What family adventures can we expect from series three of your British-Asian sitcom?
“In this series of Citizen Khan we’ve gone bigger and broader and there’s a real family feel to the show. We’ve really been able to develop the characters. There’s a wedding when daughter Shazia marries Amjad Malik. We see two worlds collide when Mr Khan is forced to go on a stag do. We also see the Khan family on a farm with royalty!”
Your two-hour transformation into Mr Khan makes you unrecognisable. What’s involved in the process?
“It’s like Mr Ben going into the make-up room. The ageing around my eyes, forehead and nose is painted on with a brush. Then the beard and hairpiece go on. The worst part is they put a hairdryer on my face for about ten minutes, which isn’t comfortable. But it’s a great turnaround and it all helps me feel like Mr Khan. And, to the annoyance of the crew, I rarely come out of character!”
Would you agree that it feels quite important to have a show about a British Muslim family on mainstream TV?
“I think you’re right. It is important. The way Britain is evolving and the way we are as a nation, at some point or another we were going to see different families representing British life at heightened moments on television. I feel so lucky and glad we’re doing this on BBC1 at a time like this. I hope people enjoy it.”
Do you think the comedy of families is universal?
“I’m from an Asian background, but I grew up watching Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers and recognised so many relationships in my own family. We’re all the same really. Citizen Khan is very much about the British psyche of class and trying to rise up that ladder. Of course, he never does and realises the most important thing in life is family. It’s a story we’ve heard before, but it’s interesting from this particular background.”
What sort of reaction have you had from viewers and fans of the show?
“The reaction from fans has been really great. There were a number of complaints in series one, but that was expected. Comedy generally gets complaints. People hadn’t seen a Muslim sitcom before and perhaps some weren’t prepared to start laughing at a Muslim family. The second series didn’t have any complaints that I heard about. Now people tell us they love it and watch it with their family, which is great. In comedy you accept you can’t win everyone over, and that’s all right.”
Former Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay guest stars in the opening episode of Citizen Khan, as the head of the local elderly care home.