Goodness Gracious Me star Sanjeev Bhaskar has said he hopes an Asian actor in a lead role on a primetime TV show will soon be seen as the norm rather than the exception.
The comedian revealed he saw his move into drama as a challenge to shatter preconceptions and will soon be back on screens in the second series of cold case drama Unforgotten.
He told the Radio Times: “People have said that having an Asian actor in a lead role on a primetime ITV show is really significant but creator Chris Lang wrote my part as an Asian cop because he doesn’t see why skin-colour differences should matter.
“This is, hopefully, the future – characters you empathise with whatever their nationality, sexual preference, skin colour or accent.
“When I did Spamalot, a few journalists would ask about me being an Asian King Arthur, and I’d say if people are thinking about my ethnicity when they leave the theatre I haven’t done my job. And I think the same with this. It’s about connecting with people.”
In ITV’s Unforgotten he plays DI Sunil “Sunny” Khan and in the first series he starred opposite Nicola Walker, Trevor Eve and Tom Courtenay as he solved the case of a young man who had been missing since 1976.
He saw the move away from comedy and towards drama as a way to shatter a glass ceiling, saying: “I did Silent Witness, Midsomer Murders and Indian Summers, all of which I had to audition for.
“Then I thought, I’ll focus on drama. Lots of glass ceilings, lots of preconceptions – from being a middle-aged man, to the Asian preconception and the comedy preconception… maybe I saw it as a challenge.”
Unforgotten will air on January 5 at 9pm on ITV.
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