Born in London, Panthaki is best known for the roles he played on BBC soap opera EastEnders as Ronny Ferreira (2003–2005) and as 'Hassan B' the nemesis to Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G in Ali G Indahouse . His next film It's a Wonderful Afterlife Directed by Gurinder Chadha is out later this week.
The star studded premiere which was held on Wednesday 14th April at Vue Star City, Birmingham was attended by SimplyBhangra.com's Navdeep Bains and Monika Plaha who had a chance to catch up with Ray Panthaki to bring you this Exclusive Interview with him.
Is there anything you’ve learnt from past experiences past characters that makes you a better actor of today?
I like to do a lot of research to get into the role I’m playing. I do lots of preparation and always do research onto every character I play.
Wasn’t there a film where you went homeless for 7 days? How did you prepare for that?
I didn’t wash for three days and in three months I grew a huge beard as I was playing a heroin addict and obviously I wasn’t going to take heroine. I wanted to be in that uncomfortable place of desperately wanting and needing something so badly so I wanted to diet to feel that desperation of hunger. I then decided to actually go onto the streets and live it, I wanted to know how this actually feels like. At first when I asked to do this, the producers immediately said no, it’s not possible. I didn’t take no for an answer and fought my corner. After endless negotiations, the director decided to let me live this experience and decided to come with me- we lasted a week.
Are there any scary moments that make you want to turn back time?
There were many scary moments where we were in really dangerous situations but nothing could have gone totally wrong. It was just an amazing experience as from that moment I definitely felt that I did justice to the character. It was a relief when the experience was over as not many actors have done what I’ve done. In the end I just hoped it had all paid off and came across as a really believable performance.
How did you prepare for the film?
The film is really refreshing and light hearted so it was much easier to prepare for than my previous films. We all know a typical ‘Jaz’ character a young trouble breaking younger brother- a bit of a stoner, the sheer rude boy type. He’s constantly annoying his sister and mum so I get elements of this from my actual older brother, who’s the mischievous one out of us all.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
When you’ve got someone like Sanjeev Bhaskar on set, it doesn’t get any better, it’s absolutely hilarious! It’s a really great atmosphere on set and energy levels were high, I enjoyed it so much and I had the best experience
When did you know you wanted to be an Actor?
I was so sure this is what I wanted to do forever, I was 12 years old and I remember there was a boy in my school who did this and I thought wow; I really want to do this too. So I said to my mum that I really want to go to Drama school but because I’m such a shy person in real life, my mum didn’t actually believe me. I’ve always been shy from as young as I can remember but I was so determined that she finally got me a place in drama school.
At first, it was so nerve racking because it was full of extrovert kids and there I was, the only introvert. Nevertheless, I stuck it out and kept going as I had this longing desire within me to perform, to act, to deliver. I couldn’t sing, and I couldn’t dance to save my life but I relied on my drama.
I did a performance one night in the local theatre and played this extremely emotional character that has a scene where he had just had enough and broke down, and I got so deeply into this role for the first time I actually cried on set then looked into the audience to find them crying too. It was an amazing moment for me, because that’s when I realised I can actually effect people and from that moment onwards I’ve never looked back, I’m living my dream!
Do you ever have these shy moments now?
I’m just a really shy person; I was just born like that. It was the London premiere the other day and we were on the red carpet and I still find it frightening despite the amount of times I’ve done it. It’s so strange because I thought I’d be used to it by now nevertheless, it was a great night and I really enjoyed myself!
The film is strongly related to arrange marriages, what’s your view on this?
It’s certainly something I would never do. I have been so lucky as from a young age my parents don’t mind who I marry, what age, what race, what sex, what religion. As long as I am happy and I am in love. Arrange marriages has never really affected my life in any way but I remember my Grandparents had an arrange marriage yet they’re still incredibly happy.
Would you ever go back to Eastenders?
I hate it when people ask me that (laughs) but no I don’t think I would like to go back. I mean you can never say never but where I am in my career I don’t see that happening at all and I know what I want to do in life and where I am heading towards, and right now it’s definitely films and theatre. I love doing this and it would be pointless to go back to something I’m not interested in.
What’s your plan for the future?
In this moment of time, I’m doing lots of film/theatre writing and directing. However, my main project at the moment that I’m working is something that is quite close to me, it’s something I wrote last year which is about dealing with knife crime which is written all by the heart, and reveals true and raw emotions.
Thank you to everyone reading this at SimplyBhangra.com and the support they are giving to everyone out there. Enjoy the movie!
(Interview with Ray Panthaki by Monika Plaha and Navdeep Bains)