Being allowed to drive an ambulance fast as trainee EMT Rachid in Sirens was a plus for Kayvan Novak.
“It was fun. You get to put the sirens on and go very fast. In real life I used to drive fast but now I have points on my licence so I drive really slowly…
‘It transpires Rachid is a really good, fast driver. He hits their targets; gets them to the call outs on time. It turns out he used to be a joy rider. He was a young offender lacking direction but had a good heart and wanted to help people and being a paramedic is a job where you get to help people every day and make the world a better place.
‘Rachid wears his heart on his sleeve and says what he is thinking. He is just trying to figure it out and sometimes he tries to figure it out aloud.’
Kayvan admits he identifies quite strongly with his character Rachid: ‘Rachid is the new boy. He is funny, cocky and slightly arrogant. He is the fly in the ointment for the other two really because they have been working well together for a year then Rachid turns up with something to prove.
‘I identify with quite a few elements of this character – obviously he is very handsome and has great hair but he is also searching for something. He’s got a lot of bravado but male bravado and arrogance mask exactly that male insecurity and self doubt. Hopefully people will see the cockiness but also the vulnerable side underneath which is what is beautiful about playing Rachid.
‘In fact there’s very little I don’t identify with apart from I guess his terrible taste in clothes and his obsession with Ashley’s sex life. I thought Rachid was going to come out in one episode because he was so interested in Ashley’s sex life! I think he mainly does it to wind Ashley up because Rachid is so damn straight he can talk about it. In depth.’
Kayvan spent a night with an ambulance crew to prepare for his role.
‘It was a real eye opener. They do an amazing job and more power to them for that. I didn’t see any really bad stuff, mainly old people and drunks.
‘Human beings are oddly attracted to that macabre side of life though. If there is an accident everyone is rubber necking, trying to see the gore. Speaking to the paramedics they’re awake to the other side of life, the blood and guts side where things can go horribly wrong. They witness that and take those emotions and feelings and experiences and put them somewhere, which is what is great about this show because you see that. In one episode Rachid discovers a dead body and the image of the body starts to haunt him and talk to him. I love that almost supernatural element to it where he is slowly going mad and no one can help him.’
Kayvan’s parents were delighted when he scooped a British Comedy Award for his role in Four Lions. He has also received a Bafta nomination for Facejacker.
He recalls: ‘ My family were really proud of me getting the Comedy Award earlier this year. They were there and almost loved it more than I did. They were beaming. I love to do that for them, I don’t take awards that seriously, but when you get one it does feel nice – you just mustn’t hold onto to it too tight because it could be over tomorrow.
‘My parents gave me a good education because they wanted me to achieve something. Unfortunately I didn’t do that at school, I didn’t feel the urge to be top of the class. I was quite happy to be propping up the class knowing I could do it but just couldn’t be bothered.’
After being expelled from school Kayvan went to sixth form college and onto drama school.
‘I got my first job while I was still at Weber Douglas and thought I’d be working forever but of course it doesn’t work like that so in between jobs I’d do my prank calls and keep the comedy side going. It fed the fire for me. I have bags of ambition, but you need that, and a bit of luck, to achieve your dreams.
‘Sirens is a natural progression for me, I did a lot of straight acting and since then have been in the comedy zone for five years and now I’m coming back to comedy drama and a bigger role which is great. This is comedy with a lot of pathos. It’s got a real human storyline and is not necessarily comedy driven. Black humour and emotive storylines are pulled together here.
‘I love being able to create the work but the pressure is on me the whole time which is why it was so great doing this job and having such a laugh with Rhys and Richard, creating this real chemistry. I’ve had so much fun even in this bright green uniform that looks a little like I work in a garden centre.’
And what does the future hold for Kayvan?
‘I want to make comedy films. That’s the next box to tick. I kind of measure ambition by the horrible feeling of butterflies in my belly. You get this sick feeling in your stomach and just want it to go but it won’t until you achieve your goal and then you have a new one – it’s a vicious circle.’
Kayvan is about to start filming a new series of Facejacker in the United States.
Sirens, Mondays from 27 June 2011, 10pm, Channel 4