While most actors have a long wait ahead of them before their next starring role is devoured by audiences, actor Ali Fazal has two major performances coming out: Season 2 of Amazon India Original series “Mirzapur,” streaming Oct. 23, and a feature role in Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie adaptation “Death on the Nile,” set for release Dec. 18, pandemic willing.
Fazal broke out internationally in “Furious 7” (2015), before going on to play Abdul to Judi Dench’s Victoria in Stephen Frears’ “Victoria & Abdul” in 2017 — the same year he was chosen as one of the Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch.
In “Death on the Nile,” Fazal plays a character first portrayed by George Kennedy in the 1978 film adaptation, and by David Soul as part of long-running series “Poirot.” His casting continues the recent trend of color-blind casting where an actor’s ethnicity doesn’t necessarily inform the role. “The culture has shifted,” Fazal, who is Indian, tells Variety. “We are talking diversity in so many areas and across the globe. Blind casting is a thing now, and it is happening.”
“Some movies are geographically relevant and therefore you can’t have blind casting, but when you can, we hope to seize the moment,” says Fazal. The actor says that his U.K. agents, Julian Belfrage Associates, have been supportive in this regard. They’ve been putting him up for projects and series where his ethnicity doesn’t matter in the slightest.
At home in India, Fazal is known for the “Fukrey” franchise and Netflix show “House Arrest.” His character in the first season of Amazon series “Mirzapur” (2018), set in the lawless badlands of northern India, proved to be extremely popular. In “Mirzapur,” Fazal plays against type as a hard-edged small-town personality that is far removed from the urbane characters he’s normally associated with.
“If I were a producer, I would think twice before casting someone like me,” says Fazal. “We usually rely on previous images of actors and not what they can bring to the table, and I really give credit to the people in Excel for seeing that, especially the directors and writer.”
Created by Puneet Krishna and Karan Anshuman, “Mirzapur” is produced by Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Entertainment. It is directed by Gurmmeet Singh and Mihir Desai.
The first season ends on a cliffhanger and Fazal teases that the stakes are much higher in season 2. “That’s what happens with part twos. We’re always expecting more and it just gets harder and you have to top the first one — not just match it,” says Fazal.