East is East star Jimi Mistry is coming to Weatherfield to get the men of Coronation Street into shape. Kal, an old army buddy of Gary’s, will first be putting Dev through his paces. But has Mistry himself been hitting the gym in preparation for his new role? And why is he really craving a scene with Kabin-based misery guts Norris?
So, tell us all about Kal…
He’s an ex-squaddie mate of Gary’s and he’s introduced to the Street in a storyline that sees Dev trying to get into shape. Kal’s the man to try and do it because he’s a fitness instructor. He inspires people to do better, but he’s also a funny, cheeky chappy guy.
Do you stay in shape yourself?
I’ve always liked the gym and keeping fit, but I’ve been putting myself through the paces recently because I knew I was coming into Corrie. I wasn’t fat, but I’ve trimmed up and lost about eight kilos. I’ve also been really good with my diet – I’ve been cutting out the more enjoyable things, but on Sundays I have a cheat day and raid the fridge.
How does it feel coming back to the world of soap opera [Mistry once played Dr Fonseca in EastEnders]?
Really good. EastEnders was 1998 – I was just a boy back then! Everyone said that Corrie is a very family-orientated set-up and as soon as I arrived, everyone was helping me out. I was a relative unknown when I started at EastEnders and I was a lot more nervous. So coming into Corrie was easier.
Did anyone in particular take you under their way?
I knew a couple of the cast already. Jimmi Harkishin was in the movie East is East with me many years ago. I also know Ali King and Charlie Condou. Ben Price was one of the first to come up and ask if I needed anything.
I must admit that I was in awe of meeting the old regular characters like Barbara Knox. It was very surreal, but she was very nice. Everyone has been great. But nothing prepares you for walking into the Corrie green room and seeing all the well-loved characters drinking tea and eating biscuits.
What made you want to do Coronation Street?
It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m now 40, I’ve done many different things in my career and travelled to many places. But I want to settle down in the UK and, also, I want to act every day. I looked around at good British TV and Corrie was top of the list for me.
What has made you want to settle down?
Planning to get married has a lot to do with it [Mistry is engaged to Strictly dancer Flavia Cacace]. Plus, Corrie gives you a great profile lift. You’re in people’s living rooms almost every day and our producer Stuart Blackburn said to me, “Come in, have fun and bring your stuff to the table.”
Can you tell us about your upcoming storylines?
I’m working with Ben Price at the moment. Nick has obviously had his accident, so Kal is in the process of rehabilitating him and giving him confidence. I don’t know about any romance in Kal’s life as yet – I think he’s probably a bit of a ladies’ man, but the backstory is that he had a wife who died and he also has kids. But he’s single coming into the Street.
There’s been talk of him getting with Liz McDonald, but I don’t know anything about it. Bev Callard told she me wants it to happen! We’ll have to wait and see. The other thing is that he might be opening a gym – that could lead to a new set and the potential for some great comedy.
What kind of a man is Kal?
He’s an alpha male – I think they were keen to bring in a strong male character. I like to think of him as someone who’s quite charming and inspiring, but you can tell there’s definitely another side to him. And this is what we’re going find out. When we meet him, though, he is quite a mystery.
What effect did doing Strictly Come Dancing have on your career?
It changed my life in so many different ways. That show really puts you out there – it’s the only time I’ve ever shown people who I was. It was the real me, rather than me hiding behind a character. I still do a little bit of dancing – mainly around the sitting room.
And then there was meeting Flavia…
For me and Flavia, it was a case of meeting the right person. It’s an intense time when you’re on Strictly: you’re picking up a new skill, after all. But Flavia and I got together afterwards. While we were on the show, it was more of a friendship than anything else. As for the future? Well, if I had my way, our wedding would be in Vegas, but I don’t know if that will happen. I think it’ll be quite a private affair.
And your first dance?
Don’t ask me about that! Blimey – that’s going to be something!
You’re both so busy – what effect does that have on the pair of you?
Since day one, we’ve made sure we’ve maintained the relationship, even though we’ve always been busy. You have to keep feeding fuel to the fire, but if you know it’s right, it’s right. We’re used to the separation and using the phone and Skype. It works for some people and for some, it doesn’t.
And, finally, are there are any Corrie characters with whom you really want to have scenes?
Someone on Corrie said to me recently that you always have pockets of people that you work with and some people you may never speak to. What I would love is to get a scene with Norris. A bit of comedy – that would be good. Some old-fashioned Corrie comedy.