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”It depends where I am in the world. It’s usually between Star Trek and Toast,” says Shazad Latif, when we ask him the role he gets recognised for the most.
“If I’m in Shoreditch it might be Toast of London,” he adds. “But if it’s somewhere else in the world it might be Star Trek. I was in Istanbul having tea in a square and it had just come on Netflix out there, so I found myself getting attention. Wherever you are in the world, you’ll find a Star Trek fan.
British star Shazad found fame on the BBC series Spooks, has cult followings for his appearances in Channel 4 comedy Toast of London and Star Trek and is currently starring in the BBC’s extravagant Sunday night period drama The Pursuit of Love, alongside Emily Beecham and Lily James.
And very soon he’ll be reunited with Lily James on the big screen in the romantic comedy What’s Love Got To Do With It?
We caught up with Shazad to ask him 7 burning questions…
1. What attracted to The Pursuit of Love?
I started learning about the Mitfords and the book and for someone like me, I come from a totally spectrum of class and different place. But it’s such a good book it transcends that and it explores the human condition in a totally different way. The book just sold me on it and when I found out Emily [Mortimer] was directing and writing and Lily [James] was in it, a good close friend of mine for 10 or 11 years now, it all made sense.
The whole production value was so impressive. We were in incredible ornate sets, lovely stately homes in the middle of Bath and Somerset and it all married together to be a beautiful piece. I got more of the boring stuff reading my books in the cottage, it was Lily and Emily who got to play. I was just rifling through a lot of books.
2. Why do you think we're going through a period drama renaissance?
The human condition and nature doesn’t really change. We’ll always be interested in these stories. They touched a nerve in an incredible way. If you’re a history fan, it is fascinating to see how they dealt with things in a different time. And each generation tries to update it, fill it in with a bit of colour and tell it truth. That’s probably why it will last forever.
3. You star opposite Lily James in What’s Love Got To Do With It? later this year. What was it like doing a rom-com with a friend?
It’s such a strange thing to be acting with a friend. We’ve known each other for 11 years. We’ve partied and we’re very, very close. You get on set, suddenly it’s very professional and you do the job, but it’s very beautiful and very funny to do a kissing scene or whatever it is and be a romantic lead with one of your best mates.
It does help in some ways. We didn’t have any awkwardness, we skipped that stage and could just get very creative and open straight away. We are past the small talk stage.
4. What did you think about Lily's transformation into Pamela Anderson?
It’s one of the best transformations I’ve ever seen. The prosthetics or whatever they’ve done to the bridge of her nose or her eyes, it’s incredible, incredible work. Whoever did those prosthetics is just incredible.
5. Are you ready to play Clem Fandango again in the new Toast of London series?
I’m getting some ideas bubbling away. It’s not totally confirmed for me, I’m just waiting to see the scripts. I’ll try to squeeze it in. I want to take Fandango to the next level. Go a little off kilter. See where we can take him.
6. Who is your acting hero?
I’m a movie-obsessed freak. I have so many. As a brown kid, there was Benicio Del Toro, Joaquin Phoenix and Denzel Washington. They were the people who you could say, ‘That’s my guy’. But you go through all the great actors - Hopkins, Penn, Brando, Dean, I’ve idolised all of them at some point.
I hope I’m reaching the point where I can become my own man and get rid of those idols and make my own work. But I’ll always have a little space for them. I still love them.
7. Have you seen any improvements in racial diversity on screen over the last year?
I think there is still a considerable way to go. These things take years. Acting has definitely taking some steps forward. We just want it to be an even playing field. Once it’s there we’ll see some great work happen. At the moment there’s just a lot of fear, it’s a time of madness and it’s a war at the moment. Hopefully we’ll come out of it, everyone will get a seat at the table and we can create good work together and it just becomes normal. At the moment, it’s not quite normal.
The industry is changing and you never feel great because you never feel like you earned it. It feels like you got it because of your skin colour. You never feel fully worthy. It’s a strange feeling. You get that sense people are looking at you and wondering whether you really deserve it. It would be great if we could just all have a good time together.
Watch The Pursuit of Love on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One and on BBC iPlayer.