1. What impact did this series have on you while filming?
Count Abdulla was my first comedy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So often as a young, Middle Eastern actor I’m playing inside theemotional and political jungle of our narratives and culture, asperceived by a western audience. It was so freeing to be able todiscard that and focus on the human that is Shafi.
2. What is it like to be a part of a series directed by Asim Abbasi and collaborate with him?
Asim tells you exactly what he thinks, which is such a crucial yet underestimated part of what a Director is supposed to do! He doesn’t sugar coat, he doesn’t pander and he doesn’t lie. We had many great,insightful conversations, both before and during filming, about the essence of Shafi. When a director is honest with you, it’s easy to be honest back, and I loved working honestly with Asim.
3. What about your character in Count Abdulla inspired you the most?
Shafi is Abdulla’s older cousin, and I happen to be an older brother myself. I think when you have that kind of relationship with someone, it’s natural to want to guide and protect them, which is what Shafi is trying to do for Abs at every turn. It’s easy to see the characterand think of him as a roadman, a cartoon, or an idiot, but his underlying intentions and how much effort he puts into everything is most inspiring to me.
4. Were there any difficulties on set while filming?
TIME! Well, a lack thereof. When you have such a rich, beautiful tapestry to weave, you need as much time and money as possible to realise the collective vision. It’s tough when you can’t shoot a particular scene or shot that you love, or have to change the plan on the fly. Fortunately our team was sharp enough to do so.
5. What was the series best scene in your opinion?
For me, either Kathy’s flat or Cafe Sanguine. Partly because Jaime Winstone is such a presence on screen and partly since our production designer Elena and her entire department created both the sets from scratch! Aesthetically sublime. When you see Kathy’s flat, hunt for as many details as you can find.
6. What does this valuable British Asian/Muslim comedy mean to you and your community?
It means an opportunity to present ourselves to the world not as just a “culture”, but as a people. Not a collection of intricate outfits and stereotypes, nor a narrative intending to teach you our traditions. Real humans, with real fears, hopes, hate and love. It means a fresh start for our community on screen.
7. To whom would you recommend the series?
Everyone. Count Abdulla is not a display of multi-cultural references and by-the-way social lessons. Shafi is not a cartoon thug. Bushra brings new life to the typical “humourless mother” stereotype. Abdulla is not a typically pathetic nerdy protagonist. Kathy is definitely not a typically grumpy Vampire either. It’s not imposing, and the audience isn’t expected to understand or evennotice every piece of cultural back and forth. It’s a story about some outsiders. Who doesn’t relate to that?