Back to School Night: In Conversation with the New Cast of 'AlRawabi School for Girls' | Savoir Flair
TV & Film
Back to School Night: In Conversation with the New Cast of 'AlRawabi School for Girls'
article NETFLIX
by Jana Shakhashir 5-minute read February 15, 2024

Class is in session!

article NETFLIX

Happy first day of school! The hallways are buzzing once again as Netflix welcomes the return of AlRawabi School for Girls for its second season. Helmed by the talented Tima Shomali, hailed as the Tina Fey of the Arab world, the show is set to delve deeper into its sharp social commentary and gripping teen drama, with a spotlight on the digital age's influence on youth. Its success has been so remarkable that despite initially being conceived as a mini-series, Netflix was quick to commission Shomali for a second season. Building on the strong foundation of its first season, which centered on Mariam's (played by Andria Tayeh) quest for revenge on her bullies, the show shifts its focus to a new cohort of students facing an entirely different set of challenges. In season two, AlRawabi continues to explore the complexities of teenage life, with a keen focus on the impacts of social media on the modern teenager. This season spotlights Sarah (Tara Abboud), a teenager navigating the challenges of social invisibility and the quest for validation in the digital realm. 

As the series seamlessly blends humor, drama, and the nuanced struggles of young Arab women, it stands as a testament to the universal challenges of adolescence in the digital age. Savoir Flair had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah Yousef, Tara Atalla, and Raneem Haitham, who bring to life the characters of Tasneem, Nadeen, and Farah in the new season to explore the intricate themes of the latest season, the profound impact it aims to create, and their respective journeys to the screen. Amid their professional triumphs and the joyous release of season two, these young stars also reflected on the challenges they face, particularly as the ongoing crisis in Palestine casts a shadow over their personal and professional landscapes. 

They are global issues that are affecting people ALL OVER THE WORLD, which is what makes AlRawabi so special. It's about young Arab women, yes, but at the same time, these are UNIVERSAL THEMES that are affecting girls and people of all ages EVERYWHERE.

Tara Atalla
article NETFLIX

Interestingly, while Yousef and Atalla entered the world of AlRawabi with formal acting degrees from Canada and the UK, respectively, Haitham's entry into the series was pure kismet. With no acting background to speak of, her journey into the series began in the most modern and relevant way possible: with a slide in the DMs. "I was just minding my business. I had just graduated, and one day, I got a message request from someone from Tima's team. It said: 'Hi, love. Have you ever tried acting before?' I said, 'No, but I've always wanted to.' She asked me to audition on a link, so I did, then they called me in for a second interview, and here I am!" The connection was instant when Haitham met Yousef and Kira Yaghnam, who plays Hiba, for a chemistry test. Yousef remembers being immediately taken with Haitham's natural talent. "We were like, 'Tima, we love her, you have to cast her.'" 

The second season's focus shifts from the physical aspects of bullying to the psychological impacts of social media, a conscious decision by the creators to address and drive conversations around this critical issue within the Arab community and globally. The cast shares their hopes for the show's influence. Yousef is optimistic that the show could serve as a bridge between generations, urging older generations to engage with the issues presented in season two to better understand what today's youth experience as a result of their digital presence. "We want it to open the eyes of parents, guardians, teachers, and really anyone from the older generation to what young people are dealing with and to foster understanding," Yousef explains. 

Atalla expands on this, emphasizing the show's universal relevance. "Each character shows a different aspect of some of these topics, which is so important because then you see how different types of people respond to one big issue — not just in the Middle East. I think that they are global issues that are affecting people all over the world, which is what I think makes AlRawabi so special. It's about young Arab women, but at the same time, these are universal themes affecting girls and people of all ages everywhere."

Our happiness feels incomplete given what our brothers and sisters are going through in Gaza.

Sarah Yousef
article @TARAATALLA

Living in the digital age, we know that the impact of social media is a universal experience. Even as adults, the cast members have each encountered the ripple effects of social media in their own lives, underscoring the reality that while they play teenagers on screen, the themes portrayed extend beyond teenage years and resonate across a broader age spectrum. Haitham notes the universal struggle with comparison, saying, "No matter how old or mature you are, you always have that little voice inside your head saying, 'I want to be better. This is so much nicer than what I have. She's way better looking than me.' Not just teenagers go through it; we all get caught up in it." Atalla echoes this sentiment, discussing the common trap of comparing oneself to the seemingly perfect lives portrayed online. "You see a lot of these influencers traveling the world or living luxurious lifestyles, which might not even be what's really happening at the end of the day. There's a lot of Photoshop that goes into pictures and a lot of faking certain lifestyles, so not everything we see is the reality. And I think that's something that I think everyone forgets at some point."

The show's setting in Jordan, a neighbor to Palestine, casts a spotlight on the stark contrast between the celebration of professional success and the sensitivity required due to the proximity of the humanitarian crisis. This juxtaposition brings about complex emotions for the cast as they promote their new series. Yousef expresses this tension, saying, "We're obviously very close to what is happening in Gaza and have been very affected. On one hand, we're very proud of all the work everyone's put into this show, including the cast and crew from Palestine, and want to celebrate putting it out for the world to see. Still, on the other hand, our happiness feels incomplete given what our brothers and sisters are going through in Gaza."

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