The daughter of fitness trainer Kal Nazir will make a big first impression in next week’s episodes when she sleeps with Gary Windass (Mikey North).
Alya (played by 26-year-old Sair Khan) is to spend the night with Gary after being chatted up by him in a club. But the young university graduate is completely unaware of the fact that he has a partner and baby back on Coronation Street.
“She’s letting off steam and having a good time after finishing at university. She gets into a flirty conversation with Gary, who’s out for the night with Jason, and you can guess what happens next,” laughs Khan. “She doesn’t know about his family commitments and it’s a real jaw-to-the-floor moment when she does find out.”
Little does Gary realise that Alya has bagged herself a job at dad Kal’s gym. And when the two worlds collide, Gary is quick to take the newcomer to one side in order to beg her not to tell Izzy (Cherylee Houston) about their one-night stand.
But can he really persuade her to keep quiet? “Well, Alya is quite angry that someone could do what Gary’s done. He has a baby and he’s supposed to be in a grown-up relationship!
“But Alya is going to be working in the gym. It’s not like she can forget about it and put it down to experience. She has to see Gary every day, which will inevitably lead to some twists and turns concerning how their relationship pans out.”
Khan’s debut as glamorous Alya comes amid press reports that the soap’s bosses are wanting to sex up the cobbles – so does she feel the pressure of taking up the Sexiest Female mantle held for so long by Michelle Keegan, whose character Tina recently breathed her last?
“If they saw me at eight o’clock in the morning, I don’t think they’d be talking about sex appeal,” she says. “It’s just a bit weird, really. I’m not used to all that. I’ve never had to experience it. I am sad that I didn’t get to meet Michelle Keegan and ask for any advice – she left on the Thursday and I started the following Tuesday. But id I can do half as good a job as she did then I’ll be really happy.”
Prior to Corrie, Khan’s only television screen credit was in a 2011 episode of Doctors. Auditions for EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Emmerdale followed, but it’s Corrie who finally bagged her to be a part of the soap’s first-ever Muslim family.
“Alya’s culture and heritage is really important,” reveals the actress. “We’ve got Ramadan coming up and you will see the family fasting. They’re not defined by their religion. It’s just part of their make-up. I grew up as part of a Muslim family in Leeds, so it’s perfect for me.”
Before she started filming at ITV, Khan had been working at an ad agency in London. And although she has experience of the acting business thanks to training with the National Youth Theatre and subsequent stage productions, does she feel that she is prepared for the exposure that comes with a role on Coronation Street?
“I really don’t know how you can prepare yourself for that kind of thing,” she admits. “I went out bowling with the cast a couple of weeks ago and they were getting taken aside to have their picture taken. But they dealt with it so well. I was laughing at Mikey North, but he said, ‘you wait, Sair Khan, this will happen to you too’. But I’ll take it all as it comes. It’s an amazing job and hopefully the reaction will be OK.”
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news