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TV Quickfire: Actor Nabhaan Rizwan on new BBC drama series Informer

Up-and-coming actor Nabhaan Rizwan shines as a young second generation Pakistani man who goes undercover in new BBC thriller Informer. He tells Georgia Humphreys about it

Informer creaters and writers Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani 'spoke to real-life people who do this' says Nabhaan Rizwan

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE INFORMER?

Essentially it's about this guy who's living an ordinary life, gets taken into custody and gets stuck in the system. It's set in a world that is changing all the time, a world that is constantly inundated and bombarded with masses of information and a world that shifts day-to-day between communities.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER, RAZA?

Raza is a young dude from east London. When we are introduced to the family, it is clear to see that Raza has outgrown this house. He has been raised by his dad Hanif who is an anti-establishment leftie and a bit of a drunk. Raza has to take the role of father figure in the family, but as the series develops we see that Hanif played an important part in his upbringing. Raza's attitude towards his father moves between anger, frustration and sadness. He's really good friends with his mum, Sadia, and is close with his younger brother, Nasir, who Raza sees as a younger version of himself. He wants Nasir to succeed and to embrace opportunities that Raza didn't have.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING THE LEAD IN A BBC DRAMA?

It was crazy. Johnny [Campbell], the director, made me do a little pre-shoot – the scenes walking around Brick Lane. That was before the official start date which was really helpful, getting used to the technical stuff. But overall, it was an amazing experience. Anyone who lives in London, it's such a hotchpotch of communities and classes, you do learn to be a bit of a chameleon and when I was playing the character I had to think back to times when I was in different circles, and what that's like.

HOW DID YOU LAND THE PART?

It was a long, gruelling process. I did about four auditions. I had a good feeling about it – some roles you go up for you're quietly confident. With Raza, it definitely connected from day one and I knew I had a good chance. But the rest was up to the forces that be.

DID YOU FEEL A RESPONSIBILITY WITH THE ROLE?

Yeah. Raza is not as prominent to begin with and I think as the shoot went on as the edit came through, 'Oh, Raza's in that scene and that scene...' I tried not to think of it as a whole series, I tried to break it down and that definitely helped my sanity. It was nerve-racking on the first day.

HOW MUCH DID YOU KNOW ABOUT INFORMERS BEFORE DOING THIS SHOW?

I spoke to the writers (Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani) and the level of research they conducted was thorough. So that thing about you're not given a fake name, you use your name, the lingo... It's really well researched. They spoke to real-life people who do this.

WHAT BARRIERS DO YOU HOPE IT MIGHT HELP BREAK DOWN?

Stereotypes is the main one. I dislike stereotypes, like most people, because they propagate ideas of groups of people, and on TV it's boring because they are repeated fictionalisations of people. In terms of Rose [played by Sharon D Clarke] – a black female in a powerful position – she doesn't have to justify being there, she's just there. And those things are subtle. It's sad we've not had as much of that. I'm learning from people's reactions how progressive it [Informer] is. It's a big step forward.

THE COMEDY IN THE SCRIPT IS ALSO NOTABLE.

It's well threaded in rather than a writer going, 'Oh, we've got to put some comedy in'. 'Don't freak I'm a Sikh'; it's funny but it's true, and there's a sadness behind that. And a lot of funny things in life are a reflection of that.

:: Informer starts on BBC One on Tuesday, October 16.

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