“HPI”: Mehdi Nebbou, the too discreet partner of Audrey Fleurot

DFor twenty years, he has been walking his elegant silhouette and his intriguing reserve on the sets, chaining films and series, in France and abroad. He thus trafficked in gears And Tatortspied in The Bureau of Legendss and Homeland or even investigated in the Romanian drama Tea To stare.

He is even one of the rare French actors who have filmed under the direction of Steven Spielberg (in Munich2005) and Ridley Scott (state lies, 2008 and House of Gucci, 2021). Not to mention a title of “French lover of the year” in India for his performance in the musical drama English Vinglish in 2012 and a solid career in Germany, where he lives. But it would have taken HPI and its stratospheric audiences (9.5 million on average per episode) to truly reveal Mehdi Nebbou to the French public.

The best version of himself

The soon-to-be 50-year-old – he celebrated his 49th birthday – plays Commander Adam Karadec, a psychorigid and silent policeman, at first exasperated then enamored with the volcanic Morgane Alvaro (Audrey Fleurot), consultant with an IQ as disproportionate as her necklines. A not so ordinary hero, indispensable white clown of the august star, whose evolution towards the dark side of sentimental strength, jealousy in ambush, is not to displease his interpreter: “His carapace of an honest man is crack in this season 3 and we will discover his humanity. “It’s like in life: we all have a winning behavioral combination to sell to the world that we are a good person”, analyzes Mehdi Nebbou. “And then, when people know you better, they discover the less glorious sides: that your feet stink, that you snore…”, he laughs.

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After having seen him parade on the red carpets as a festival-goer, listened to during press conferences like imposed exercises, questioned to sketch his portrait, we have the image of him as an accessible, calm and humorous man. discreet, always in search of humanity, a term that he constantly invokes to evoke admired figures – Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa –, his appreciated partners, Audrey Fleurot in the lead, and HPI, “a luminous series, without cynicism”: “Mehdi is very concerned about others. He is someone of infinite tenderness, ”confirms Mona Achache, who co-directs the TF1 series. Did we draw one of the numbers from our own winning combination? Is there only one? “Of course, like everyone else. Me, I play nice and cool guys, while I’m also more introverted, not so sure about myself… I have anxieties”, admits the actor to the (in)quiet strength. A lack of confidence probably linked to an atypical career. His curriculum indeed draws zigzags which have forged in him a prudent philosophy of his profession: success is never a given.

Not just a physical

Since childhood, and the hours spent watching the films of Jean-Paul Belmondo, Mehdi Nebbou has dreamed of cinema. Third son of a family of five boys – his older brother, Safy, is a screenwriter and director – he left high school at 18, without the baccalaureate, to go first to Germany, where his mother is from, then in Italy, just to “make money” and make a short film. He will remain in La Botte for two years, living aboard a motorhome: “It gave me a feeling of freedom that I have rarely experienced. It is founding, very inspiring,” he recalls.

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There, Mehdi Nebbou did a little modeling, before giving up, “disturbed by the idea of ​​being judged for [son] physical and not by what[il] did[t]. “ Chance then brings him to the door of a carpenter, who teaches him the trade: “I loved it: the smell of wood, creating with my hands… It calms the mind and feels good! Not enough, however, for him to give up his passion for cinema.

Back to Berlin, then, where he joined the German Film and Television Academy in 1994 to study directing and then editing. It was chance – again him – that made him take his first steps in front of the camera by joining the cast of My Sweet Home, the film of a school friend: “Since then, I have been surfing the wave. Which does not take long to bring him across the Atlantic, where this polyglot – Mehdi Nebbou speaks French, English, German, Italian and Arabic – is offered to play Ali Hassan Salameh, the brain suspected of September 11, in Munich. What to imagine already at the top of the poster: “After this film, I said to myself “Hollywood, I’m coming”. And then, in fact, no! Take that into your ego and keep going. »

A hard worker

That’s what he did, work as a credo to compensate for a supposed lack of legitimacy: “I didn’t go to comedy school and, when I got a role, I felt like I was stealing room for someone more qualified,” he explains. I worked a lot to reduce the fear of failure. Today it has become a modus operandi. If I don’t work hard enough, the fears come back. »

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Bruno Sanches, who plays Gilles, the second, a bit naive of Caradec, in HPI, abounds: “Medhi is very focused, he always has his script in hand. It is enough control freak, much like his character. That said, he likes to party too! He doesn’t look like it, but he’s a hell of a rascal, he laughs. But, as he is very professional, he knows how to stop to go home and do his homework…” Same appreciation from Mona Achache, who underlines “his total commitment, fascinating for a director”. “But his desire to understand everything sometimes makes him lose sight of how right his first instinct is. “Including in comedy, a genre that Mehdi Nebbou has hitherto little explored:” In general, you are offered roles related to stereotypes. The challenge is to get out of it and comedy allows it, as was the case for Eddie Murphy or Jamel Debbouze: when you’re funny, no one cares where you come from. »

Our man knows how to laugh, including at himself, especially alongside his teenage daughter, when they watch together HPI “She often doesn’t care about me, so I don’t take myself too seriously either, he laughs. But that’s not the case anymore, I fried this card when I was young. “Mehdi Nebbou today prefers to play that of gratitude towards “this magical adventure”: ” HPI changed my life… The duet with Audrey taught me a lot. And I now have more popularity, filming, proposals for leading roles. »

The actor will soon be appearing in Éric Rochant’s series Everything’s good, on Disney+. He is also working on three feature film projects that he would direct, and would love to collaborate with his brother: “We often talk about it. I’d like a Monty Python-style social comedy. In the meantime, this music lover – “a divine art” – can rehearse with Wild Park, his German rock band. And legitimately hope, given the audiences, to return soon for season 4 of HPI…

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