The first episode of Moon Knight has just hit Disney+ Hotstar and the show has already established that it isn't anything like what's come from the House of M so far. I've watched the first four episodes and Moon Knight, true to its comic book origins, is indeed…different. That's why I caught up with director Mohamed Diab to figure out all things Moon Knight, Khonshu and what Marvel fans in India should expect from the show.
We'll get to the geeky question straight away. Going in, which comic book runs were you using as source material for the show? Or were you looking to do something completely different?
The shoot started well before I came in. I think (executive producer) Jeremy Slater was affected most by the Lemire (Jeff Lemire) runs which are fantastic and focus on DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). They are one of my favourite comic book runs too. I loved how Jeremy decided to start with and focus on Steven's character in Moon Knight, as opposed to starting with Marc Spector. That's a brilliant take.
I've seen you talk passionately about Egypt, its mythology and giving it proper representation in the show. So let's talk about the Egyptian God Khonshu – how did you approach the character?
As an Egyptian, we always see ourselves portrayed in a way that you could define as 'orientalism' – the way the West sees us. Egyptian portrayals lean into all of the tropes, and are very 'exotic' – the women are submissive, men are bad and of course, we are primitive. So it was very important for me to portray us as just normal human beings. I wanted the audience to see Egypt as Egypt. I wanted to show the real Cairo which is this big, huge urban city and not just a desert.
Even with Khonshu, and the Egyptian mythology surrounding him, it was very important for us to deal with it with absolute respect. I didn't want to make it exotic – that's why we had subject matter experts. Of course, you want to build that element of mystery and create some things that are your own, but we did all of that with respect.
In India, Moon Knight wouldn't be what you would call the most popular among the Marvel pantheon of heroes. So what would be your message to Indian fans? What should they expect and how should they approach the show?
First of all, I would like to say hello to the folks in India. I love the country. I've always felt that there are a couple of countries around the world that feel like twins to Egypt, and India is certainly one of them. Even my films Cairo 678 and Clash were hugely popular here, and I think the Indian viewers also felt like the movies reflected similar cultures.
As for Moon Knight, I would say that I didn't know that much about Moon Knight coming in either, but I fell in love with him – and I think that you are going to feel the same way too. This project stands on its own and you're going to love it whether you're a Marvel fan or not. Moon Knight is an intimate story about someone who's learning to deal with himself, and everyone can identify with that. Everyone has their real persona, and a personal journey of learning to live with themselves – and that's why I'm certain the Indian fans will connect with Moon Knight.
Moon Knight is known for his multiple personas. Are you looking to introduce more of these personas as the season progresses?
I would rather let you figure that out. But yes, Moon Knight will always keep you on your toes. You never know what's going to happen and you cannot predict who is who – in a good and grounded way. That said, I would love to talk about this again once the season is done.