What do you make of all the recent drama for Masood and Zainab?
"I think the characters have evolved now. I remember that when Bryan Kirkwood came in as executive producer, in one of my first meetings with him I said, 'Let's explore Masood - I don't think that he's ever really been explored in any depth'. Now, bringing Yusef into the equation has allowed us to look at both Masood and Zainab in a different light. People like Nina Wadia and myself like to be stimulated by what we do, so with Bryan's influence, we decided to explore a much darker Masood - but still remain true to his character. Masood is still essentially a good guy, but he's forced into a situation where he has to protect his family and he could overstep the mark."
What is it about Yusef that has got under Masood's skin so much?
"I think it's a lot more than petty jealousy in this case. Masood firmly believes that Yusef is a man who set fire to his wife, so the jeopardy is very high and I think that's why you can explore a darker side to Masood. But, of course, Masood is the only person who believes that Yusef did that! Masood saved Zainab that day and it provides a very romantic backstory for the characters. In conversations with Bryan, I've said, 'This is what keeps Masood and Zainab in love'."
"Well, I think Zainab still isn't sure whether Yusef was directly responsible for the fire. He says that it was just his family. But the stakes are high and if this was just two men fighting over one woman, I think Masood would have enough wit and confidence to be able to handle that and joke it off. But because this is the man who nearly killed his wife, Masood's cause is getting bigger and bigger."
Do you prefer this sort of drama to the more comedic scenes we can sometimes expect from Masood?
"Well, my background is both comedy and drama so it's great to be able to swing between the two. Most of the stage work I've done has been drama, while most of the telly stuff has been comedy, so I'm lucky that I've been able to do both here. With this storyline, I'm enjoying having to find a different gear. It's revitalised my interest in the character and reignited something in me."
In the week of the Mehndi, Masood has truly been banished from the family, hasn't he?
"He's become more and more isolated. It's a real Pandora situation, where he's the only person who sees the truth but nobody believes him. I think there's a real heroic quality in Masood here - he has the potential to be one of the last great heroes. Not in a butch way, but in a dignified way - he would go as far as it takes to protect his family and do the right thing."
Does Masood have a game plan?
"Essentially, his main aim is not losing his wife and his family. He's also trying to protect his son from Yusef. Masood thinks, 'This man set my wife on fire, so what could he possibly do to my son? And what if Tamwar and Afia have children? What else would Yusef have planned?' It's quite an interesting dilemma for Masood. We've seen the garage thing backfire, but it's still very personal between Yusef and Masood."
"It's heartbreaking. Zainab is going along with it, but it's all been manipulated by Yusef. At the moment, Zainab is taking sleeping pills that have been given to her by Yusef, and people may not realise that they're affecting her judgement on things. And are they really sleeping tablets?! Zainab tells everyone that Masood can't attend because of a family emergency abroad - I think Zainab's first worry is always what the community will think. But Masood isn't quite so interested in that - this is about his family and he puts his family first."
And we see Masood turn up at the Mehndi uninvited, don't we?
"Yeah, Ian really sticks the knife in at The Vic and humiliates Masood in a very quiet, intimate way - calling him a loser. Ian says that Masood couldn't go through with it with Jane, and he can't go through with it with this either! Masood also sees the procession on the Square and he's so lonely, so isolated - it's very sad. After all that, he makes the decision to walk into the Mehndi."
"It's a big cliffhanger moment when Tamwar reveals this, but Masood doesn't say anything, which surprised me. I wondered why he wouldn't say anything after everything that's happened, but he's just completely deflated. He's destroyed - his whole world has just collapsed. He charges in hoping to stop the wedding, only to discover that he's been led astray by his son as well. In the past year or so, he's been led astray by Syed, he's been led astray by Zainab and now he's been led astray by Tamwar. What a family! That's pretty horrible for Masood - Tamwar was his last hope and he's been lied to so many times."
Does Masood have what it takes to ever get the upper hand with Yusef? Are they well-matched?
"The way I always describe them is as two dogs on a leash! If you let them go, they will go for each other - they're like boys in the playground. Masood is much more emotional and reactive than Yusef, but the warehouse thing also proved Masood to be quite manipulative as well. If they could, I think they'd love to have a big punch-up to sort it out! I think they've got it right with this one - I think most men would fight to save their family, even knowing he was likely to lose. When EastEnders works best is when everyone relates to the character and feels they would do the same in the same situation. I think that's happened a lot with the Masoods, because they're a domestic unit and their situations touch people's lives, no matter what culture they're from."
> Want more EastEnders chat from Nitin? Read some bonus snippets in Soap Scoop
> Read all the details of next week's episodes in our EastEnders spoiler section