• Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Arts and Culture

Rish Shah: The new ‘Obsession’

The British Asian actor adds to his impressive list of projects with a lead role in seductive new Netflix series Obsession

Rish Shah (Photo Credit: Phil Sharp)

By: ASJAD NAZIR

Whether it is starring in films, on TV or his game-changing role in super hit 2022 web series Ms Marvel, Rish Shah has made an amazing impact in a short space of time and turned heads with his terrific talent.

The British Asian actor adds to his impressive list of projects with a lead role in seductive new Netflix series Obsession. The contemporary drama about forbidden desire, adapted from Josephine Hart’s novel Damage, centres around a destructive love triangle that emerges after a passionate affair. He stars alongside Richard Armitage, Charlie Murphy, and Indira Varma in the four-part series available now on Netflix.

Eastern Eye caught up with the hot right now 25-year-old to discuss his success, new series, and why he is proud to be part of a new path-breaking generation of British Asians.

The last few years have been amazing for you. Have you had a chance to enjoy the success?

Firstly, thank you, that’s very kind. Yeah, it’s been a real whirlwind. I’ve tried to just take it project by project and soak in where I am. Obviously, each gig has been a unique experience and great learning curve. I’ve been really lucky to work consistently with people I admire and look up to. So, I’m just trying to keep my eyes wide open every time I’m there.

Was being on the set of Ms Marvel a big pinch me moment for you?

Yes, 100 per cent. I think even just getting that phone call. I was in my parent’s place and knew things were about to change. We were all crying tears of joy. Then after that, going onto the sets in Atlanta was incredible, being surrounded by people I’ve watched on screen for years in the studio next to you was really cool. Do em>Revenge had its moments and working with Riz (Ahmed) on The Long Goodbye was a real dream come true. So was working with Indira on Obsession. So, there’s been many pinch me moments. I hope to keep having them and never feel like this is normal.

Did you expect to make such a big impact with Ms Marvel?
Honestly, no, I didn’t. I was just so grateful to be a part of a universe, which I’ve been such a fan of. Then to kind of step into a leading role opposite Iman (Vellani) and be there on set, seeing how the cogs turn in such a huge studio was an amazing experience, because I really got an understanding of how the larger side of the industry works. And it was made with such love and passion at the heart of it.

Rish Shah

How do you feel about being part of a game changing series like Ms Marvel?
Oh, man, it’s been surreal. It was always the dream to paint our culture in a positive light. For me, the only experiences I can talk about are interactions I have had with people nearest and dearest to me. I have young nieces who are huge fans of the show and now dress up as Kamala Khan for Halloween. So, you see those little things where you’re empowering the next generation.

Obsession is completely different to anything you’ve done, where you are stepping into a leading role in a British drama, aimed at more adult audiences. Can you talk a little bit about your character Jay?

He’s a junior doctor who has had his fair share of relationships in the past, but he’s just found himself completely infatuated with this woman, Anna. He enters this relationship and is questioning himself like who he is, as a man, transitioning into his mid-late 20s. I feel like that’s a really important turning point for a lot of young men, as we really reflect on who we are. I think he wants to prove to himself that he can step up and become the type of man he wants to be, which is kind of similar to his successful father, William. I think that relationship comes with its own issues, because as we know, there is that love triangle.

Did you look at the original novel Damage it is based on or the 1992 film version before starting work on Obsession?

Admittedly, I didn’t look at it. I wanted to kind of have my own take on the character. It was a conversation I had had with (directors) Lisa (Barros D’Sa) and Glenn (Leyburn) pretty early on, when I was auditioning. I asked if they would like me to because I was open to it. But I was happy that they basically said it was up to me. Maybe after the show is released, I’ll go back and watch the original film or, read the novel.

You have done work that is more for younger audiences. Is this the first role
in an adult space for you?

Yes, I think just with the nature of the show, and themes involved, with the power dynamics between partners and controlling desire, and forbidden relationships. It just felt as though it was the first time I was in, as you say, that adult space. It’s a really exciting transition for me personally, as an actor. I love doing both, but this was such a different beast to tackle in its own right. And hopefully, I’ve grown as a performer.

It is a show that will draw in audiences. Do you have a favourite moment or scene from Obsession?

Yeah, probably the moment where Jay’s curiosity gets the better of him, one night. He’s kind of come to terms with the fact that he has allowed Anna to have her secrets. There is a turning point where he starts to question that, and I enjoyed that most, because it’s kind of a penny drop moment.

This is yet another Netflix project for you. Has that become like a second home for you now?

(Laughs) I hope it becomes a second home for me. It’s always such a privilege to work with them. They have such a brilliant team behind them, and their array of projects is just fantastic. They’re all about giving consumers the freedom to choose programmes for themselves. I hope that people will continue to choose ones I am lucky to be a part of.

You are always very natural onscreen and fit seamlessly into everything. Do
you have a set way of working?

That’s really kind, thank you. I don’t have a specific way. I think I’m still learning and evolving. And we always are as performers, I’m sure. I think what’s been so brilliant is that so early on, I’ve got to work with people, as I said, who I admire. I’ve been trying to soak up different techniques from everyone and just be a fly on the wall on these sets, trying to, learn and bring a similar energy myself.

Rish Shah with Charlie Murphy in Obsession

How do you feel about expectations around you increasing with every project?

Yeah, it seems that way. And it’s, of course, nerve wracking. I really want to continue striving to represent my culture and our people, by doing work they’re proud of. I try not to think about it too much, otherwise, you can drive yourself crazy in any field, no matter what you’re doing, if you put too much pressure on yourself. But the goal for me is to just be a working actor who is part of great projects and I hope to continue to do that. Yeah, the increasing pressure I think it’s a good thing.

Your new series is called Obsession. Are you obsessed with anything in real life?

A couple of things. I’m recently like an avid go-carter and a big Formula One fan. I went to the Indian Grand Prix with my dad and best mate when I was, like 14 years old. So that’s a little obsession of mine.

Obsession is also about secrets. Do you think you are a good secret keeper?

The people around me would tell you I’m not. But when it comes to my work, I am. (Laughs) That’s probably because of the NDAs I’ve had to sign with previous projects. So, I got better. I’m better at not spoiling or ruining things for people, especially with Obsession, I’ve kind of held my cards very close to my chest. I haven’t  really told too many people what to expect and want them to go into it blind. I think it’s more powerful that way. I hope it’s going to have a big impact and be a real emotional rollercoaster for viewers. Even my family doesn’t really know what’s going to happen.

Do you ever get nervous before one of your projects comes out?

Yes. It’s funny, because when you audition, you’re like, this is something I really want and can do it. I’m determined and know I’m capable. Then on set, you feel empowered (if you’re lucky to work with people I have), and you’re like, this feels great. And then suddenly when the release day comes, you’re like, ‘oh cr*p’. I’m just trying to get better at accepting that once the work is done, it’s done. And for me, in these earliest stages, it’s kind of looking at what I’ve done, and trying to see how I can be accepting and improve.

How do you feel about being a part of this incredible, exciting new generation of British Asian actors smashing down doors and glass ceilings?

Yeah, it’s an absolute privilege. The fact you’re considering me as a part of that wave is an honour. It’s something I’ve always wanted to strive towards, to be a part of this new generation of change. Unfortunately, it still seems to me as though there aren’t enough of us. And I hope that there’s more peers who look like me by my side. But it definitely feels great to be part of that movement.

Why should we all tune in to watch Obsession?

I mean, it’s filled with love, passion, power play, secrets, and tragedy. It’s so multifaceted and absolutely thrilling to watch as the drama unfolds over the four episodes. I love limited series, myself, and to be a part of one that’s so fast paced, gripping and wonderfully painful is definitely something I would watch if I weren’t in it, so I hope that others feel the same way.

Obsession is available on Netflix now

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