Zaff told us about his exciting acting career moves and about his upcoming movie, where he uses his skills as a pilot and even more.

In love with the aircraft and films

Sabina Nasic (SN): I am interested to know more about this film and the role you are playing.

Zaff: I’ve always been in love with the aircraft and films of the 1940s era. My late uncle was in the #Indian Air Force and also came over to work with the RAF around this time. He told me many stories of his time there and this gave me some ideas to develop the concepts behind the screenplay – Biggin Hill [working title].

There are elements of the story that are based on true events. I wasn’t content just to assist writing it, I would be acting as the lead character – Rupra and knew early on that I actually wanted to use my hard earned flying skills to fly a World War Two (WWII) aircraft in it.

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In summary, Rupra, a pilot in the Indian Air Force has come over to England from India to assist the RAF in the war effort against the Luftwaffe during WWII. He is a fearless pilot and getting shot at doesn’t scare him in the least. But what he finds there is rivalry amongst the pilot officers and he begins to experience antagonism as he is a foreign pilot.

This is the story of the immense struggles he faces on the ground, isolated in a foreign country, aside from taking to the skies and risking his life to protect the country from attack. The film will have a moving soundtrack similar to Dunkirk or Pearl Harbour. Hans Zimmer is one of my favourite film composers. Music really touches me and I’d like the audience to feel their way through the scenes through this medium.

SN: Are you trained as a pilot or did you do it just because of this film?

Zaff: I’ve been flying all kinds of aircraft for almost fifteen years now.

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Once I had the vision for Biggin Hill and I knew I wanted to act and fly in aerial combat scenes I embarked on specialised training. This involved flying (taking the controls) of a powerful warbird called the Harvard T6 which was actually used by the RAF during WWII to train fighter pilots before they went on to fly the Spitfire. I performed aerobatics in both modern aircraft and the Harvard to prepare me for what it would be like to handle a powerful, highly manoeuvrable warbird. I then started training last year at Derby Aero club in a Cessna 140 to get my tailwheel rating to add to my pilot's licence. Once this is obtained I will be able to fly a WWII type aircraft solo, with the aim of flying combat scenes in the film. I’ve almost completed the training now.

Writing scenario

SN: How does it feel to be involved in the same film as the co-writer?

Zaff: Alan Keen my co-writer is an award winning international author. Well, between us both we do sometimes have our own vision of what we feel should be happening in a scene, most of the time we see a similar concept but there are times my view of what a character is doing or how the scene opens or closes differs from what Alan believes.

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So this can cause an interesting debate to take place. But we understand each other’s creative outlook and usually compromise where we can't agree on what the best portrayal of the story is, for the audiences’ sake.

Close to celebrities

SN: What are your best projects to date?

Zaff: One project for ITV’s TV show called Saturday Night Takeaway stands out for me. I worked closely with #Ant And Dec, the celebrities from the show to orchestrate a prank on a member of the public in a new sketch called ‘Win the Lads’. Why I mention this is because this was reality TV, which I don’t usually do. I was acting in the lead role of a council enforcement officer and it was the challenge of taking on a member of the public in a live, extremely explosive showdown. I was telling him, his car which was his pride and joy and that he cherished above anything else, was going to be lifted up and taken away on a tow truck due to a potential driving incident. It was a tense scenario and there was going to be only one take to get this right as it was live.

I really had to draw upon all my training and experience in a way I’d never done before and get it right the first time for this scene. Well, on the day, I was very nervous and a member of the public got very irate, swore and I thought he was going to punch me. I thought, "this is it, my acting/modelling career is over once my face has been damaged by this guy." But it came to fruition just as planned and we all got our glory, in the end, laughing about it alongside Ant and Dec.

Another job taking me out of my comfort zone, under my belt was the BBC TV comedy series – Twirlywoos. I’ve been the lead actor in a number of these now. I would say that they’ve been the most fun I’ve had in the five years I’ve been in this industry. The crew is so professional, having worked on some of the most well-known BBC TV comedies and they are almost like a family now.

There have been some challenging scenes involving stunts where timing was crucial to respond to the actions of others. I’ve come away from all the episodes with a happy feeling inside, telling myself I do this job, not for the glory or to win awards but to come away feeling a sense of reward from TV shows like this.

An interesting role

SN: Do you have any interesting TV or film projects coming up?

Zaff: Filming is currently going on for the next episode of the hilarious Twirlywoos. I’m going to be playing a vain guy who loves his image and spends lots of time preening himself in the bathroom mirror. Then he has a shock he wasn’t quite expecting. I can’t say much more but to say we’ve had a lot of fun shooting it so far, with a few mishaps. One, where it didn’t go quite to plan, I ended up almost needing medical attention during a stunt.

I've also been called in to audition for a major role in an exciting and original upcoming film called Unskin, by a very skilful director named Elcid Asaei, whom I've worked with previously on another provocative film, called Piranha, which was shown at some of the top film festivals around the world. Again I can’t give any details away at the moment except to say his new film looks like it’s going to follow in the same footsteps.