Shaheen Jafargholi was hoping for a quieter time this year after his dramatic bow out of EastEnders.
But it hasn’t turned out that way. He joined the cast of Casualty – and now he is Aladdin at The Hawth in Crawley this Christmas.
Shaheen, who blew away the judges in the third series of Britain’s Got Talent when he performed Who’s Loving You in 2009, is delighted to be doing his third pantomime.
“It has been two or three years since I did my last show,” says Shaheen.
“This is my first time coming back to it. I had just finished EastEnders and was hoping to relax for the rest of the year, with this as a good way to get back into it. Panto is just such a massive Christmas fest. You know as soon you start you just can’t help but get infected by the Christmas spirit.
“I loved EastEnders and was really fortunate the way it turned out. To finish EastEnders like that (in a controversial knife-crime storyline where his character was stabbed and killed by a gang) was great. A lot of people just leave in the back of a taxi. To go out my way was much better. I just think that everything has a sell-by date… and you move on. But I am still very close to a lot of the people I was working with.
“Coming from a background in music and going into the world of soap was quite a transition. I was definitely unprepared for the fanbase that comes with the show. It has been watched for so long and it is iconic and there are so many people following it.”
But more than he thought.
“But it was a pleasure. When you do something like that, you need to be aware of the potential following. But it was more than I expected. But you should feel honoured that people care enough about the characters that they recognise you and want to talk to you.
“Now I am doing Casualty, which is a drama and a different kind of thing. It is a lot more serious in terms of the role. I am playing a nurse, which is quite different to playing a stroppy teenager! It is much more serious and there is all that terminology. I learn it for the scene and then it is straight out of my mind ten minutes later!”
Shaheen was doing Casualty right up until panto rehearsals started, and he will be straight back into Casualty once panto has finished.
“It is all a bit busy. But I do love pantos. I think the main thing with pantos is that you have got to remember your audience. You want to make sure that the children enter the theatre and then leave it having enjoyed the most magical thing of their lives, and you want to make sure that the parents and the grown-ups all enjoy it too. It is such a great thing for the children, but you have got to remember your whole audience. You just really get into the spirit of the whole thing and you just want to make sure that everyone has absolutely the best time ever.”
Shaheen started performing at the Mark Jermin Stage School when he was five years old, which led to his television debut as Troy in the CBeebies series Grandpa In My Pocket. His other television appearances include Torchwood.
Aladdin is at the Hawth, Crawley, from Friday, December 7-Sunday, January 6.
Call 01293 553636.