'Race should be an integrated part of the character, but not the main part. I think we’re moving beyond that.' | Mawaan Rizwan on his new Sky comedy Two Weeks To Live © Nick Wall

'Race should be an integrated part of the character, but not the main part. I think we’re moving beyond that.'

Mawaan Rizwan on his new Sky comedy Two Weeks To Live

In Sky’s new comedy, Two Weeks To Live, Maisie Williams stars as Kim Noakes, a strange young misfit raised in remote isolation by her survivalist mother Tina (Sian Clifford). Now Kim sets out into the real world for the first time  - but after encountering hapless brothers Nicky (comedian Mawaan Rizwan) and Jay  (Taheen Modal) at their local pub, a prank sets in motion a series of events that sees them all on the run from murderous gangsters. Here Rizwan and Modal talk about the series, the joy of playing characters not defined entirely by their ethnicity – and driving bumper cars!

Tell us a bit about your character. 

Nicky is an over-thinker, quite sensitive. He’s always trying to do the right thing but he’s quite squeamish. He’s probably the worst person to have on your team during a life or death situation, like the opposite of an Avenger. He’s socially awkward, he gets a nosebleed when it becomes too much. He has no business being involved in a murder.

As a comedian, did the cast come to you for any tips? 

No, I wish. That would be great for my ego. They were all shit hot. It’s hard coming from the stand-up world because you have an audience there to basically validate you and know if you’re going in the right direction. With screen acting, you’ve just got to be in the moment and then do it again and again and again

Well both Maisie and Taheen said they were watching and learning from you! 

Ah, that’s nice! The day after my Live At The Apollo came out, they were all watching it and I was partly embarrassed but also felt very validating.

What does it mean to you to play a character who isn’t defined by his racial or cultural background? 

It was really important to me especially since I’ve been in this world for a decade now. I think a lot of actors have done their fair share of roles that are affiliated with their race so it’s really nice to play a character where every scene is not justifying why I, as a person of colour, am on screen. There’s so much creativity and story to be explored and told beyond that. 

Race should be an integrated part of the character or play but not the main part. I think we’re moving beyond that. 

Riz Ahmed talks of the Promised Land where you can just play the same spectrum of characters and tell the same spectrum of stories that Caucasian actors get to tell and that’s what we’re fighting for. Especially now, during a time of division, we need relatable characters to be played by a diverse range of actors, to evoke empathy and compassion.

What was it like working with Maisie Williams and Sian Clifford? 

Well they only played two of the most iconic characters on TV in the last decade so even though they are both really down-to-earth, every now and again a voice in my head was like, "dude, that’s Arya Stark!" It was a bit mad. Like, in what world would Fleabag and Game of Thrones coexist?

 It was this weird Venn diagram and even seeing them at the read through it was just amazing and really fun to watch. When I met Sian, she was so cool and charming. She’s so good at playing characters that are really sharp and cutting and the delivery is like a knife slicing through you but as soon as they shout cut it was totally different. I feel like the world doesn’t know how charming she is.

What was your favourite moment from shooting? 

The first day was really fun, because we were doing a fairground scene and I spent a lot of time in a bumper car. The crew were really enjoying themselves and at one point I was having candy floss with the director of photography. 

But then two weeks later I was out doing the rain scene and getting drenched. I think they shot those fun scenes first, so we went into the more challenging ones with our morale already up

Two weeks to live - interview with Taheen Modak

Tell us about your character 

When we meet Jay, he’s sort of in no man’s land. His brother has just come back from university and he’s trying to cling on to him. He’s very insecure; he puts on this facade of a lad persona, this tough older brother,  but underneath, he’s still a complex individual with emotions. He still aspires, even though he’s not as clever as his brother or most people he finds himself with. 

[The] they  go on this batshit crazy adventure, so he’s forced to face some home truths… he’s really forced to grow up, strip down his insecurities and get rid of this lad persona and actually share his emotions which I think is pretty topical right now. There is a discussion about men starting to show their feelings and, of course, they should because only good can come from it. 

How would you describe the comedy and was it easy to master? 

The comedy was very challenging, especially in a dark comedy like this where you’re trying not to tell jokes. It’s almost like you have a sixth sense; you’re aware that there is a gag there but you’re trying to be deadly serious, you’re trying to be as honest and earnest as you can be, especially when you’re playing a character like Jay. 

A lot of the stuff he says is pretty absurd and people watching will know that, but you’ve got to play it straight and honest. Then obviously throw in the one-liners so even when it does get dark, or characters are fighting and there’s action, the comedy still brings it back into the light.

Are you already thinking about season two? 

I know I am optioned to do a second season and I would love to do one. They’ve left enough channels open at the end of the show so fingers crossed.

• Two Weeks To Live starts on Sky 1 at 10pm on September 2. Click  interview with the other stars, Sian Clifford and Maisie Williams. Interviews courtesy Sky press office

Published: 18 Aug 2020

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