Meet Zaff Malik, a London born actor with an inspiring story

Zaff ready for flight smll

Hi Zaff, when did you decide you wanted to become an actor?

When I was eleven years old I was in a school play and played a robot wearing a black bin liner. I must have aced it because my teacher Mrs Ross (and if you’re reading this Miss, yes I did have a mega crush on you) was eager to explain to my mother that I should seriously consider becoming an actor. But it was like telling my mother she was never allowed to eat Turkish Delight again (the proper kind). She was having none of it – it was, (turns on an impeccable Indian accent) “Right son, stick to the strict cultural tenants, you WILL follow the path that has been chosen for you…  a doctor, lawyer or an engineer even but NOT an actor.” That put my acting career on ice for a few decades…

A few decades!?

Well it wasn’t just that. My Dad died a few years later from an aggressive form of cancer. I am the eldest boy in the family and in my culture the head is expected to show leadership and demonstrate to his siblings that he is making sound decisions in his life.  So I guess an unreliable profession like acting wasn’t exactly that! So I made a career in IT security and had a family instead.  But that yearning to act just got stronger. Then when I was in my thirties, I started training at a renowned acting school – Giles Forman Centre for Acting in Soho, London. I studied for over a year and I finally starting feeling the release of this tension that I didn’t realise I had.  When I graduated I started picking up roles in short films, which lead to paid TV work on the Discovery and the National Geographic channels. And I managed to keep getting work after that and here we are in 2014!  It really has been a tremendous year… I have a new TV series starting next year and a role in a massive Hollywood film too, David and Goliath {also out next year}.

So not exactly your typical trajectory for an actor then? And don’t you have children too? How did that affect your decision to drop everything and go into acting?

I’ll be straight up about this, it is a real challenge to have kids during a career change. Particularly when you are starting out, from the very bottom in a new industry – and as an actor! Most actors can focus just on themselves but family has always been important to me and as I only spent a short amount of time with my dad before he died I wanted to see my own kids as much as I could… and who knows how long any of us will live? Sorry to be so morbid!

Zaff is also competing in ‘Britain’s Manliest Man’ competition, a charity to raise awareness of male cancer – please vote for Zaff (before Nov 23rd) by following this link:- 

Did your ethnicity (Zaff has Indiana ancestry) pose any difficulties in finding success as an actor?

I do find it a little frustrating that the majority of leading roles are for non-ethnic actors and the ethnic roles tend to be stereotypical. When I was auditioning for commercials it seemed like the only Asian parts were for overweight corner shop owners. But I do think that the situation is improving in this country – not just with me and my success but look at Riz Ahmed and Dev Patel, who’ve both been getting leading parts in the UK and US. I want younger Asians out there to be inspired by guys like them and perhaps someday me –and to see themselves in a leading role and not as comic sidekicks or villains or fat corner shop workers!

What’s going on next for you Zaff?

I am in a new comedy series called Bobbins coming out on the BBC in January 2015.  I can’t reveal too much about it right now, except to say that I play a businessman that takes life a bit seriously. I have also started writing a screenplay set in WWII and I would star as an RAF fighter pilot. This would be amazing as it would combine my two loves; acting and flying {Zaff is also a qualified pilot}. I have been cast as a barrister in a new British feature film and I am in talks to do a British comedy film, with filming looking to begin in 2016 for both of them. So yeah quite a lot is going on!

It sounds it. Well thank you Zaff and good luck with all of your future projects and with your manliest man competition.

Thanks a lot.

Find out more about Zaff