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Interview: Zaff Malik

What is your acting background?

I started all this late in life.  Coming through the traditional route of gaining a degree then spending years building a background in the not very glamorous computer industry, eventually becoming a paid hacker (white hat). I ran my own computer security business. I then decided, enough was enough and I had to satisfy my longing for the art form that I had a desire for since my late teens. I started taking regular classes in London in the evenings and at the weekends.  I had a business to run, a four hour round trip to get to classes and customers to satisfy by getting up at the crack of dawn the next morning. Get to grips with acting classes and getting into character, didn’t come so easily. Alongside this I was working in short films, initially with students, learning the ins and outs of life on set.  I got little sleep, the bags under my eyes got larger, but slowly, things started coming together. Whilst others at the acting school stayed there year upon year, within a few months of starting, I was working on a short film every 6-8 weeks.  I thought to myself, I must have been doing something right.  Then I got my first major TV project for National Geographic.  They were looking for someone to play an MI6 spy for a drama on UFOs, they just happened to pick me. I remember being so over the moon, driving down to the former USAF base in Rendlesham, now Bentwaters Parks.  I couldn’t sleep the night before, a mixture of nerves and working on a big, commercial set and sheer excitement. They were filming Fast and Furious 6 there at the same time and the scale of the sets and amount of powerful vehicles they had made me appreciate what a serious game this was.  It all started from there, a few months later a well known acting agent took me onto their books.  Another TV drama for U.S. TV cast me, I was getting asked to appear in better quality short films.  When I did a mobile phone app commercial for Wobu.me shot on a Red camera which offered cinematic quality, it got shared all over the Internet and my followers tripled in just two months.  The major break happened with David and Goliath, I did a self-tape audition whilst at home. The Director Tim Chey was impressed by what I did and so we then did a Skype audition.  Within hours they told me I had the role and to be packing my bags for filming in London.  I hadn’t actually realised the scale of the film.  Only when I got home from the film set did I read about it and it’s $50 million budget, I had to sit down to take it in then almost fell off my chair.  Ever since then I have been on a path that’s been rising.

Zaff Malik

I’ve had a great start to 2015 with a few decent commercials under my belt including Jaguar Land Rover cars and then my debut on ITV which is the main rival TV channel to the BBC in the UK.  I appeared with Ant and Dec on a prime-time TV slot.  That put me on the map in the UK with the public sending me messages from all over the country, that they had seen me.  The next TV appearance is my first on the BBC, a new comedy TV series – Twirlywoos which involves puppets that love to play pranks on us humans.  The filming of that certainly got the ‘looney’ cells in my body moving. It will be aired in the next month or so.

Who are some of the actors that you look up to:

Morgan Freeman has a dependability and fatherliness that I enjoy, he is a real natural in many of the roles he takes. Maybe he’s the father figure I would have liked throughout my own life.  Denzel Washington another one up there on my list, takes on some pretty purposeful roles and excels and excites in his subtle acting style.  I have a huge amount of respect for Stallone due to his difficult childhood, as I had encountered as a child, due to the loss of my father and have always been in awe of him as a screen icon and writer in Rocky and First Blood.  All manly roles, but he is able to show a believable vulnerability in many of his characters, maybe that’s the manliest trait of all. I love to watch and learn from the ordinary and the very best actors out there male or female.

 

What are some of your prominent roles in films?

In my TV debut in 2012 on the National Geographic channel in the UK I played an MI6 agent during the cold war in a UFO drama.

Seal assualt

Then shortly after, I played a Special Forces commando in a U.S. TV series called ‘Black Ops’, this time for the Discovery channel. I perform voice overs also and last year I really enjoyed playing ‘The Vanisher’, a mutant criminal in the X-Men Season One, Episode 2, audiobook drama (Youtube.com).  Nyctophobia the paranormal short film I starred in last year was set in an actual haunted mansion in England.  It is currently enjoying its journey around the World, to a number of film festivals, even getting as far as China.  In that I played Felix, an upper class employer who sends his underdog, a thief to do his dirty work in the mansion where terrible things end up happening to the thief.  That conveniently brings us to my most famed role to date, the warrior – Gathon, who enjoys flexing his muscle and bringing the good folk of the villages to their death in David and Goliath.

This might be a coincidence but a cancer charity, called Orchid, that deals with male cancers had a competition in 2014 to find the Manliest Man in Britain. From over one thousand entrants, I got voted by the public into the top 40 men in the country. That really surprised me, how far I actually got. Maybe my TV/film roles helped, flying aerobatics as a trained pilot or racing my motorcycle at high speed on race tracks, who knows!?

 

Are there particular roles which you are attracted to?

I enjoy playing characters in charge, sophisticated or complex individuals.  If I analyse myself, maybe I am guilty of having some of those traits.  Antagonist is the other character type I really enjoy, it’s somewhere I can really get to play around and create another dimension for the character.

Zaff

Is there any advice you wish to share with up and coming actors?

It takes time, you have to pay your dues, regardless of whether you are extremely good looking and are a natural at this (well, that could move you a few rungs up the ladder I suppose) you’ll be pushing yourself day in day out to levels you thought weren’t possible.  Only others in the business will get it and know this is normal.  Outsiders will tell you to slow down, stop being so self centred, but if you want to make this work and work well you will have to ignore them.  Rejection rates are high and you will suffer many setbacks, that can be soul destroying especially in the early days.  Your mental health is very important and you need to have other hobbies outside of acting to keep you sane when you start feeling like you can’t cope with the pressure.

Eat well, exercise three to four times a week, get plenty of sleep, ultimately keep your body in peak condition just as a professional athlete does and that will help your mind too. Your body will serve you far better and you will be able to give your work that much extra if you make it number one, told you you’ll get called selfish!

Oh yes, I almost forgot, when starting out, some film/TV productions don’t always have the healthiest food on offer on set, so plan in advance and take some with you.  In my bag I always have nuts, seeds, fruit and water just incase.

Only a small percentage of actors actually go all the way and make it into the well known TV shows and major films, you need a level of determination and passion for this career that many don’t realise and possibly some don’t possess.

 

Website: www.zaffmalik.co.uk

Twitter: @ZaffM1

Facebook: www.facebook.com/zaffmalikactor

Pininterest: www.pinterest.com/zaffmalik/

IMDB: www.imdb.me/zaffmalik

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