ACTOR Phaldut Sharma has joined forces with EastEnders star Steve McFadden in a new comedy web series. I
Gotta Be Me is a semi-autobiographical take on the life of struggling soap actor Paul Shah, played by Sharma – who was also a real life soap actor in EastEnders as Masood Ahmed’s brother AJ.
The ten-part show started last month and follows Shah as he travels to Cyprus to perform in a Rat Pack tribute show.
Sharma, who left EastEnders in 2014, asked his former co-star McFadden, best known for his long-running role as Phil Mitchell, to narrate the series. “Steve was very casual and cool,”
Sharma told Eastern Eye. “He spoke to me and just said: ‘What is it? Send it through and let me have a look at it’. He said: ‘If I like it I’ll do it for you, and if I don’t like it, I’ll do it for you’, which was really sweet of him. “He loved it after seeing it. It’s very gracious of him to be giving his time because he’s a very busy man.”
Sharma revealed that he had a life-long passion for legendary dancer and singer Sammy Davis Jr, and played him on the West End stage in Rat Pack Confidential in 2003.
“This web series sort of found me in particular. I done Rat Pack Confidential in the West End, then a number of these tribute shows called me up after to play Sammy Davis Jr.”
“I paid it no heed for a while, then got interested years back. So I decided to go and do one in 2010. I fell into a world that really caught my imagination.”
During his time as a tribute act, he built up strong relationships with the other actors who were more than happy for him to record them for the web series, Sharma explained.
“The whole thing is off the cuff, there’s no second take. It’s basically watching and waiting. There’s some bits that are me by myself, but generally what you’re seeing is 95 per cent one take.”
When Sharma was cast in EastEnders in 2012, he decided to use his new-found fame in the web series.
“I was going to have a certain recognition in the time when we were going to be out in Cyrus filming I Gotta Be Me via the expat community, so we decided to play around with that idea and created the daytime fictional soap, Faraaway Close, where I play a cab driver,” he said.
The theme of the web series, Sharma says, is community. “It’s about people working together. What you find is after some time, people tend to fall in love with the (tribute act) world and people are doing what they are doing for their supper and seem to get things done.”
Director Steven Bloomer said: “Clearly some elements are fictional, but other moments are far less clear – even to us. When you put a camera on them, everyone becomes a bit of a performer.” Sharma has previously starred in the hit blockbuster film Gravity, and TV series Cuffs and The Office.
The third episode of I Gotta Be Me came out on Friday (4). For more information, go to www.igot tabeme.net