How did the part come about?
"It was the typical story of the my agent phoning me up and me having an audition at Elstree. They obviously liked me because they had me in again and again after that. The third time, I was on set with Nitin [Ganatra] and Nina [Wadia] to see how we worked as a unit and then it was an agonising waiting period - I waited for a couple of months in the end! They eventually told me just before Christmas that I'd been successful, so that was a nice present!"
Have you watched any of the Masood family build up over the last year-and-a-half?
"Yeah, I'd not watched all of it to be honest, because I'd been doing a lot of theatre, so it was difficult to get to see it. All over Christmas, I was desperately watching to get caught up! The bulk of the Syed storyline, though, has come out within the last month or so, anyway."
Do you feel that you have a big responsibility filling the shoes of a character that viewers will have built their own picture of already?
"I've tried not to think about it! I hope I'm what everyone expects! I was given a biography when I got the part, before we 'hot-seated' the character to make sure we were all on the same page. It's a process all characters go through to decide what they'd do in certain situations, given certain choices and basic things, for example who they'd like or dislike on the Square. That helped to cement the character in my head, though. I say cement, it was very wet cement and still is! Slow-dry cement. He's such a complex character. It's such a collaborative experience. I'm discovering things about Syed at the same time as the rest of the team."
What can you tell us about his backstory?
"Syed's been away from his family for the last four years because his dad Masood told him never to darken the family's doorstep again. His dad took the blame for Syed stealing money from the family business and nearly bankrupting them. All this time, Zainab thought that Masood was responsible for their financial problems. To honour his father's wishes, Syed respectfully went away.
"He's been up north around the Manchester/Leeds area trying to build a property empire. Initially, he was working for an estate agent, but then tried to go out on his own as a property developer. But there's some debate over how successful he's been…"
What happens during Syed's first week on screen?
"Well, he has an alias for a few episodes - he's called 'Bob' in his mother Zainab's phone. Zainab's intrigued to know what he's been up to for the last number of years and I think he feels like he wants to get back in touch with the family again, too. He just wants to heal the rift in the family and his return is an honest one - he's missed them all. That, and the fact he wants money…"
That seems to be the common denominator with Syed…
"It's all about the cash. His drive is to be successful and there's nothing really Machiavellian about him - well, there potentially is - but he just wants the money because he believes he can use it to make more. He's very cocksure and confident about himself, but the absurd thing is that he hasn't learned from his past mistakes."
Is part of it that he wants to show his family how successful he can be?
"Yeah, that's part of it, too. He wants the pats on the back and for his dad to accept that they were wrong about him. Even though it's not explored a great deal in the scripts, I think there's a certain amount of jealousy over Tamwar potentially going to university. Syed probably feels the black sheep of the family and wants to make his mark, too."
How does he end up meeting with his mother?
"They meet at a café away from the Square – it's all very clandestine. She doesn't want Masood to know that she's meeting with their estranged son."
Then there's a showdown at the end of the week between father and son…
"Yeah, there is. Syed's very flexible with the truth. He doesn't lie on purpose - they just happen. It's all because he wants to give a false impression of himself and wants people to be impressed and proud of him. He leads his father up the garden path and he's soon rumbled and falls flat on his face. Syed's attempt at reconciliation is marred by the discovery of more of Syed's lies. As a result, there's another 'never darken our doorstep' moment!"
Then when he returns to the Square the following week, he strikes an interesting alliance…
"Yeah, with Janine…There's an instant connection between the pair of them. A kindred spirits type of thing. There's a bit of a challenge for them both. Then Syed moves in with her…"
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