Zeedan Nazir returns to Coronation Street this Friday (17th September) after making a hasty exit three years ago when he beat up a man who was about to assault Kate Connor; the girlfriend of his now late ex-wife, Rana.
And when he miraculously produces £50,000 to help sister Alya, who has fallen victim to a scam and been robbed of the entire contents of Speed Daal’s bank account, it’s fairly obvious he’s done something dodgy. How else would he get his hands on that kind of cash?
The plot thickens next week when, after having a pop at Alya’s cheating ex, Ryan, he’s grabbed in the street by two men and viciously attacked. Clearly, they have it in for Zee.
Can he find a way to appease them, or is gran Yasmeen headed for more turmoil at number six, just as she’s getting her life back on track following her abuse by evil husband Geoff?
Here, actor Qasim Akhtar, 30, talks about his comeback, and why Zeedan needs to watch his back…
Why did you leave Coronation Street, and why have you decided to return?
I was ready for a break and it was the best thing I could’ve done. I have been very fortunate to have worked pretty solidly since I was 13, but I needed to take some time out and do some of the things I hadn’t been able to do.
I told my agent I wanted to take a year off, and two weeks after I finished, I went to Thailand with Ryan Clayton (who played rapist Josh Tucker). I visited about nine or 10 different countries in that first year – I toured Europe, went to Dubai and even took the opportunity to go to Pakistan, the motherland, after 15 years!
I always felt I would love to return to Coronation Street at some point, and when they presented this storyline to me, I felt really invested in it straight away. I had been asked back earlier but, although I was very grateful, I wasn’t ready.
How has Zeedan changed since we last saw him?
He is fundamentally the same person, but he has a different outlook on life because of the experiences he has gone through. He is only three years older but he has come back more mature. He is more business minded, and he has got over the things he was dealing with when he left. I guess he went away a boy and has come back more of a man.
What did it feel like to step back into his shoes?
It was like I had never left. I walked onto set on the first day and everyone said it was like I had never been gone. That’s what I was hoping for. I had those nerves and anxiety, even though I knew I was walking back into a place where I know everyone, but within five minutes, I felt like I had come back home.
How much does Zeedan know about what Yasmeen has been through?
He knows everything, but I don’t think he has appreciated just how bad it was and how badly she has been affected by it. He has been very much caught up in his own life, trying to make a success of his business.
He is now realising just how bad it has been for the family, and he is reminded of that by Alya, who tells him he had no idea what it was like for them, and he can’t come throwing his weight around after everything they went through.
Alya is suspicious when he flashes the cash. Is she right to be?
Yes, definitely. He is being very cagey. He doesn’t tell her where the money has come from, and she knows her brother well, so she is right not to trust him. He is being the big ‘I am’ but she is the older sister and she knows him of old and what type of guy he has been.
Why does Zeedan blame Ryan for the attack?
He is scared that his grandma and sister are going to find out that he has perhaps not been truthful about the money and how he came about it. He is just trying to buy himself some more time.
He wants all the attention taken away from the real reason he has been attacked. He sees an opportunity with Ryan, because he has had an argument with him just before.
He eventually comes clean. Why?
He finds out how much Ryan did for Yasmeen and Alya when he was away, so that does change his mind to a degree. But really, at the heart of it, he doesn’t want to lie to them anymore, or he wants to tell them a version of the truth.
How does he feel when Yasmeen tells him she is ashamed of his behaviour?
He feels guilty; that is not what he would want her to think of him. But at the same time, he doesn’t have a choice and he is going to bring more problems to their door.
He has crossed the wrong people and he has got on the wrong side of someone who is quite a big fish, so he will be bringing trouble to the street and Yasmeen and Alya are going to find themselves in the crossfire and in the thick of it.
That is what appeals to me about coming back. It is a very different Zeedan. He was a victim last time around, and the things he went through have hardened him a bit.
Coronation Street airs on Mondays and Wednesdays 7.30pm and 8.30pm with an hour-long episode at 7.30 on Fridays on ITV – see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also catch up on episodes on ITV Hub now.