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Arsher Ali complains of TV typecasting of Asian actors

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Actor Arsher Ali has declined offers of work since the summer partly because he is “sick” of being offered scripts which typecast Asians as terrorists.

Ali, who plays a suspected terrorist in new Channel 4 drama Complicit which airs on Sunday February 17 said he hasn’t had any work since filming Complicit in August because of the kind of roles he has been offered.

“Eight five per cent [of the scripts] are all total bollocks. I’m not interested in it at all, I am a bit sick of it actually” he told the Stage. “A lot of the things have Asians as terrorists in ideas that are really bad.

“I see floppy haired white middle class public school boys being offered lots of interesting work. They are professionally successful… and sometimes you just think ‘Aargh’. It is frustrating, although I am not attacking them.”

Ali’s other work includes playing Adil “A-Rab” Hussain in Beaver Falls, E4’s teen comedy about a group of English men working in a US summer camp. He also starred in Four Lions, Chris Morris’ satirical film about a British terror plot.

Ali has already spoken out at a BFI screening of the drama about typecasting. He said: “As an Asian actor, 70% of what comes your way is written like [US series] 24 – you’re the bad guy, the Arab guy. Every dark-skinned guy is the baddie. ‘Kill him and then run away from a huge explosion.’ I spend months turning it away. But this time it felt like it was phrasing an interesting moral question.”

Asked by The Stage whether he felt he was a victim of racism he said: “I am a bit wary of jumping on the race soap box and it is difficult for any actor to get a foothold but I can only discuss my own experience which has been frustrating.”

Ali told the Stage that he is so dissatisfied with other projects that have come his way that he has started getting advice from writer friends and is now writing for himself. He is currently working on a comedy project for TV and what he described as a more “serious, existential” film project.

The full interview with Ali appears in this week’s print edition of The Stage.

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