Hollyoaks newcomer Omar Malik promises a big storyline for Shaq

·8-min read

Hollyoaks spoilers follow.

Hollyoaks newcomer Omar Malik has promised that a life-changing storyline is on the way for his character Shaq Qureshi.

The actor joined the cast of the Channel 4 soap in March as a new member of the established Maalik family. Ever since, Shaq has been shaking up life in the village with his cheeky charm and love for the ladies.

In his first big interview since arriving on screen in Hollyoaks, Omar has now spoken to Digital Spy about longer-term plans for his character.

A few weeks ago, viewers saw Shaq begin to show a more vulnerable side to his personality as he confessed to his aunt Misbah (Harvey Virdi) about how he'd managed to run up debts of £50,000.

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

After trying to talk things through, the pair promised that there would be no more secrets between them.

Speaking about filming the emotional scenes, Omar told us: "I enjoyed it immensely. When some people are cornered, they either come clean or lash out, but Shaq would never do this to Misbah, who has been so caring and protective over him.

"It's a strange feeling for Shaq, because he hasn't had this much love shown to him so far. Harvey Virdi has the most expressive eyes and it's so fun to act with her – I love our scenes.

"I think by now, Shaq has definitely learnt his lesson that keeping secrets will only do him and his family more damage."

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

Of course, this is a soap, so life won't be that simple. It seems that the tables could soon turn on Shaq, as he'll have an unexpected revelation to deal with himself in an upcoming storyline.

The show's most recent trailer showed that Shaq will soon start searching for answers over his father, paving the way for a big storyline.

Omar teased: "Something shocking about his family is about to come out and change his whole life as he knows it."

For now, viewers will have to stay tuned to find out what turns Shaq's world upside-down.

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

When Shaq first arrived on our screens in March, he made a memorable entrance by turning up in a wedding Sherwani after ditching his wife-to-be at the altar.

The ladies' man then began getting to know some of the locals, but it was Misbah's friend Marnie Nightingale (Lysette Anthony) who first spotted that there may be more to him than met the eye.

Speaking about the complexities of Shaq's character, Omar revealed: "I couldn't stop laughing when I read the first scenes – especially the fact that he was in full-on Sherwani gear!

"It was hilarious reading through the scripts, and thinking how bad the situation must have been for him to do a runner like that. It just goes to show you how Shaq deals with his problems.

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

"Shaq's reputation as a cheeky womaniser is his shield. Throughout his life, he has charmed his way out of trouble and into girls' hearts.

"With a cheeky smile and rebellious nature, he has found out that he can get his way sooner like that, rather than being straightforward and totally honest. He hasn't yet found that right girl to break through his cocky exterior.

"I'd like Shaq to have a relationship, but he really enjoys wooing the ladies of Hollyoaks. He's in no rush and is very happy to play the field and not take anything too seriously. He's suited to all of them!"

Omar also reflected on the process of landing the role of Shaq amid the challenges that COVID-19 has posed for working actors in the industry.

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

He said: "It was my second audition of the year, so it's safe to say I was absolutely buzzing to be called in for Shaq. Like most auditions, I sent in a tape first, then I was called back in to meet with the casting directors in London and read for them.

"At that point, Shaq was described to me as a lovable rogue with a heart of gold. I was told he was a big dreamer with big ideas, but they never come to fruition because of his short attention span and he's prone to distractions – mainly the women!

"As with every audition, I made sure to think of it as an opportunity to showcase my skill to people who take an interest in me. One of the biggest compliments for an actor is to be called back in, and this mindset helps me tremendously as I don't feel as much pressure on myself to get the job.

"I think Hollyoaks did a fantastic job of structuring the auditions – it cannot have been easy with restrictions in place, yet it was surprisingly smooth as far as auditions go. After a few days, I got the offer.

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

"I was out in the garden when I got the call, and half my neighbourhood had the pleasure of hearing my excitement at the news! Everyone was at home due to lockdown and working from home, so my whole family knew instantly.

"I used to watch Hollyoaks when I came back from school with my tea when I was younger. To be representing other people who look and talk like me, as well as being a part of one of the few South Asian families on an award-winning British soap, is an absolute honour and pleasure."

Asked how the ongoing pandemic has affected his first few months at Hollyoaks, Omar replied: "I haven't been able to really socialise with anyone unless I'm doing the scene with them, but even then it's hard because we are all in work mode and busy making great TV.

"I'm definitely ready to start meeting the rest of the cast and making friends. Right now, the Maalik family are my besties, because most of my time on set has been with them. We have a WhatsApp group where we all keep in touch, which has helped massively."

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

Omar decided to focus on acting as a career at the age of 18. He had previously considered becoming a pilot and served in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets from the age of 15.

After choosing his new path, Omar trained at the Manchester Metropolitan University's School of Theatre and graduated in 2012.

Prior to joining Hollyoaks, Omar has made guest appearances on a number of popular shows over the years, like Coronation Street, Holby City, Call the Midwife and children's series The Dumping Ground.

He told us: "My work with the RAF started back when I was 15 and joined the Air Cadets at my local squadron – shout-out to 1846 Southall! It kept me grounded and built up discipline. It's something very different to acting and yet it's a similar sort of thrill when you're up in the air, on stage, or in front of a camera.

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

"I stayed with the RAF until I hit university, then unfortunately had to hang up the beret due to drama school's long hours and had no time to pick it back up.

"Acting and RAF are two great loves of mine, and I'd like to think I would revisit that part of life again when the time is right.

"Since graduating, I've had many good times to recount. I loved my first job at the Salford Lowry theatre, playing little John in Robin Hood, and we're all still mates to this day.

"Playing a real-life Sikh on Call the Midwife was a joyous occasion and you so rarely get to see turban wearing characters on our screens.

"I also enjoyed my time on the tour of David Walliams's Gangsta Granny, where I was able to travel the entire UK and Ireland and explore parts of the country I had never known about.

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

"Being in the soap world before, even for a guest appearance, also helped me immensely when I joined Hollyoaks. I had the opportunity to see first-hand established characters going through their own problems.

"It made me realise that anything and everything could happen to your character, so to be prepared for drama!"

On challenges he has faced in his career so far, Omar recalled: "Keeping busy when I'm not working, organising my personal life around business, as well as finding a casual job to help pay rent.

"I think one of the biggest has been this pandemic. Generally, it's been hard to stay grounded and positive about the future – yoga and meditation every day has saved me a lot of anxiety and worry, that's for sure."

Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first-look screenings at 7pm on E4.

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