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Madison Drew | 30/07/2024

Zain Iqbal didn't think he had landed the lead role of Ravi Singh in A Good Girl's Guide to Murder. He put himself forward for the auditions for the part of Ravi after his agent received an email for the TV adaptation of the book. Then the actor went through a number of auditions, including two chemistry reads with Wednesday star Emma Myers, who plays the leading lady Pip in AGGTM. After the virtual chemistry read on Zoom, He couldn't tell the casting teams' response. He believed his chances of getting the role were slim. "[We did] three scenes, but two were off camera. " However, that all changed when the two actors and the team met in person for the final audition. "For some reason, it just clicked. And we got on very well. And [Emma] is a very good actor. So yeah, [Their characters, Ravi and Pip] just clicked for some reason. I don't know why."  


The young actor hadn't read the best-selling book the TV series is based on before getting the job, oblivious to its popularity. Holly Jackson's A Good Girls Guide to Murder is the huge first book in the trilogy, award-winning with hundreds of thousands of copies sold in the UK alone. "I felt like I'd be investing too much and I’d over think. I read the book after I got the job before the table read. As soon as I got the job confirmed, I bought and read the book." he says. One massive influence in book popularity these days is TikTok, particularly a community born on the platform called 'BookTok', where the book has taken readers by storm. Before reading the book, he googled it. "And I was like, Oh, shit, it's big." His reaction was surprising, to say the least, especially as he didn't use TikTok at the time and now only has TikTok under a "burner" account. "This is huge, and people care about [the book].". 


Ravi in AGGTM is the brother of Sal, who everyone in the small town of Little Kilton believes murdered Andie Bell five years ago. Ravi's romantic interest, Pip Fitz-Amobi, decides to investigate the murder case for her school project. Pip and Ravi's relationship blossoms as the two try to uncover the truth about who murdered Andie. Something that drew him to doing the show was the character being rare to be on offer for someone like him he tells me. "People who are romantic leads, I don't know if I can say this, but the white kids are usually seen as those sorts of actors. But It was a big one. Soon as I saw it, I was after it. I guess a lot of other actors were as well." His character, Ravi Singh, has been named one of the best boyfriends in book history, called "ravishing", hence the pressure to cast the two right. "Ravi's main source of contact in the series is Pip. Rarely does he go out and speak to other characters. He's like an outsider. I think it was just [the chemistry] was the main thing in the casting process; they just wanted to see if Emma and I had that chemistry. " Landing his first acting job with a character like Ravi was huge for him. "Why do we watch films or TV series? To relate to their stories or connect to people's stories and characters and find something they can relate to. I guess. For me, it's a big reason why I do it."  

Even with the intensity from fans of filming such a highly anticipated TV series AND it being his first acting role, Zain didn't feel the pressures. Throughout the auditions, he took a relaxed approach. "That's probably a good thing because I would have scared myself off and put too much pressure on it. When I do put pressure on myself, shit goes wrong. I just took it easy, and they kept calling me back. I eventually got it. Because I was a newcomer, I guess they wanted to see more or make sure I could do it." He explains, "But I'm happy with that. I don't mind the process of auditioning. I'd rather audition than just be given it. I find comfort in having done so many auditions and then them giving it to me." 

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Once he read the book, he never looked at it again as a reference for Ravi. His reasoning he explains, "You get too fixated, and you don't have the freedom to make your choices. You're always worrying about what is written down." But never fear, fan favourite "Hey Sarge" line is included in the show.  

Developing Ravi also occurred during the auditions, where he and one of the directors, Dolly Wells, workshopped what they wanted from him for viewers and fans of the book. "There are a few very important scenes where he, without spoiling anything, really talks about how he feels about the unfortunate circumstances he's put in.” They wanted Ravi to showcase traits wouldn't you usually don't see from male characters, like their vulnerability. "We wanted him to be able to open up and show that vulnerable side that men just don't." that develops from Ravi throughout the episodes: "After he meets Pip, how he slowly starts to open up and really give good energy because deep down he's actually a sweet, kind, give you the world sort of boy."  

He jokes that he went method, like Leonardo DiCaprio, all day and night during filming. As a newcomer to filming TV shows, he read all the scripts and asked all the important questions- even the silly ones. He enjoyed the script process. "In some scripts, you get nothing. It's all you, you can bring whatever you want. It's your take. Whether that's right or wrong is another matter. But some scripts are very brief or don't give you a full description, and that's when I put the book away and then just focused on the scripts and made my choices and decided how I wanted to do it". 

Zain currently sits in-between the void of promoting the TV show, waiting for its release on 1 July, where it's sure to take the TV world by storm with book lovers and TV watchers already going mad for the show, especially the romance between Pip and Ravi. When asked how he feels, he responds, "It's a weird stage". "But it's a good thing as well". He expresses his excitement for the show to come out and be the start of his professional acting career, where he's sure to find more opportunities. Plus, there could be a season 2 on the cards, adapting the trilogy's second book, depending on the reaction to this first season. Zain is passionate about his future in acting: "All I want to do is do good work, play different characters, challenge myself and make a career from this. That's all my dream".  


A thing that comes with many popular shows in pop culture is the spotlight. The obsession with fans searching to find out as many details as they can of the actors' lives. For Zain, it's already begun as fans have put on their detective caps: "Someone has somehow found my old showreel, and it's on TikTok somewhere" with people invested in Zain being surprised to find out he has a northern accent the showreel, something that has no trace in the series. "[My accent is] so Mancunian it's like proper Mancunian." The actor is from Manchester and seemingly lost the accent after living in London. "I watch it back; I'm like, no way do I sound like that. And that was only like a year ago or two years ago."  


Iqbal is a closed book to many except those closest to him. The actor states, "You might want to read me, but I won't tell you what's going on.". Prior to the series premiering, Zain spoke to his publicists and agents about how to handle the new heightened attention and fame. The challenges of wanting a private life and being a new actor are complex and difficult to juggle. He has an Instagram account for needing to post work and himself, but [he'd] "much prefer not to.". He looks up to Robert Pattinson for his lack of social media and just letting his acting do the talk. "I feel like nowadays, I think you need it, sort of at the start anyway. I've worked on it, and I feel better about it. But it's still scary. I don't think it's hit me. I think it will hit me when it comes out. When [the show] has really landed. But, right now, I'm sort of living somewhere else."  

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When asked he explains he never believed that his acting career would begin with booking a lead in a huge TV series. "I never got into it for the socials or the clout. I never thought I was going to have a great following or that I was going to be the lead. I just wanted to be an actor and act in jobs. That's all I want." He continues, "But then this has all come, and I know if you told me when I started this, this is going to happen. I'd laugh at you. It's not what I set out to do." He thought he would work his way up through roles, starting with a few lines to regular parts, then a lead like Ravi in AGGTM. "Yeah. I'm incredibly lucky. And I'm very grateful. I've won the lottery literally". 


When googling his name, you may have to dig deep to uncover him. Zain gives a glimpse into his life, although he says it's not that interesting. "that's why I like acting because then you get to play interesting people.". Outside of acting, he loves running and was a boxer as a kid. His jokes that his reasoning for stopping boxing is "I'm too lazy now." The actor also likes to cook. Speaking on his newfound venture into cooking, he "tries [to cook]. “I'm really bad right now. But I’m trying to get better. That's why I've got a burner TikTok account for the recipes."  


You may not find that Zain is a big film fanatic whilst googling him. When asked about his top favourite film, he finds it challenging. "You can't ask a film lover what their one favourite film is!” He teases. “You just can't". He eventually gives in when I offer a list of 5 potential favourites. He's come prepared, as he looks down at his list whilst naming Portrait of a Lady on Fire, A Korean film called Burning, The Taste of Cherry, Certified Copy, and The Tree of Life, and he genuinely loves Adam Sandler movies. "I love Grown Ups." Bringing up Sandler's 2008 movie You Don't Mess with the Zohan as an example of a proper comedy. "It is just an easy watch, you know. When you don't know what to watch, just type in Adam Sandler and just pick one.".  

He also needs more time to decide on his dream role, so we move on to what brings the actor joy. "For me, and I do it every day. Just going for a walk and buy an expensive coffee from anywhere Fuck it. Why not? I don't know if I should say this, but I hate it when people ask, "Oh, why are you buying a four-quid, five-quid coffee?" Because it makes me happy. And I like going out, having a nice coffee, and walking on my ones, like it's beautiful. It makes me feel nice". He describes his example of "giving main character energy" as going on a walk with his music and a coffee around the high street or Hampstead Heath, especially when the sun is out. "But I do like to spend a lot of time alone. I find joy in that I do. Don’t get me wrong I like to hang out with people a lot. But I do love just being alone sometimes and thinking about shit. Not bad things, whether it's life or work or thinking about your relationships. Just everything. 100% I'm an overthinker." 

"Your clearest thoughts come to you when you've sat alone for a prolonged period. I really sit on things deeply, you know. Look at me trying to be a philosopher!" he laughs.  

To wrap up the interview, Zain returns to the dream role question. He'd love to be in a thriller indie film that would go to festivals, mentioning Daniel Day Lewis' character in There Will Be Blood is one he would have wanted to do, "but I think he's too good." 

On the other side of dream roles, he'd also like to pursue a full-fledged romance movie. Something you’re all going to want to see after A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.  

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is just the start for Zain. His stratosphere will change very shortly with the show's release. Next, we might find him in a romance, a thriller, or maybe even an Adam Sandler-type comedy. Who knows... 


The full series of A Good Girl's Guide to Murder drops on BBC iPlayer on 1 July in the UK and 1 August on Netflix for US viewers 

Words Madison Drew

Photography Chloe Maylor

Styling Rebecca Tessler

Hair & MUA Olivia Downs

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