May Calamawy

May Calamawy

Kevin Scanlon
May Calamawy

May Calamawy as Layla in Marvel Studios' Moon Knight

Gabor Kotschy/Disney+
Fill 1
Fill 1
April 19, 2022
In The Mix

May Calamawy's New Universe

The actress propels herself into another world in the Disney+ series, Moon Knight.

Deanna Barnert

May Calamawy can keep a secret. Speaking before the debut of her Disney+ series Moon Knight, she'd love to talk about her character, Layla... but she can't. Such is the fate of any actor who enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so she's not complaining!

The Palestinian-Egyptian Bahrain native — who's appeared in The Long Road Home, Madam Secretary, FBI and The Brave — is used to flying under the radar. Though she's received kudos for her work on Hulu's Ramy and is thrilled to be shooting season three of that breakout hit about being an American Muslim, Calamawy is rarely recognized for it. "I forget all the time that I'm on this show that people watch," she admits.

Moon Knight, however, has propelled her into a whole new universe.

"Working on a production like this, it's a different muscle," she says. "The sets and the scale of it were mind blowing. The first time I had to work on green screen, it was a little scary. But I'm lucky to be working with experienced actors. I saw how [Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke] took space and asked for what they needed. It was a real learning experience."

Calamawy knew she wanted to act when she was just five. She studied theater at Emerson College in Boston and then at the William Esper Studio in New York. Her first major role was in horror master Tobe Hooper's 2013 Djinn, which shot in the UAE.

While training and stunt work helped her find her top-secret Moon Knight character, she was drawn to the show for its emotional story and the issues it tackles.

"This career choice, it's all for change," she explains. "I mean, it's fun! But there's so much change we can bring. And I've realized that living in another 'universe' gives you that freedom to be able to talk about things. Moon Knight is very different. It's more raw. And I'm excited to play an Egyptian in this universe."

Fans can now see for themselves — Moon Knight began streaming on March 30. As for whether Layla might cross over into the rest of the MCU — as so many characters have — Calamawy's lips are sealed!

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #3, 2022, under the title, "Moonstruck."

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