'Moon Knight': May Calamawy and Sara Goher on the Magic of Bringing Egyptian Super Hero Scarlet Scarab On-Screen
The ‘Moon Knight’ star and consulting producer reveal what it means to them to feel represented by Layla El-Faouly.
Another hero rises at the end of Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight.
Though she doesn’t necessarily want — or even need — any sort of super powers, and she is fully against becoming a full-time avatar, Layla El-Faouly makes an agreement with Taweret. In order to stop Ammit once and for all, they need another avatar to help bind the vengeful deity. With no other option, and with firm rules in place, Layla calls on Taweret for assistance. Next thing you know, Layla emerges from the rubble, physically (and a little metaphorically, too) as a new hero: Scarlet Scarab.
Layla’s journey though Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight, alongside Marc Spector and Steven Grant, comes to a crescendo with the finale episode. Layla was never looking to become a Super Hero, considering she can hold herself in a fight without any sort of powers and has never yearned for the same abilities as her husband. But even that aside, it feels right for the character to fully emerge as powerful figure, too, right alongside Moon Knight and Mr. Knight.
A female foil for Marc/Steven was always in grand plans for Moon Knight from the very beginning. When Director and Executive Producer Mohamed Diab and consulting producer Sara Goher were putting together a pitch for the series, they actually had May Calamawy in mind right from the get-go.
The rumors you may have heard about Calamawy first hearing about auditioning for Moon Knight on Instagram are true, as Goher explains, it was literally a situation of wanting someone like her for the role, so why not ask?
“When we were putting [together our pitch], she was in the presentation,” Goher says. “We knew in our hearts that we wanted someone like her to take on this role. And then once we got her on board, she just gave like 1,000%, and I'm so happy with Layla.”
Knowing what a male-dominated cast Moon Knight was, behind-the-scenes, Goher was a huge champion for Layla, helping the creative team navigate her character, in hopes of making her fully rounded. For Goher, it was a chance for both her and Calamawy’s voice to be heard, calling the final character a “childhood dream down to the last curl on her head.”
“I'm an Egyptian girl, and I have curly hair,” Goher continues. “I can't tell you how many girls I know have spent years burning that hair with irons, using chemical processes to straighten their hair, and it's because we don't see enough representation of curly hair on-screen. And so down to the curl, down to her story, down to even her strength, these were all very important things that we wanted to instate in her character.”
From the very first moment viewers meet Layla, it’s clear that she’s simply not just along for the ride with Marc and Steven, but an active participant in everything. When Marc fights, she fights (and when Steven runs, she runs).
“In this story, it was absolutely important that she had an internal strength, that you felt her strength in her scenes with Marc and Steven in ways that you wouldn't expect — [including] being married to someone [like Marc] and the way she handles him, that in itself is a strength that few Super Heroes can actually manage.”
The scene where Layla, in her full Scarlet Scarab glory, joins the fight alongside Moon Knight and Mr. Knight (where a truly excited Steven exclaims, “You look amazing!”), is a moment that leaves Goher “dancing around the room” considering what it means for representation.
“I've read interviews [with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige] about how he's shaping Marvel Studios and taking it into a direction of really progressive thoughts and ideas,” Goher adds. “Marvel Studios is really pushing for that and really supportive about it. I think inside all of us, [these characters] are like your inner child dreaming.”
After saving a van full of onlookers in the middle of the battle, one of the younger girls in the group asks Layla if she’s an Egyptian Super Hero, to which Layla firmly replies, “I am.”
As Goher continues, that scene “is going to be a magical moment for lots of people around the world. It's great that Marvel is really at the helm of this movement on this scale to make sure that everyone feels like they belong.”
Calamawy knows what her role, and what her new Super Hero title, will mean to so many, admitting that the idea of it was at first daunting. She explains, “I had to really sit with it and be like, I cannot represent every Arab woman or every Egyptian woman…I just hope that all Arab women can watch that and feel like a Super Hero, and that they have that space on that big scale.”
But, as she adds, “I hope that the people who can relate to Layla feel seen and excited, and people who don't, that's OK. There's space for everyone. I'm just the first. There's many more that can come. It's an honor. It's an honor just to be able to represent or to be Middle Eastern, and shine a light on that region.”
All episodes of Marvel Studios' Moon Knight are now streaming exclusively on Disney+!
The Hype Box
Can’t-miss news and updates from across the Marvel Universe!