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Soaps Interview

Rik Makarem (Nikhil Sharma, 'Emmerdale')

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Nikhil Sharma from Emmerdale

© ITV

Since their first appearance in Emmerdale at the end of last year, Sharma brothers Nikhil and Jai - played by Rik Makarem and Chris Bisson respectively - have been a relatively slow-burn family. Nikhil, however, is about to step up a few gears as he finally admits his deepest secret to his brother. Mentally and emotionally drained by its existence, an immense weight is lifted off the younger Sharma's shoulders but how will Jai and Maisie react? We recently caught up with Rik to hear all about his screen relationship with Wylde child Maisie and how his secret is finally exposed.

Nikhil's getting quite close to Maisie at the moment…
"Yeah, absolutely. It's a real liking. What he's seen in her is a complex nature. She's been through quite a tough time and he's recognised that there's a softness inside which is quite appealing to him. She's not just this feisty beautiful girl, she's much more intricate. As much as Nikhil might be able to help Maisie, she might be able to help him."

She's got quite a bit of emotional and mental baggage with her, though. Does that not put him off?
"I think that's part of the challenge. He has a number of issues himself, yet he's gentle and caring. With Maisie, Nikhil realises that he can finally love someone. At this moment in time, they're a very good match."

Maisie's becoming a little concerned by his lack of affection towards her, though…
"Nikhil's becoming aware that Maisie's intelligent enough to know that something's not quite right and starts trying to acquire more information from everyone in the village. Nikhil knows about it and it starts snowballing. The relationship's rosy but Nikhil starts backing off. Nikhil's been down this road many times before but this time he thinks it's different…"

If it wasn't Maisie, who else would you like to see Nikhil with?
"Definitely Edna! They'd be a delightful couple. No, I joke. It's good when he's challenged by a stronger personality like Debbie and Maisie."

Their relationship takes a turn for the worse next week, though…
"Everything's going so, so well and then they have an argument which results in them breaking up - it has to be something pretty bad to cause it! He's letting greatness walk out of his life! Basically, Maisie turns up at the factory and kicks off because she can't understand why Nikhil's being the way he is and with that, they call time on their relationship."

Nikhil's anger boils over in the factory, doesn't it?
"Nikhil's frustrated that everyone's been gossiping about his relationship with Maisie and especially after the break-up, he's become very self-conscious and paranoid. The factory workers start making suggestions about why Nikhil is the way he is: Is it something to do with his past? Is he gay? It becomes too much for him and he loses it, starts shouting at everybody, squares off with his brother and storms off home."

Then Nikhil confides in Jai…
"Nikhil's deeply distressed and back at the house, Nikhil comes clean with his brother. It's a massive moment in Nikhil's story because - as much as Nikhil won't admit it - Jai's the hero, who's easy with words, easy with the ladies… Everything about Jai is what Nikhil wishes he could be like and Jai's the one person he wouldn't want to find out his secret. The fear of being judged by his brother is immense."

Are you happy with the way the Sharmas have bedded in?
"We've been a slow-burn family, which has been fantastic. It's allowed us to settle, find our feet and cement our brotherly relationship. Now, we're starting to get the bigger storylines which let Nikhil and Jai be people, independent of their heritage. That's what I'm most in love with about the show. We've seen other soaps follow the heritage of a family and make the storylines revolve around that. Emmerdale have brought in a couple of dual-heritage brothers and have focused on them as people - and I think it's truly representative of modern-day Britain."

Was it frustrating to see Effie Woods leave?
"Yeah, we were sad but ultimately I think it's okay to sacrifice a character if it serves the story. There's much more history between the brothers than with the sister, so it made sense to push their story."

Check back at 8pm on Tuesday, July 13 for a reaction interview with Rik after Nikhil's secret is exposed on screen. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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