Kal’s son Zeedan is to make his Weatherfield debut at the end of this week but will soon find himself at loggerheads with Leanne Tilsley.
The day of the Rovers v Flying Horse cricket match will see Alya persuade Alya to come along and support Kal. But Zeedan’s furious to see her there and makes his feelings clear. Leanne’s hurt, while Kal is upset by his son’s obvious disapproval. Will Kal be able to talk Zeedan round?
Here, former Shameless star Qasim Akhtar discusses his character’s arrival in Coronation Street – and what his casting on the ITV soap meant to his mum!
So, can you tell us a bit about Zeedan? He’s been brought up by his grandparents because his dad’s been in the army for 16 years. So he and Kal don’t have the best relationship, which is what we’ll see when he first comes into it. It’s not so much to do with Leanne, it’s more to do with the fact that his father figure is his grandad – he’s grown up seeing his father being a completely different person to his grandad, so his attitude to his dad is: ‘I don’t want to be anything like this guy’. He’s very over-protective over his sister. He’s meant to be a bit of a cool kid – he likes his clothes, he likes his trainers.
Was he hit hard by his mum’s death? Yeah he was, and that’s the thing that bothers him about Leanne. It’s not just a religious thing that means he’s so against the fact that Kal is seeing Leanne – there’s a lot more depth in that. He doesn’t want anyone to replace his mother, even though his mum and dad weren’t together.
Tell us what happens at the cricket match? They turn up at the cricket ground and everything’s going smoothly. Then there’s a scene with Alya and Zeedan and she’s telling him that she’s happy Zeedan’s there, and that grandad and dad are happy that he’s there. That annoys him because he’s feeling like people are thanking him for being there because he’s done something wrong, when really he’s just there for a bit of fun.
He points out to her that he’s not sucking up to his dad’s girlfriend, but at that point she’s already rung Leanne and told her to come down to the cricket match and bond with the family. Leanne turns up and Zeedan has a big argument with her and goes inside and throws his bat down and nearly messes things up for the team.
Does Zeedan realise he’s upsetting his dad by being negative about Leanne? I think he does, but at this moment in time he doesn’t care. I think that’s his goal – he’d be happy if his Dad went and said to Leanne that they couldn’t be together anymore. That would be mission accomplished. He’s being a bit selfish, but there are reasons for why he’s being that person.
So who is Zeedan going to connect with on the Street? I think it’s going to be Gary – there was quite a nice scene that me and Mikey North did in the pavilion after Zeedan throws his bat down. Gary comes in and he speaks to him about what his dad was like when he was in the army, but Zeedan doesn’t want to hear it. He doesn’t care. But it’s quite a nice scene creating a relationship between them – it’s the start of something.
How did the part come about for you? I’d just come out of Shameless and I thought I wanted to continue in dramas and films. In February, I hadn’t worked for 11 months and I was starting to feel a little bit down and my Mum could see that. But it was almost like Corrie was meant to be – my Mum said to me, “I’d love it if you got a part in Coronation Street”. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it and then three weeks later, we find out that Coronation Street are casting a young Asian lad.
Next thing you know, two weeks later my agent’s ringing me saying he’s got an audition for me for Coronation Street. At first I wasn’t sure, but I knew it would make my mum so happy because she’s literally been a fan of the show for over 20 years. Then as soon as I’d been to the first audition and spoken to the casting director, I knew how much I wanted the role.
Was your mum the first person you told when you got the part? I was at a mate’s house when I got the call, but I ran home instantly. I told my mum and she literally broke down in tears.
Did you know anybody on the cast before you started? I knew Brooke Vincent [Sophie] a bit because I’d seen her out and about. And Ryan Thomas as well because I’m good mates with his brother Adam [who plays Adam Barton in Emmerdale]. But I haven’t really had much time to speak to them. Mark Anwar and Jimi Mistry have made me feel so comfortable. Jimi, from day one, made me feel like I’d been there for so long. The relationship just clicked straight away.
Will you watch your first episode? I can’t wait. I’m so excited. I think anyone who says that they hate watching themselves is lying. I’ll be sitting with my mum and my brother and my little sister and everyone will probably come round and we’ll just sit down and watch it.
Are you prepared for the exposure that comes with being in Coronation Street? I’ve been acting since I was 13, so it’s nothing new to me. But I know there’s a lot more media attention that comes with being on a soap. I guess it’s just going to be what I’ve had already experienced, but times 10 or 100!