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Emmerdale star Rik Makarem can’t wait to play a panto baddie in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 16:07 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:59 02 November 2018

Norwich Theatre Royal panto stars. Rik Makarem as Abanaza and Kiera-Nicole Brennan as The Genie.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Theatre Royal panto stars. Rik Makarem as Abanaza and Kiera-Nicole Brennan as The Genie. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

Soapstar Rik Makarem chats to Louisa Baldwin as he gets ready to hop on the magic carpet in this year’s Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime.

Rik is best known for playing factory manager turned entrepreneur Nikhil Sharma from 2009 to 2016 before leaving the Dales for Canada after being left heartbroken.

He later played Sebastian Grayling in Casualty but this Christmas will swap A&E for Agrabah this Christmas as he takes on the role of Abanazar in Aladdin.

Ahead of the show, Rik told us his favourite moments of his time on Emmerdale and why he can’t wait play a baddie.

Are you excited for your role in Aladdin?

I’m absolutely over the moon to be playing Abanazar and I think playing the baddie is one of life’s greatest joys and as an actor you get licence to have a bit more fun because you’re pushing the boundaries to a place which is not normally you.

I can’t wait to play him and with a baddie you can make bold choices vocally and physically and get to bounce off the audience.

It’s a role I have played before, in Glasgow 14 years ago, and I feel ready now to revisit it with the experience I’ve had through my career.

Rik Makarem. Photo: PA Archive/PA ImagesRik Makarem. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

When you’re in panto, does your character change as the show goes on?

For sure, it is like an amoeba and it will constantly change and adapt depending on how the audience and cast are bonding together on each night.

Panto is a licence to have fun in the right way - we’ve still got an important story to tell and for a lot of children, and even some adults, it will be their first theatrical experience.

Panto is often seen as quite slapstick, fun and entertaining but there is also a lot of hidden value and messages as well which is why Disney films are so successful.

It’s a privilege to get our teeth into a script that is hopefully going to do all those things for an audience.

READ MORE: Norwich Art Centre to receive £499,999 for regeneration project

What do you think of Norwich?

I came here in 2015 for murder mystery Dead Simple where I played a very different character to Abanazar but I was a baddie too. It was an easy decision when the role came about to play Abanazar.

The city is fantastic and there is so much culture and energy and the one thing I remember last time was the audiences were really warm and that is the final ingredient of good theatre.

Norwich Theatre Royal panto stars. Rik Makarem as Abanaza and Kiera-Nicole Brennan as The Genie.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Theatre Royal panto stars. Rik Makarem as Abanaza and Kiera-Nicole Brennan as The Genie. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

You’ve done a lot of TV and stage work but which is your favourite?

When I chose to be an actor, what excited me was approaching the work playing different characters and finding qualities in them.

In TV and stage there are different skills but there is something quite magical with the adrenaline rush you get with live theatre and you get to perfect over a run but with TV you get one or two takes and it’s in the camera and you can’t go back and change it.

There is no buzz like the theatre.

What was it like playing Nikhil Sharma in Emmerdale?

The role was a gift and the character morphed with all these different layers and was fun to play.

I was thankful to be paired with wonderful actors and in particular Sian Reese-Williams who played Jenny and I had an on-screen partnership with - probably because Sian chose to leave the show and go on to amazing things it ended a little prematurely with more to be discovered but I will treasure it.

Norwich Theatre Royal panto stars. Rik Makarem as Abanaza and Kiera-Nicole Brennan as The Genie.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Theatre Royal panto stars. Rik Makarem as Abanaza and Kiera-Nicole Brennan as The Genie. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

It’s amazing the fans of the show valued the character and it changed my life in a lot of ways.

I had been working hard on guest appearances but that was the role that platformed my profile in the public eye.

READ MORE: Macbeth, Norwich Theatre Royal review: ‘This bold production stays on the right side of invention’

What was your favourite moment on Emmerdale?

There was one particular moment where my character against his nature trashed the house trying to prove his love to Jenny.

He had untreated OCD and aspergers qualities we chose to keep as an undercurrent of the character and he had these odd quirks and idiosyncrasies.

He also eats a piece of bread to prove he loves her which is something he would never do as he was trying to say I would even eat carbs for you Jenny.

I loved it because it was ridiculous.

The live episode was also a highlight when we played out to 10.5 million people and with the amount of things that could go wrong we did it with one tiny error no one saw.

Finally, if you had a genie who could grant you three wishes what would they be?

I want health and healing to all of my family and close friends and that would probably be my second and third wish too.

Aladdin is at Norwich Theatre Royal from December 12 to January 13 and you can purchase tickets at the box office, online or by phone on 01603 630000

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