Shazad Latif talks travel
The Star Trek: Discovery and Toast of London actor sits down with High Life to reminisce about overindulging in San Sebastián, playing football on Hampstead Heath and making friends in Berlin night clubs…
Who are you and where are you right now?
I’m Shazad Latif and I’m a street away from the beach on the Gold Coast of Australia.
When was your first trip abroad?
My first memories of travelling abroad are of going to Pakistan when I was about seven. I went with my mum and dad to meet my grandparents for the first time. It was a small farming village, two hours from Islamabad, in the middle of nowhere. My fondest memories are of being smothered by my Pakistani aunties – being kissed every day. Plus, I remember the smell of the buffalo. That was my earliest memory of being somewhere that was completely different from where I grew up, which was on a council estate in London, near the Whittington Hospital in Archway.
Have you ever made friends on holiday?
Yes, in Berlin. My friend and I made two friends that weekend. We spent the next four days – the whole weekend – together. Every year since then we’ve been going back, and we actually had our five-year anniversary just recently. It was my last rave just before I came to Australia. Every year we try and go for a four-day trip to Berlin and just dance our heads off. That’s our little Berlin crew. We always stayed really close, which we didn’t expect to happen. Berlin is one of the few 24-hour cities. People say London is, but it’s not really. Berlin is literally a 24-hour city: its culture of dance, the way it’s just chilled. It’s such a release there. There’s a real buzz to the city.
What do you love about London?
Hampstead Heath is the main draw. The men’s pond, the lido, just walking on the Heath – that’s my little spiritual place. I like long, long walks or playing football in the park. It’s what I grew up doing. I walk everywhere. That’s what keeps me sane!
Shazad Latif as Ash Tyler and Anson Mount as Christopher Pike in Star Trek: Discovery
Latif as Kushal in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Latif portrays the character Dr Henry Jekyll on Penny Dreadful
With Matt Berry and Tim Downie in Toast of London
What’s your favourite meal and where serves it best?
My go-to is my Pakistani auntie’s curry. Just a proper homemade curry with full-on spice. You can’t beat that. It used to be meat, but I’m moving on to veggie these days. I like getting a nice dhal. My auntie’s passed away now, but my cousin is equally as lovely and is brilliant. She’ll cook it for me when I visit. I’m very lucky that she does that for me.
Where would you live to revisit?
Bilbao. I don’t know why I love that city… I first went when I was 18. I had a partner who was from there and her grandmother lived near the Guggenheim so I’d go and just eat croquettes and it was amazing. I miss those croquettes, man.
Where do you want to visit?
I want to go everywhere. There are too many places to go! I do really want to go to Japan, though. I definitely need to go to Okinawa because I was obsessed with The Karate Kid and I used to do karate when I was younger. I’d like to go all over the country, really, see the ancient stuff and do a bit of clubbing in Tokyo on the way back.
What do you miss most when you’re away?
The first thing I did when I got to Australia was buy a bag of tea. I had to do a two-week quarantine when I got here so I bought lots of tea bags. I love tea. I’m an Assam kinda guy. That aside, I’d say a long autumn walk is what I miss. Going for long walks, stopping off at a pub, watching canal boats. I do love London. It’s such a great city. We have good parks.
Have you ever accepted a role because of where it’s shooting?
No, I’m not big enough yet to have the choice – I just accept the job as it comes. I did The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel back in 2012-13 and that was two months in India, which was unbelievable. I didn’t expect that. It turned out to be the best place I’ve ever worked because having curry with Bill Nighy, Judi Dench and Richard Gere was amazing. There was a dinner every night and we were staying in the best hotel in Asia. It was crazy. It was one of those dream jobs. I remember thinking, “This will never happen again.” It’s never going to be as good as that.
The Hunza Valley is one of the most beautiful places on the planet
Have you ever had a moment of inspiration on a trip?
Yes. My dad had passed away and there are 40 days of mourning that you do in Pakistan where people come and visit and you pray for the person. An old friend of my father had come over from Canada to visit him. He was also Pakistani and he’d travelled miles with his son (who I’d never met). We were sitting there praying, and this man’s son said to me, “Do you want to take a walk back to the cemetery with me and sit and chill with your dad?” I said, “Yeah, that’d be nice.” We sat down by a tree and there were flowers around the grave. I’d never met this man before. I was 23 at the time and he was about 30. He was studying traditional Qawwali music and singing, and he said, “Do you mind if I sing for you?” So he sang a poetry song in Urdu about a guy who goes to a market town and has to make decisions. It was a man – a stranger who I’d never met – just singing to me to make me feel better. It was the most beautiful Urdu song I’ve ever heard and he explained it to me in English as we walked back. I was crying my eyes out. It inspired me, showing me that there’s so much kindness from people and it just blew me away. I never saw him again.
What’s been your most indulgent moment abroad?
Most of the time I go on holiday, I just overeat anyway. But this time I was in San Sebastián, which I love. I went with my girlfriend for six days and the food was so good we just ate too much. We went to restaurant after restaurant after restaurant. It’s that thing where you book a restaurant for 1pm, finish your lunch at 3pm and then have another reservation for 5pm! It was definitely overindulgence and I felt really bad afterwards and I put on loads of weight. It was definitely worth it, though.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a plane?
It has to be watching movies. I always try and watch about four or five, depending on how long the flight is (obviously). They say you cry more on planes and I definitely do. I like getting really emotional on the plane and crying my eyes out with my little whisky.
What’s the one place everyone should see before they die?
I’ll say Pakistan just because I’ve been talking about it so much. Just past where I’m from is a whole mountain area. The Hunza Valley is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I think that whole area is beautiful. There are so many different landscapes that are very close to each other.
Shazad stars in Toast of Tinseltown, available to watch on BBC iPlayer now
As told to: Ally Wybrew
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