We caught up with broadcaster and actor Mim Shaikh in the run-up to the release of his most high-profile film to date – a beautiful multicultural rom-com made by the people behind Love Actually. A far cry from his absolute dream role to one day play 007…
Photography by David Reiss
What’s Love Got To Do With It? is due out next month and stars some seriously big names – Emma Thompson, Lily James and Shazad Latif. Made by StudioCanal of Love Actually and Bridget Jones success, you can expect tears, laughter, feel good vibes and goose bumps galore. It’s got the lot.
The plot follows Zoe played by Lily James, an award-winning documentary maker, as she follows a new subject – her childhood friend Kaz played by Shazad Latif as he progresses through the process of an arranged marriage. Mim plays Kaz’s brother Farooq, and is he’s thankful for the film for two reasons. Mainly because it represents a shift in diversity in mainstream film but also because it came along at a time during lockdown when the ability to make money just stopped, so this was a ‘big rescue’.
You’ll know Mim from BBC One crime drama Informer which also starred Paddy Considine, Nabhaan Rizwan and Bel Powley, but he’s been working in TV and radio consistently for the last decade. He made his screen debut in the 2014 short film Daytimer directed by actor Riz Ahmed and was a regular on BBC1Xtra and BBC Asian Network.
He appeared in 2016 short film Shia Sunni which won a BAFTA Children’s Award and played the leading role in British comedy horror Freehold alongside Mandeep Dhillon and Javier Botet. He also appeared in Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul on BBC2 alongside an eclectic bunch of celebrities including Adrian Chiles, Fatima Whitbread, Edwina Currie, Amar Latif, Pauline McLynn and Dom Joly who took on a historical pilgrimage and were encouraged to chat about their faith along the way.
In 2018, he found his father who’d been absent his entire life in BBC Three documentary, Finding Dad in which Mim spent 18 months tracking down his biological father taking him ultimately to Pakistan via his birthplace in Cradley Heath. While he didn’t get the Disney ending he craved and there were lots of unanswered questions, Mim did find his father and a resolution of sorts and unexpectedly felt a strong connection to Pakistan feeling at home instantly. It’s been a whirlwind.
When Mim got the script for What’s Love Got To Do With It? he was wondering how he would continue making a living during lockdown. Mim said: “Work stopped completely. I’m not from a privileged background and couldn’t see a way of making money. My agent sent the script through and I really connected with it. It was a silver lining.” The audition needed to be done at home thanks to lockdown and Mim duly recorded and sent off a tape hoping to hear positive news.
He got the part and started shooting during lockdown. Five Covid tests a week, plus masks and face shields between filming became the norm. The cast and crew just cracked on with it grateful to be able to work. Mim is over the moon with how the film’s turned out and describes it as ‘absolutely beautiful’ and an important story exploring arranged marriage and particularly how that affects the man.
Going back to Mim’s lack of privilege, he glossed over getting his first job at the BBC initially as though it was nothing, but he’s being modest. He studied Broadcast Journalism at Leeds University then worked hard to get his foot in the door. Competition for BBC jobs is fierce and he didn’t have the luxury of being from that world or having connections in broadcasting. Hard work, talent and determination got him through the door and has kept him working and adapting constantly.
He’s versatile as demonstrated by his broad mix of work and loves telling stories whatever form that takes, so writing during lockdown felt like a logical next step alongside acting. Like lots of people, Mim had time to evaluate life generally during the pandemic and he began writing in earnest. He won’t say what he’s writing yet. He could tell me, but he’d have to kill me which leads nicely onto Mim’s dream role – James Bond. While he reckons he’s a bit young right now, we’d watch this space because honestly, anything is possible.