Faraz M. Khan is an emerging talent in one of the most uncertain, unpredictable and constantly changing sectors. August 2021 saw him portray a new character in the long running British TV series, EastEnders. Played by Faraz, the character of Waseem is dropped into a rather sticky storyline in the fictional borough of Walford. It was an experience that marked a significant stage in Faraz’s career – one which he had never originally anticipated while traversing through some other very different career paths . “My life is just one big uncharted route,” he explains.
As a young man growing up in a Pakistani family in London’s East End, stability and academic results mattered. “I know it sounds quite typical, but my family wanted me to study medicine or dentistry. I eventually ended up at UCL studying pharmacy – in the end I got straight A’s for my A-Levels which was enough to get onto one of those career paths but I was a bit of a class clown in college so my teachers’ grade predictions kind of shut the door on getting a place in dental school” he recalls. Admittedly there was also a time when he thought he might have turned pro as a boxer, having reached a respectable standard as an amateur with the 2012 London Olympics in mind – but those plans came to a halt with a move to Hong Kong as part of his university studies. Upon graduating and completing his Masters year he went on to work as a trainee Pharmacist but quickly became bored with the monotonous nature of the role.
“For sure I love the whole thing about helping people, but I knew I had to get out of pharmacy. I’m an ants in the pants kind of guy and I like to always be on the move, so I was like okay I have a very particular skillset but the world has become quite a fluid place so where else can I apply these skills of mine? I then ended up on a graduate programme at one of the Big Four consultancy firms as a finance & technology consultant. It was great for a while, travelling for work, always looking fresh in nicely tailored suits, boujee client dinners and so forth but I quickly realised that all of this was not something I was too passionate about – none of it sent a tingle down my spine. Deep down I always knew I was a creative, I’ve always loved to sing and as a kid I really enjoyed making silly videos but my parents always regarded studying and academia as more important. Roll on a year or so into my time in the corporate world and I was away travelling South East Asia with a couple of my closest friends. While there I recall one night in Bangkok, we were at the Lebua Tower Skybar, the same one where they filmed the second Hangover movie, and my best friend T who knows me like the back of his hand basically said to me, ‘Hey man I can see something’s up and you seem a little lost. All I’m going to say is when we get back to London, you do whatever it is you need to do and just go for it,’ recalled Faraz.
Not knowing quite where to start Faraz signed up to a few ‘random’ casting platforms to see what might happen.
“I got a call one day while at work from an agent who said she liked my look and offered me a place on an acting course for those starting out. At first I didn’t really know what I was signing up for but looking back it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – it kickstarted this vision of being able to do what I love as a career. On the first day we met a casting director by the name of Ben Cogan and he gave out scripts to perform while pairing us up with other actors and I knew there and then that this is what I’ve been put on this earth to do. I felt it immediately filling up this void, this feeling of emptiness that I’d been carrying with me the last few years. Things started to get difficult to manage though – I was working in Canary Wharf at the time and in a demanding job like that you don’t really have any ‘spare time’ so I basically ended up living 2 simultaneous lives which consisted of a fast paced corporate career and that of an actor attending classes, workshops, auditions and having to manage filming opportunities which always seemed to pop up at very short notice. As a result I had to regularly come out with some rather ridiculous excuses to keep the candle burning at both ends. I then spent some time at the Identity School of Acting and would have to go twice a week during working hours. I’m not going to get into how I made it work because it might land me in trouble but looking back, I genuinely have no idea how I did it. I guess it just comes down to how bad you want it – you somehow always find a way and make it happen. Eventually I started building up some credits and worked my way to signing with my current agent Suzanna (SD Talent Management) who I love and is really awesome, and I started getting busy with some nice acting jobs while learning along the way” Faraz said.
Ultimately he knew he was going to hand in his notice to focus on his passions on a full time basis to really take things to the next level. However as luck would have it, he ended up leaving a couple of months before the onset of the pandemic. As a result the majority of filming had been put on hold and Faraz admits that it was a little nerve wracking at the time knowing he had no regular pay check coming in. Nor had he told his family that he’d left his job, because he knew that it would worry them – “I just did not have it in me to tell them because I knew how they would react and what they’d say. There were some days where I’d put on a suit and just leave the house and go sit at a coffee shop with my laptop, applying to castings and working on my own scripts, so that my parents didn’t suspect anything”.
Despite the majority of the world now in lockdown and working from home or being furloughed, Faraz did what he needed to do in order to keep himself going. “I went back to working as a pharmacist picking up work on a freelance basis wherever I could. I’m still registered to practice and can work whenever needed if I’m not filming,” Faraz says. Such work is very much a side hustle, since the sole focus is his work as an actor.
It has taken time for his family to come to terms with his new career as he explains. Much of the difficulty has been due to differences in mindset and perspectives with regards to culture and upbringing. “They were really proud of me getting a degree and therefore it was hard for them to understand why I was not happy with a respectable job and stable income. With my initial career change, they didn’t really understand too much about careers in finance, technology or why I wanted something different relative to what I had studied. Its a completely different mindset which is a result of the experiences they’ve had to go through – for example when shifting over to the UK with the hope of giving their future kids the chance of a life with more opportunities than they had, having a stable career was what they regarded as more important. My dad lost his dad at the age of 13 and had to grow up very fast to help support his mum and 4 younger siblings, so having something stable was a must. As a result my parents are very risk averse but for sure I do understand why this is the case. At the same time I am doing my best to involve them and to help them understand why I feel they way I do. Last year I ended up on a set with my entire family filming a commercial and it was one of the most hilarious experiences I’ve ever had watching my mum and dad in hair and makeup and then on a busy set taking direction. My oldest sister is an actress and it was quite a special moment for us both sharing what we do with our family”.
Faraz continues, “I on the other hand like to take risks, because life is too short not to. When I started acting, my family thought it was a just a hobby and I was having fun, which I was, but it was only when they started seeing me in things that they began to realise how serious I was about it all. Aladdin was out in the cinema and I make a little appearance in it, so I took my mum to the cinema to watch it and I could see her smiling when I came on screen – at the same time there was a Sky Sports commercial airing on TV which I did for the Cricket World Cup where I’m wearing a Pakistan shirt and I have a couple of lines. I think for my dad being the huge cricket fan he is, the only thing that would have made him prouder would have been playing for the national team itself,” he jokes.
“Naturally my parents still worry though, but I tell them you have to believe. I guess the unpredictability scares them but I love it all. Only this morning, out of the blue my agent called me to audition for an incredible opportunity – I am embracing this uncertainty and taking each day as it comes. In life though you can never really know what’s around the corner – one moment you’re working away somewhere in a Canary Wharf office and the next you’re thrust into one of the most exciting casting rooms for stage auditioning for one of the greatest musicals, rapping away and singing your heart out – shout out to my agent for hooking that one up.”
His faith is helping sustain him through the uncertainties of his new career.
“I try my best to keep god close to my heart. I pray every day and try to pick up the Quran and read for at least 10 minutes whenever I can. My faith is a very important part of me, and if for whatever reason I go a few moments without praying I start to feel a disconnect. At the same time I do go out every so often and live my best life with my friends – I enjoy my life in every way that I can while always carrying with me the core values of Islam wherever I go. I am very happy and content with the balance I live with.”
“Collectively all of these dramatic changes in my life are shaping my performances as a creative. Growing up in East London it wasn’t easy at times. I went to the same school as Kano and if you listen to his lyrics you can get an idea of what it was like growing up in East – its all of these life experiences that we as artists reflect upon when performing and creating. This is the beauty of what we do. Each individual carries with them their own story which shapes the art they put out into the world.”
“BBC’s EastEnders marked my TV debut and I’m really grateful for the opportunity. Filming in Elstree was an exciting moment for me since the show is such an iconic part of British culture. I enjoyed my time being allowed to let loose and stir up some trouble in Walford.
For Faraz, every day is an opportunity to learn, gain new experiences and develop his skills. He is, quite simply, learning on the job. “I never went to drama school so I take each and every opportunity to learn. I watch how things are done on set, through observing how more established actors collaborate with directors, and what processes they bring to the mix. It is like being back at school for me, constantly learning and soaking it all in like a sponge. For example, watching Will Smith perform first-hand is an experience I’ll never forget.”
“Behind the scenes I am always doing my best to constantly develop and progress my craft. I do this through attending various workshops and classes such as Mixing Networks, which I attend on a weekly basis – its like going to the gym for actors. Everyday I’m working on something, whether that’s learning an accent or developing a new skill.”
His alter ego as the musician ‘Fizzy Caramel’ came about by accident as he recalls. “It’s a bit of a dumb story to be honest, I was getting to know this girl, who was obsessed with caramel, like she consumed it on a daily. I jokingly dared her to put ‘caramel’ somewhere in her Instagram handle and she was like I’ll do it if you do it too. My friends call me fizzle so I just linked it with caramel and my handle became Fizzy Caramel. We eventually stopped speaking and she subsequently changed her Instagram handle back to whatever it was but I kept mine. I don’t know why I just liked the sound of it. It rolls off the tongue don’t you think? I was then in the studio with my friend and super talented producer Mo Khan who suggested I use it as my artist name when releasing music. I mean I did think it was bit cringe at first but then I thought its an inside joke and I love it because no one knows what a Fizzy Caramel is! If you google it I think it’s some kind of vegan dessert. As a musician though I’m still discovering my style, sometimes singing, sometimes rapping and changing up the flow.”
And what of the future? Unpredictable and varied are perhaps the best way to describe his plans. “I’ve just filmed a guest role in a new studio feature film. I share screen time with two well-known and established actors and it was a really special moment for me. They were amazing to work with and so gracious with their time. I can’t say much more at this stage but it will be out soon. I’m also currently working on a really dope comedy series for SKY and having such a blast filming it and working yet again with some incredible actors – again not much more I can say right now but I’m having so much fun on set, the banter is on another level. I’m also working on some new music and have recently released my single ‘Loca’ via AWAL (Kobalt Music Group) which for me is a milestone I am very proud of.” Faraz is also expanding into scriptwriting and production commenting, “I’ve been experimenting and writing some scripts over the last couple of years and am now in a place where I’m looking to put together a team and produce my first film over the next few months. This is very exciting for me because I’m learning so much along the way and I can’t wait to see my visions come to life on screen.”
In addition, there is his love of travel and helping others. He is part of an initiative known as ‘Hope & Knowledge’ with who he cycles across countries to raise money for various charities, for causes such as building an orphanage for blind and deaf children in Somalia. “During a ride from Basel to Munich we ended up stopping in a marketplace of this small Bavarian town. All these people came to greet us, they must have been thinking these mad guys have come all the way here on pedal bikes. They welcomed us with open arms, offering food and drink and they absolutely loved what we were doing. I thought this was great because it’s things like this which help to shift any preconceived narratives certain people may have about Muslims as a result of media portrayals. I love taking part in initiatives like these because firstly they help to benefit a great cause and secondly on a more personal level it really helps you grow as a person. When you’re hurtling downhill on a road bike through some random forest at 2am in the pouring rain in minus temperatures you do think to yourself why on earth am I here right now putting myself through this, but this is good – this is what you want. You want to feel this way because growth only comes through putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. I’ve been fortunate enough to have travelled quite a bit, especially on my own, and I know it sounds kind of cheesy but I really feel that your soul speaks to you when you’re in moments like these and it guides you towards what your purpose really is. Who knows, if I hadn’t travelled as much as I have done I may not be on the path I am today.”
“I am in a place where I am loving life, with great effort to be present in each and every moment. I came into acting later than most, and I pick up more knowledge and experience each time I go to an audition, each time I am performing. In my life I feel like I’ve always had to take the longer more difficult route to get to wherever I’ve wanted to be and as a result I’m not afraid of hard work. I very much look forward to grafting everyday but I don’t see it this way because I love what I do. It’s like I know for sure where I am going but I don’t know how I’m going to get there. I’m just figuring this out along the way but what I do know for sure is that I will get there. I do what I say and I say what I do and I believe I can do anything I set my mind to. That’s my mindset. I call it the ‘Catch Me If You Can’ mindset because in the movie Leo’s character becomes whatever it is he wants to because he believes it to the core.”