Artwork for Oz Malik on playing Haseeb
Oz Malik & Eleanor Barkla. Photo: Tiffany Garvie


Oz Malik on playing Haseeb

Actor Oz Malik discusses his character, Haseeb, in I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed.

Actor Oz Malik discusses his character, Haseeb, in I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed.

What excites you most about what you've done so far during rehearsals?

What excites me most is getting to work with incredible people – people that I've respected in the past and people in the industry that I look up to. Also working on a play by Zia Ahmed, who's someone that I listen to on the radio. I heard his spoken word poetry three years ago and I thought, 'Wow, who is this guy?' And the fact that I get to work on his first play is incredible. And also representing the Muslim community, the South Asian community. It means a lot to have that responsibility and bring this show to audiences.

What is your role in the play?

I play Haseeb Hameed. He's a young guy from North London of British Pakistani origin. British Pakistanis are a significant minority in England and they've been there for generations. They are represented everywhere in Britain; from politicians and educators to workers in factories. It's a significant community that has achieved a lot but they have also faced a lot of challenges. In this play we see these themes of racism, bigotry and the inter-racial divide as well. So Haseeb is involved in all of these things – racism and class divide – and he's navigating through it.

This affects his relationships with people. But he finds himself through spoken word poetry. That's his outlet – being a spoken word artist. He also works at a falafel factory, which sounds awesome probably smells great as well, but being a spoken word artist in England is a way of him getting his emotions out, telling his story, and he ends up meeting a girl that he falls in love with.

Ella to him is beautiful. He really does love her. The challenge, though, is that Ella is from a different background. She's not the same skin colour as him, not the same religion, and she's not even from the same area. So these challenges start to come up.

I_Wanna_Be_Yours_phTGarvie_3552_O.jpgOz Malik. Photo: Tiffany Garvie

How do you embody these characteristics you've just spoken about? 

The way that I've been approaching the character of Haseeb has primarily been through music. I love listening to UK music and getting the rhythm of the place. I’ve been listening to music from North West London, which has a particular style and tone. I also like to see the type of fashion and clothes in the area. I'm a very visual person and once I see paintings, films or music, that inspires and informs where I can take my character.

Then after that I look at the voice. The North West London accent is particular. I've been working on that and figuring out how it sounds. That grounds me and helps me then move into my body and the character's physical movement.

It's been fun and interesting, but Haseeb is different to me – as a person from Melbourne. There are however a lot of similarities because I'm of Pakistani heritage. I know what it feels like to live in an environment where you may be different. I'm also Muslim like Haseeb, so I know the aspects of Ramadan and Eid which are referenced in our story. That makes it easy for me to fit into the character and his lived experience.

Could you give us an example of how you’re working with your body and movement to prepare for the role so far?

To prepare for this role I've been working with our Movement Consultant Jonathan Homsey, who has helped us with our physicality and movement. Movement is so important for theatre so audiences can see everything. What your feet are doing, your legs, your arms. It's important to get our physicality right to inform how we can move around stage and the set, while also being comfortable with the set as well.

Jonathan's been making us feel like sponges, but we've also worked on how to embody our characters. For example, what does it feel like being in cold weather? What does it feel like being in snow? What does it feel like being in love and how does that change the body's physicality? Jonathan's expertise has really helped get us in the right direction.

To prepare for this show, we've also been working with amazing vocal and dialect coaches. Gurkiran Kaur is our Dialect Coach from the UK. She's pointed me in the right direction to get the specific aspects of this accent. She's helped me understand the context of this accent from Cricklewood and how being from a Pakistani origin would change the accent and how it sounds in London today. So working with her has been amazing because I don't have that lived experience in London. Working with our Voice & Dialect Coach Geraldine Cook-Dafner has also been amazing because she's phenomenal. She has enabled us to open up with breath work so our voices can project to our audiences. 

I_Wanna_Be_Yours_phTGarvie_3512_O_E.jpgTasmin Hossain, Oz Malik, Eleanor Barkla. Photo: Tiffany Garvie

Where did you begin your acting journey and how have you come to be at this point in your career?

My acting journey has been an interesting one. I've been acting for about five or six years now, but I wanted to be an actor when I was in high school. I remember telling my school coordinator that this is what I want to do when he called me into his office as I was getting failing grades. I remember him contacting my mum and saying, ‘Do you know your son is thinking about being an actor?’ And she wasn’t too happy.

I knew that acting was going to be a difficult pathway for me, especially given my cultural background. More ‘serious’ jobs were more important, to be financially secure. So I had to put acting on hold when I left school and focus on university. I was balancing my academic studies with my acting work. Every week, I would go to late-night acting classes around Melbourne and catch the train, coming home around 1 am.

I would also use resources that were available at university. Whether they were books or free improvisational classes, whatever it was to learn the craft. Acting can be quite expensive. So finding really good people around me, and also volunteering with a lot of arts organisations in my community, a lot of people of colour who were into the arts and migrant communities who wanted to tell their stories.

I was lucky enough to be cast in a lot of short films, up-and-coming indie projects, especially in the South Eastern and Western suburbs of Melbourne. And that was really my first step into acting and being in front of the screen and onstage. It was through young people of colour, people of migrant and refugee backgrounds. I've been lucky enough to work with amazing teachers, too, including Natela Dzuliashvili, who's really motivated and inspired me throughout the years. So that's my journey, but it's still going.


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