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Arsher Ali

March 2015

THE mystery surrounding Doctor Who is legendary. Cast and crew are sworn to secrecy in order to ensure storylines for future series are never leaked.
“It’s the first thing you sign; even before you sign your contract,” says Arsher Ali, of the confidentiality agreement with the makers of Britain’s long-running sci-fi series.
The Nottingham-born actor has already filmed his two episodes for the next series which is likely to hit the small screen in late summer.
“I can say it’s a two-parter and my general view of Doctor Who but no more than that,” says the 30-year-old, whose acting breakthrough came five years ago in the comedy film Four Lions.
He has since appeared in Silent Witness, Beaver Falls, The Guilty, Complicit, The Missing and, most recently, Arthur & George opposite Martin Clunes.
About Doctor Who, he says: “I am a fan of the show although it was a shame that the first Doctor for me when I was growing up was Sylvester McCoy.
“You could see that the show was dying so I didn’t really appreciate it until they brought it back with Christopher Eccleston,” says Arsher, who lives in the city centre with Emmerdale actress Roxy Shahidi. “He is up there on my favourite actors’ list so I started watching it again.
“I don’t like the sillier elements of Doctor Who; when it’s really camp and everyone is running around. That’s why I like Peter Capaldi,” he says of the current Doctor.
“The show should be dark and mysterious, and shouldn’t pull any punches in terms of being scary. When we were kids it’s what we all wanted.”
He adds: “Peter Davison was an underrated Doctor; he had a kind of vulnerability. And Tom Baker was silly but he could be serious as well. He was just mad, like The Joker.”
Doctor Who is just the latest in a string of TV series and films that Arsher has been busy filming over recent months.
At the end of last year he was in hit BBC drama The Missing opposite James Nesbitt, then in March in Arthur & George, a three-part ITV drama adapted from Julian Barnes’ acclaimed novel about the true story of The Great Wyrley Outrages.
In 1906, George Edalji, a young Anglo-Indian solicitor, was imprisoned for mutilating animals and writing obscene letters. He served three years before being released, after which he set out to clear his name in order for him to return to practising law.
Helping him in his quest was Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“I can’t believe it’s real; it’s like someone getting done for terror charges and Russell Brand leaping to their defence,” says Arsher, who played Edalji opposite Clunes as Conan Doyle.
“You think you know him from Men Behaving Badly, that he’s a kind of oafish, comical guy but he’s not at all,” he says of his co-star.
“He’s super smart, super sophisticated, very witty and super posh. And he was so good in it.”
The three-parter pulled in up to six million viewers.
“The actual case, and the achieving of the pardon was quite an historic event. A lot of laws and regulations were changed from that first case. So it is an important landmark case in terms of law now.
“I’d read the book when I left drama school. Then the Nottingham Playhouse did a co-production of it and that landed at my door. But I thought ‘no’ because they don’t do catering,” he jokes.
The theatre’s artistic director, Giles Croft, is a neighbour and has often asked Arsher to appear in various productions there but he’s always been too busy.
“I’d love to work at the Playhouse; it’s where I saw my first theatre really.”
That was when he was at Bilborough College.
“It would be great to work with Giles. My missus has. She did The Importance of Being Earnest with Anjli Mohindra,” he adds, of the Nottingham actress who played his wife in The Missing.
After Bilborough College, Arsher went to East 15 Acting School at the University of Essex, then graduated to roles with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
There will be two more films featuring Arsher out this year; one with This Is England actor Stephen Graham with the working title A Patch of Fog.
“It’s about stalkers and Stephen’s really good in it; very creepy. And he has a menacing persona which he plays on, just for a laugh. Some of the cast members who’d not met him before didn’t know how to take him.
“It was fun. I don’t do a lot of film because I get offered a lot of good TV stuff.”
He had complained that due to his looks, he’d been repeatedly offered roles as a terrorist.
“If you see anything that has a kind of terrorist plot at its heart, be sure it landed at my door,” he laughs.
“It’s getting better though.”
Arsher, who’ll be in another film due out this year called Remainder, based on the cult novel by Tom McCarthy, is writing a screenplay about heavy metal music in Iraq.
“I’m very excited about that, because it’s mad,” he says.
“It’s from an article I came across and I optioned it. We’re on the third draft of the script now.”
He adds: “I’ve always fancied writing. I read so many scripts, why wait around for that perfect thing to land at your door? Why not do it yourself?”
When he’s not working, Arsher’s free time is dominated by sport. His first choice of career was sports journalism and he’s sort of achieved that with regular columns in the Nottingham Post about his beloved Nottingham Forest.
“I’ll travel everywhere to watch them. And if I can’t make it I’ll ring home and get my mum or my missus to put the phone to the radio so I can listen to the commentary on Radio Nottingham.”
He played football for his school team but was “too lazy” to make a go of it.
Arsher, the son of a Raleigh welder, now retired, is also often to be seen at Trent Bridge during the cricket season.
“You can just walk around there and everyone is so friendly. You can get friendly with the players; they are always more wordly than footballers, so you have a proper conversation with them.”
He adds: “I started a cricket team when I was at Haywood School in Sherwood.
“We only had two other teams to play against and I think we always lost those games.”
He and Shahidi will soon be moving North to be closer to Yorkshire Television, where Emmerdale is filmed.
He says with a grin: “If it was up to me we’d be in West Bridgford, but with the City Ground and Trent Bridge just down the road, she knows I’d never be home.”

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