If Nabhaan Rizwan is a name you’re already aware of, then you’re ahead of the curve. The 21-year-old has never appeared on television before now and barely acted on stage, yet he’s about to be seen in the title role of BBC thriller Informer. “As a first role – pretty cool, huh?” he grins in an interview with Radio Times.
Pretty cool indeed. Here’s everything you need to know about the rising star.
The 21-year-old actor is from Ilford in east London. He comes from a family of actors: his mother Shahnaz was a child actor and has just finished a five-year stint on Bollywood soap Yeh Hai Mohabbatein (This Is Love), while his father has previously worked as a playwright and his brother, Mawaan, is a stand-up comic, writer and actor whose YouTube channel has 87,000 subscribers.
In Informer, Rizwan plays Raza, a young east London British asian who is coerced into becoming a police informant.
What has Rizwan worked on before?
Speaking to Radio Times, Rizwan acknowledges he can count his previous interview experience to date on the fingers of one hand.
With just a few theatre workshop groups under his belt at the Almeida and Royal Court, in June last year he acquired an agent and weeks later arrived at the first of four auditions for Informer, before landing the part of Raza.
“I did two scenes and I thought it went really well,” he told Radio Times. “I really connected with the character. My agent rang one morning when I was having a lie-in to say I’d got the job. I was all calm on the phone, but then I was jubilant – called all my friends and family. Then I went back to bed.”
Nobody likes a snitch. Unless they're the good guy.
Because Rizwan had never acted on-camera before, the week before filming began (last October), Informer director Jonny Campbell arranged a preshoot to help Rizwan get accustomed to acting for the camera – and to having the lens just two feet away.
“It was just me walking around the Brick Lane area [of Whitechapel in east London] with the camera crew in my face. I was really nervous, and it was a lot harder than I thought to walk without any dialogue. Everyone who happened to be in Brick Lane was just staring at this weird shoot.”
Is he worried about stereotyping?
Screen dramas referencing Islamic terror can swiftly descend into lazy stereotyping. With the Muslim Public Affairs Council involved at script level, Informer sets out to avoid such traps.
“It looks at the story from the ground up, with a guy leading a regular life in east London,” explains Rizwan. “I was born into a Muslim family but I’m not a practising Muslim, although I keep a couple of rules – like eating halal meat, for example.
“I’m against all stereotyping, whether it’s about religion or women or gay people or whatever. Stereotypes propagate untruth, and often they’re simply boring, which is the last thing you want as a storyteller. So I was very happy and relieved that the writers told the story so sensitively.”
What’s Rizwan up to next?
Since shooting finished he’s done more theatre and a supporting role in an upcoming drama for FX. He’s also recorded music, started writing a play “about a guy in Moscow who steals fine art”, and is working through new scripts he’s being offered.
“Becoming well known is not of itself something I want,” he says, before adding seriously: “I’d like to be a recording artist, an actor in films and theatre, write plays and a novel, and get into fashion designing. I want to make great work.”
This article was originally published in October 2018