Shazad Latif is known for his recent work on the CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Discovery. However Shazad has been acting since 2009, when he left the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to appear in the British TV series, MI-5. In addition to many British TV shows, Shazad appeared in the films The Second Best Marigold Hotel and The Man Who Knew Infinity. In 2016 he broke into American television playing Dr. Jekyll in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, followed shortly by an appearance on Still Star-Crossed as Tybalt Capulet. Currently, you can catch him on the big screen with Liam Neeson in The Commuter. Lucky for us, he graciously took time out of his busy convention schedule at Paradise City Comic Con in Miami, Florida to speak to Talk Nerdy With Us.
Of course we have to talk first about Star Trek Discovery! I understand it’s already been picked up for Season Two.
It has, it has!
What’s the experience been like working in a universe that has spanned decades, generations?
It’s funny being part of a series you used to sit around and watch with your grandparents, or your uncles on the TV. I remember it being on after Fresh Prince [of Bel-Air] on BBC2 at 6:30, [Star Trek: The] Next Generation, which is what I grew up with. And then, when you’re acting in it years later it almost doesn’t make sense. It was an unbelievable experience. It was 10 months–it was way long–usually it’s like six months in, normally a long job, but I had such an amazing part. I’m just hoping and…I wish the fans feel something. I hope I make them feel something for the character I’m playing.
How do you feel about it being on a streaming service, not on network TV?
The only place I remember it being on regular TV is in Canada. For some reason they’ve got it on a normal channel. I suppose it’s just the way it’s going. I don’t know why that is or what it is. It would be nice to have it back on terrestrial, like back at home, the same way, but this way you can do more, you can take it deeper and darker, which this series has done.
Yes! Very much so! But it’s supposed to lead up to Kirk and Spock, from that era, transitioning from a more military-based perspective to the Prime Directive.
It’s the interim. Yes, ten years does still give you a whole lot to do, I mean…we can explore loads. Even within each episode. You can go off on a different theme, or take three episodes to explore it. The writers have done a great job of getting so much in with all of these different characters, even going behind the scenes emotionally, as well as with different strands of story. I think it’s great.
Say a few words about your character.
My character, Ash Tyler, has suffered a lot of trauma, and it’s nice to see, it’s nice to play. I think when you see him in the first few episodes he’s a classic sort of action hero, but the whole point is we end up seeing this guy who is very weak, very vulnerable. He suffers a lot, and you see those moments with Michael Burnham–Sonequa’s character. She’s usually the strong one on the scene, she’s usually cradling him or hugging him. I think it’s nice to have a male character in this day and age, with all the stuff that’s going on, to see someone weak and vulnerable and still be a man. And that’s what I wanted to portray.
Let’s talk a bit about Penny Dreadful.
Okay, that was one of my favorite jobs. It was a big stepping stone for me, it was the first sort of big American show I did. John Logan, who wrote Any Given Sunday, he’s one of my heroes. Also, because I write as well, I was already a huge fan. I was already a huge fan of a lot of the people behind the scenes. And, then again, getting to play Dr. Jekyll, the third most ever played character ever, but with a fresh new take, a very different spin. But actually, historically, in terms of having brown people at that time [represented] correct and that’s what I wanted to see in a historical drama. It was very emotional for me, it was a lot of two-handers with Harry Treadaway, who played Frankenstein, and as an actor just having sort of the one set, and the sort of back and forth, back and forth, was like a dream come true. A great job. A very dark job. Six months, but Dublin was great though. But you have to go places and it’s you know…yeah.
The writing on that show–as a writer, it was like, cancel my writing career now, I will never write like that–it was so good.
I know, I know. He’s a very special man [referring to Logan]. He’s always thinking, always working. He gets very deep, yes. And I’ve been watching his films my whole life and to end up working with him is… I remember auditioning for him, and leaving the room thinking– because you never know if you’re going to get it–Well, I thought, this might be the last time I see him. And I’d said before I wasn’t going to say anything, but I left the room with John and I was like, “John, I just want to say your work, I write as well, you’re an amazing writer.” I turned into a fan for a moment, it was very sweet.
It’s really nice when we hear that actors are also fans. And that actually speaks volumes, because you’re in the business. You’re a professional complimenting other professionals.
Well that’s it. When I grew up–I’m a big movie buff from an early age, and then I fell in love with theater when I was young–that’s what I dreamed to do. And I’m imitating everyone up until now, when hopefully I know who I am so I can stop that. And you get to a point when you’re an artist, you become yourself, you know who you are. But before the age of 17, I was imitating all of my favorite actors and trying to be in the movies.
Do you have a favorite movie?
…Or a list of favorite movies?
I’ve got a list, I’ve got a huge list! I could go on! I love Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson. I do love that movie and I think it’s a very absurd, beautiful, elaborate study of, you know, of a lot. And it’s got table tennis! I love movies with ball games, I love table tennis! If it’s in the movie, I love that. I love bowling, if it’s got bowling and table tennis… And I love playing them.
Do you have any other projects going on?
Well I just came from the premiere of The Commuter, which is an action movie–
You’re in The Commuter (which opens this weekend)?
Yes, I play a Wall Street arsehole, basically. And it’s with Liam Neeson. We just had the premiere for that. And then I’m doing another indie movie [Profile], coming out at the Berlin Film Festival, and it’s a true story about a journalist, a young female journalist, who goes undercover and is trying to understand why Syrian terrorists are creeping on girls online. It’s all filmed on Skype. The director is the guy [Timur Bekmambetov] who did Wanted with James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman. So it’s an indie movie, it’s told on Skype. It’s very innovative. It’s going to be difficult to watch, quite tough to watch, but it’s definitely going to be interesting.