A WHITBY actor has told of his delight at joining the cast of one of the nation’s best-loved soaps.
Ace Bhatti (41) plays doctor Yusef Khan in EastEnders and first appeared on TV screens just before Christmas.
Not much is known about the mysterious figure who was once married to Zainab Masood, except he is loyal to his family but regretful towards his tormented past.
Ace has lived in Whitby for just over two years after moving to the town with his partner and two children from Staithes where he served on the village’s lifeboat crew.
Now he divides his time between Whitby and a rented bolt hole in London, close to where the show is filmed at Elstree Studios.
Ace, whose other TV credits include Coronation Street, Bend It lIke Beckham, BBC3’s dark comedy Grease Monkeys and the Sarah Jane Adventures, told the Whitby Gazette: “I didn’t think EastEnders would ask me back.
“I played Sunita’s brother, the hothead, in Coronation Street and executive producer of Eastenders, Brian Kirkwood, worked on Coronation Street. He was aware of my work. When I went for the audition at Elstree, I thought I would have to audition with loads of other guys but there was just me.”
Ace said he has become firm friends with many of the show’s characters including Nitin Ganatra (Masood Ahmed), Nina Wadia (Zainab Masood), Himesh Patel (Tamwar Masood) and Jake Wood (Max Branning) who he had known from a previous job.
“What’s lovely is they all watch your stuff and people will say, I really enjoyed that scene you did,” said Ace. “It’s nice when you get that from other cast members.
“June Brown who plays Dot Cotton is amazing, she doesn’t miss a thing. She’s 83. I was filming a scene in the launderette and she took a basket of clothes out of the washing machine and shouted ‘cut’.
“I thought, have I missed a line? But she said, ‘you would never have coloureds in with whites’, it’s that attention to detail.”
Ace, who also played a doctor in recent Oscar nominated short film Wish 143, said although he has been on TV for a number of years, when he joined the show, he didn’t realise quite how big it was and is only just getting used to being spotted by fans.
“What’s lovely about Whitby people is they know who I am but when I’m taking the kids to school I’m being a dad and not someone off the television, people just know me as me.
“I was shopping in LiDL and this man looked over and said to his wife ‘he’s off the telly’. They weren’t from Whitby.
“She said, ‘don’t be stupid, what would he be doing shopping in LiDL? and slapped him.
“It’s nice to be working. I’m there until June-ish and we will see from there.”
He said he was sad to give up being a crewmen on the lifeboat when he moved to Whitby but it would be impossible to go back to it, especially with the quick turnaround in learning scripts for the show.
“I loved it,” he said. “I learned a hell of a lot. I did help save people’s lives.”
Ace loves living in Whitby.
“We were lucky enough to have children and always wanted the children to grow up in the north by the sea,” he said.
“They have had a very nice life, they seem happy enough. I’ve stayed in a lot of places in London, some terrible things happen and all my friends who have kids fear for their kids when they step out of the door.
“People talk to each other in Whitby which I’m finding different when you go to London.”
“Whitby is a really nice place to live.”