British actor Faraz Ayub is in virtually every frame of Moin Hussain’s “Sky Peals,” world premiering at the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week.
Ayub plays Adam, who works night shifts at a motorway service station and lives a lonely life. Upon hearing that his estranged father has died, he finds himself in search of answers. Piecing together a complicated image of a man he never knew, Adam starts to become convinced he descends from an alien race.
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Hailing from a working class background in England’s Midlands, Ayub, who is of British-Pakistani heritage, wanted to become an actor ever since he watched Tom Cruise in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise as a child. “It did something to me and just cinema in general, watching movies was an escape from the environment that I grew up in, which I wouldn’t say was very rundown or anything like that, but it was a bit of a poor neighborhood, a poor area. And cinema was escape from life outside,” Ayub tells Variety.
Ayub trained at Nottingham-based the Television Workshop, a BAFTA-winning drama group and TV casting resource with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion. The actor then moved to London and was cast in a series of TV roles, including in BBC’s “Line of Duty” and Apple TV+’s “Suspicion,” and is a series regular on Channel 4’s “Screw.” He participated in the BAFTA Elevate program in 2020.
Hussain created the character of Adam based on several people he knew in real life. “The character’s lonely, he’s someone who’s looking for an identity and he’s somebody who is basically trying to find his way in life,” Ayub says. “He [Hussain] was looking for somebody who could embody that loneliness and optimism as well.”
Ayub says that his background growing up in the Midlands was also an influence in informing his character. “There’s definitely lots of interesting characters that I saw growing up, you see people whose hopes have been shattered, who are looking for identity, especially in the kind of area that I grew up in, you do see people, even now, still trying to find their way,” Ayub says. “That definitely helped, drawing upon some of these people that I saw.”
The biggest joy of the production for Ayub was shooting on film, in an era when the world has mostly gone digital. “We shot on film, 35mm film, so just certain technical terms, I hadn’t heard in a while, like, ‘check the gate,’ for example, which is a common term that they use when using film, as opposed to digital. That is the greatest takeaway, because I fell in love with film,” Ayub says.
Ayub is one of a strong contingent of British Asian actors making their mark on the U.K. scene. There is a growing trend of color-blind casting with actors’ ethnic backgrounds not necessarily being a factor, but Ayub feels there is some way to go yet. “For the actors coming up I don’t think necessarily that is the case still,” Ayub said. “We need more people to write roles from South Asian backgrounds. We need more directors. You need more people who tell the truth about South Asians and the diversity of South Asians in the U.K., because even though South Asians are lumped together it is a very diverse community. And there are many stories to tell. And I don’t think even a fraction of the stories have been told yet.”
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