity disorder]. But I think that the goal is for everyone to kind of integrate themselves and when we do that becomes the superpower. And I think that's what makes him really interesting is like his superpower, at one point, was his struggle."

Now that she's part of the MCU, it wouldn't be so out of the ordinary for May to pop up in other films or shows from the Marvel universe, and there are a few characters she'd love to see Layla interact with.

"I'd love to work with Doctor Strange," she shared immediately. "I would love to work with the Florence Pugh Black Widow character and I love all the women. Like if you put me with any of the women, I'm happy. And then, you know, Thor cracks me up but I love the mysticism of Doctor Strange."

Layla and Black Widow in the same film or series would definitely be something fans would love to see!

Watch Moon Knight on Disney+ now!

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