EastEnders: Nitin Ganatra teases romance for Masood and Kathy

"It's going to be very flirty," according to the star

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EastEnders’ returnee Masood Ahmed is forced to move back to Albert Square next week after his tales of making it big in his time away from Walford are revealed to be a pack of lies and that he’s skint and has been living in an ice cream van…

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Begging his aunt and uncle, Mariam and Arshad, to let him stay in his old property he’s renting to them, the homeless ex-postie is perturbed when his relatives demand rent money from him for staying in a house he owns!

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Telling their nephew he has to pay his way, Mas goes job hunting with varying degrees of success until he gets a trial shift at the Queen Vic (but only because landlady Linda Carter is worried Mariam has blabbed about Mick’s shooting). It’s not exactly a roaring success, and Mas also has to fib to his aunt and uncle he’s working at an estate agents’ fearing they’re disapproval if they discover he’s working in a pub.

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We caught up with Nitin Ganatra, who recently rejoined the cast a year after leaving the role, to discuss Masood’s comeback, his extended family, and a potential new love interest…

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How did your return come about?

I’d been busy with other projects and back to being a jobbing actor when I heard John Yorke was back at EastEnders as executive consultant. John had created the character of Masood along with his story team when I’d first started. We me for a coffee and a catch up and  I was about to leave he asked me how I would feel about coming back. He completely bowled me over as that’s not what I was expecting at all – I was speechless!

When you left in 2016, you weren’t intending to come back?

As far as I was concerned I thought it was the end of a chapter for me personally and career wise, but not necessarily for Masood as he could always come back re-cast as a taller, slimmer much more handsome guy as that sort of thing often happens often in the TV World!

What clinched it for you to reprise the role?

One of my major concerns was that I didn’t want to feel as if I was going backwards, I  wanted the character to evolve and to also play comedy. The public reaction was overwhelming when I left, my Twitter feed went mad with a lot of love for Masood. So that, combined with extending the family and working with John again, were the main factors that helped me decide to come back to EastEnders.

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Has Masood changed since he has been away?

Masood has travelled the world and lived his dreams, broadened his horizons – but has unfortunately come back broke! He doesn’t want to lose face so he set up the big lie that he’s doing really well. He needs money and this week goes on a series of adventures trying to get a job.

Tell us about Masood’s extended family, Auntie Mariam and Uncle Arshad…

They’re very funny. Madhav Sharma and Indira Joshi are seasoned professionals, they’ve landed on this show and have been sprinting like crazy ever since! There is a good dynamic there. We’ve been layering as we go, finding little details amongst us, like Mariam calling me ‘Muno’, as my parents do at home – it’s like calling someone junior, or the baby of the family. They’ve been creative in their own ways which has been fun.

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What makes Masood such a popular character?

One of the best things is his relatability. Not every man can relate to Max Branning, and if they do it’s a very worrying world that we live in! But the majority of men can relate to Masood regardless of religion and colour which is what’s beautiful about it. Also it’s not always heightened high drama,  try to find the layers by playing both against the text and with the text and to be as creative as possible.

Can you tease what’s coming up for him?

It’s certainly going to be very flirty with Kathy Beale…  Gillian Taylforth and I worked together years ago on a Sally Wainwright series called Jane Hall – we played bus drivers getting it on in the bus depot! She’s such a lovely person with good energy. There may be potential for some romance which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Massed has shown he is a player with the ladies! I’ve also been working a lot with the Taylors who are good fun. Tamzin Outhwaite is back and we met just before I joined the show the first time when were both in The Catherine Tate Show Christmas special, so after ten years we’re both back in Walford and have come full circle.

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You can watch our review of the past Week in Walford below, and visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.