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INTERVIEW: Arsher Ali of E4's Beaver Falls
Asian Image speaks to Arsher Ali who returned to our screens this summer in Beaver Falls.
Arsher plays A-Rab (Adil Hussein) in the series which airs on E4.
Is it true that your chosen career choice was not acting?
Not strictly true. I did plan on being a sports journalist, but I guess that didn’t stoke my fire. As a kid, I used to watch films over and over again and learn the script off by heart and act out stuff to anyone who’d listen – so maybe it stemmed from that.
You did two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Do you have a favourite Shakespeare play and a favourite character?
Without doubt, it would be Richard III. I’m more interested in Shakespeare’s villains and their mindsets. “Iago” from Othello would be a close second. I would obviously love to perform both at the Royal Shakespeare Company at some stage, but who knows?
You are renowned for your role in 'Four Lions'. How much of that role entailed improvisation?
Not as much as people may have been led to believe. We obviously improvised and mucked around in rehearsals but that was then locked into a script. On the day, if there was any – it would come out of Chris thinking of a better and funnier idea and then getting you to try that on separate take.
Do you feel that Asian actors are largely typically typecast in the more controversial roles?
Yes. I’m waiting for someone to just lump them all into one character and then maybe it’ll implode. Waiting for one long character description that says: “A doctor who moonlights as a drug-dealing cab driver with an impending arranged marriage who also doesn’t know if he’s a Muslim or not but has aspirations of becoming a suicide-bombing cornershop owner.” I think a lot of it has to do with casting and writing in the first place. People need to be more open minded.
What attracted you to your role in 'Beaver Falls'?
It wasn’t an Asian stereotype. The character nickname “A-Rab” might suggest otherwise, but that’s as far as it goes. But, more importantly, it’s an enjoyable and funny role.
Is it more challenging to play a comic role or a serious one?
Equally so. They both have to come from a real place, in my opinion. That’s why broad, wacky comedy doesn’t have much of a shelf life. I’m lucky, because my character gets to do a bit of both.
Is there a part of A-rab's character that you can relate to?
I think I can relate to him wanting to do and say the right things, but not necessarily succeeding always...
What was it like shooting in South Africa?
Amazing. It’s a picturesque place and the weather is something only the U.K could dream about. There are obviously still a few social/economic issues to remedy, but where aren’t there any?
Was working with children easier than working with your peers?
I think it was easy working with both, if you’ll permit me to sit on the fence. We all get on quite well and know each other’s boundaries and temperaments. There’s a respect and unity that comes with working with the same bunch of people for a while, and that’s all too rare.
Your character has a turbulent love life. Who is your ideal woman in real life?
My ideal woman is my woman. She’s scarily and amazingly everything all at once. I’m lucky.
How do you think you would have fared if you had been to a summer camp with role models like the ones in 'Beaver Falls'?
Well, if I went to a place like Beaver Falls, I would probably be rich and spoiled in the first place, so I’d probably have asked Daddy to sue the camp.
What was the most comical moment on set?
There’s a new character called “Hope”, played by Emer Kenny, and she was responsible for a lot of people laughing when they shouldn’t have been. She’s just very funny and it’s a nice bunny-boiling, manic character for her to play. It was a test for me, as we shared a lot of scenes together!