I was a big EastEnders’ star but quit after 12 years… now I stack shelves at my family’s newsagents, says Nitin Ganatra

Programme Name: EastEnders - Portraits 2018 - TX: n/a - Episode: EastEnders - Masood Ahmed (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Masood Ahmed (NITIN GANATRA) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Kieron McCarron

HAVING played lovable postman Masood Ahmed on EastEnders for 12 years, actor Nitin Ganatra is used to early starts and hard graft.

And since leaving the BBC soap in 2019 he’s been busy putting in the hours – working at his family’s newsagents in between acting jobs.

Nitin Ganatra played Masood Ahmed on EastEnders for 12 years

You’re now more likely to find Nitin working at his family’s newsagents

In an exclusive interview with HOAR, the 55-year-old admits customers are often shocked when they see him stacking shelves at the store in Coventry.

“People do double-takes when I’m there helping my brother with the papers at 4.30 in the morning, and especially working in the shop. It’s a bit bizarre,” he tells us.

“But it’s my family’s business, so why would I not help out? It’s normal to me. 

“If you’re visiting your family, you can’t just expect to be served, you have to join in.”

On the day we speak, Nitin has been up since the crack of dawn recording a radio drama in north London, before driving all the way back to put a shift in at the shop.

In between he found time to pop into the nearby hospital to visit his poorly mum and give her lunch.

Nitin has been working at the family newsagents since he was 10 years old – usually behind the scenes.

“I was always terrified of getting stuff wrong on the tills,” he admits.

Nitin has helped out at the newsagents since he was a kid

Nitin often gets selfie requests from customers when they spot him

“My mum, dad, brother and sister-in-law were of a generation where they can do mental maths really quickly. 

“They don’t need the till. They could get five items and just say, ‘Here’s your change,’ and add it all up in their head. 

“But I was always scared. I was like, ‘No, I need a calculator and I need time.’ So I did the heavy lifting.

“I would go to the Cash and Carry, move the sacks of potatoes, and do the paper rounds.”

Despite the newsagents having been in his family for 45 years, Nitin says customers still ask him for selfies when they twig he’s an actor.

But he insists his family are more famous in Coventry than him.

He says: “I’ve had grown men coming up to me saying ‘I was a paperboy for your dad,’ and even in the hospital, I get people coming up to me saying, ‘Are you Charlie’s brother?’”

“An old Irish fella just came in the shop [before we spoke] and said, ‘I came into the shop in 1977, and your mum has the best smile. She always made me laugh.’”

TikTok sensation

Nitin with his wife and two sons

Nitin has also become an unlikely star on TikTok, having amassed over 12,500 followers.

“A grown man like me!” he chuckles. “It exploded recently with the most mundane, stupid post about this filter that everyone’s doing and it’s really confused people.

“I got something ridiculous like 10,000 followers in five days. It went mad.

“ I found this whole playground where I’m being celebrated by all these young people going, ‘Oh, look at the old Masood. Isn’t he cute? He’s found TikTok!’”

Life after EastEnders

Nitin in Midsomer Murders

Nitin left EastEnders having got “restless” in the same job for a long time.

“I did a long time on it, and I didn’t become an actor to play one character,” he explains.

“I love playing different characters and doing lots of different types of things, play other characters, do other accents, change my look. 

“When you’re stuck on a show, you maintain that look for a long time and I was fed up with a goatee beard and I wanted to grow my hair… I grew a beard instead!”

Nitin was most recently in Netflix hit Wednesday, playing Dr. Anwar, and has lots of other projects coming up, including the fourth series of Sky comedy Breeders, with Martin Freeman, and a Paramount Plus prequel to 2000 movie Sexy Beast.

He’s also just wrapped filming on Alan Carr’s upcoming semi-autobiographical comedy, Changing Ends.

Despite him focusing a lot of his attention on his “first love” – art, having rediscovered his passion for it in lockdown – Nitin confesses he’d never rule out a return to Albert Square.

“I’d never say never to anything,” he says.

“I never left to never come back. I just needed to move away, play other characters, do other stuff, meet other people, work with other directors and have other experiences.

“So if the time came where they asked me back, I would have to really think about that. 

“And, of course, you want to go back with a good story. So that matters.”

Nitin is taking part in the Cadbury Big Win-Win campaign, a chance for consumers to win cash prizes for themselves and their local corner shops from a total Cadbury prize pot of £150,000, through a nationwide competition to “celebrate the unsung heroes”.

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