Home Lifestyle Humayun Saeed talks tough ‘The Crown’ audition | The Express Tribune

Humayun Saeed talks tough ‘The Crown’ audition | The Express Tribune

Humayun Saeed talks tough ‘The Crown’ audition | The Express Tribune


Marking his entry into the global entertainment scene with the acclaimed Netflix series The Crown, Pakistani actor Humayun Saeed graced the couch on Mohib Mirza’s chat show for a candid interview on the challenges of achieving success, filmmaking in Pakistan and his own experiences working as a producer and actor. 

“I was a producer first then an actor. I ended up working in my first production because I didn’t have to pay myself,” Humayun joked about balancing the many responsibilities of a producer alongside tight budgets. “Someone watched my first drama and said this drama is very badly made…but you’re okay,” he shared how the media personality offered him a role in his show Yeh Jahaan in 1996 that launched him as an actor.

Despite his acting career kicking off, Humayun continued to produce dramas. As per the celebrity, part of what made the process appealing was the frequent prospects of travel. “It was very exciting for me. It would seem I was in production only so I could travel abroad,” he confessed with a laugh. “My first production was overseas. Then I went to Malaysia, Turkey, America for a lot of plays.”

On Indian films and Pakistani cinemas

However, the actor contended that a major reason why dramas nowadays are typically unable to shoot outside Pakistan is financial feasibility. “Back in the day, a drama could be made within a set cost. I remember I could wrap up a whole drama in just 50 lacs. Now the costs have climbed so high, even a single episode wouldn’t be made in this amount,” he added. Even in terms of stories, the ones with a domestic, localised focus are better received, Humayun observed.

“After Covid-19, people lost the habit of going to cinemas. Even I didn’t go to a cinema then for a whole two years,” he disclosed. The Bin Roye star recalled the time when Pakistani films were playing in theatres alongside Indian offerings, the two creating an inviting and dynamic catalogue of films for cinemagoers. He said, “I’m not saying that Indian films were why Pakistani cinemas were running. It is because the films were coming,” attributing the flux as critical to the survival and prosperity of cinemas.

Contemplating filmmaking attitudes, Humayun remarked, “When a producer’s one film doesn’t take off, they take two years just to muster courage or finances to make another. So not a lot of films are made here. So Indian and Pakistani films together were sustaining a good flow…that way, even a slightly better Pakistani film was liked more by people.”

‘Too old to play young’

The interview switched gears towards his acting career whereby Humayun delved into audience criticism and how he takes it in stride. “When my first film came out, Inteha, I played a college student. I was 24 or 25 years old and I heard some people jibe, ‘This Humayun Saeed guy, he looks so old and he’s playing a college student.’ So this kind of criticism that I receive today, I have already listened to 25 years ago when I was actually young.”

Elaborating on disparaging remarks about his supposed propensity for young roles across his career, he stated, “I always wanted to look like a man even when I was a child. I was among those who would ulti shave to try to grow a moustache and a beard. I would shave from my hairline because I wanted one like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino to look manly. The desire has been since then and so we keep looking manly till today.”

Auditioning for ‘The Crown’ 

The actor also discussed his global breakthrough as a recurring character of Dr Hasnat Khan on the Netflix series The Crown. Calling it ‘a stroke of luck,’ Humayun recounted the whole process from being a fan to being offered the role and auditioning for it. “I already watched the series so keenly so I couldn’t believe that I was offered a character in it.” 

“I had never thought that as Diana’s character progresses and Dr Hasnat enters, a Pakistani actor might be hired for the role,” he divulged. Four seasons of the show had already passed and this was for season 5 so when I received the offer, I was overjoyed. Then they said I have to audition and I was like oh man.”

Humayun further relayed his apprehensions regarding the audition, humourously disclosing that he wished they could have judged his skills from his face alone. “The director told me that he had seen some of my past work but an audition was necessary to evaluate how I fit in that particular role. They sent me one scene first [to audition]. Then my agent told me that 8 people from India and Pakistan are trying for the role and you’re in the top 5 now. Then I received a second scene,” he said.

From top 2 to finalist

Intensifying the selection process for Dr Hasnat, Humayun revealed that he was down with Covid-19 at that time. “I had a fever, my eyes were drooping…maybe this is why I was chosen,” he quipped. However, to settle all his doubts, he turned to Nadir Shah, the director of 2019 film Project Ghazi to review his rehearsal. “Nadir has a sensibility of a white guy, so I showed him the scene and asked him if I was speaking alright, if any words were remiss. He corrected me in some instances. Then we filmed it and sent it.”

Comparing the excitement of the process to a game show, Humayun described how he was informed that he had made it to the top 2 after his second audition only to land a rehearsal with the series’ lead Elizabeth Debicki but no decisive yes. “The whole thing happened on Zoom, we did some chitchat. As soon as the reading ended, Eric, the director, exclaimed ‘Perfect, wonderful.’ I just heard this and was like now I am in for sure. But I still wasn’t selected,” he exasperatedly told.

In a comical turn of events, the actor’s agent also went missing in action following the rehearsal. Articulating the uncertainty of the ordeal, Humayun explained how he had to tell his agent to call him only when he had a final answer. In the meanwhile, the Jawani Phir Nahi Ani star occupied himself with manifesting a ‘yes’ but only received the congratulations once he had forgotten.

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