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Actor Shazad Latif on his latest role in new computer screen thriller ‘Profile’

Photo Credit: Pip Bourdillon

Shazad Latif has been a self-described movie geek from the time he was a kid. The London-born actor and his best friend would rent movies every day from a local store, and he was influenced by his parents’ love of movies.

“My dad, one of his first jobs coming over to London when he was 15 was changing the film reel at the movie theater,” said Latif. “He always had great taste and my mom had great taste in movies, too. Those kinds of things helped me get into it and I fell in love with theater later.”

Getting into acting and performing was a way for him to be able to make a better life for himself. He booked his first role on the BBC show “Spooks,” also known as “MI-5” in certain countries, and hit the ground running from there.

“It was one of those lucky things where it happens to be you have a passion for it, it’s one of those jobs that can be a way out from your circumstances,” said Latif. “I was a poor kid, my mom was on benefits. Maybe this is one way out, I was lucky to have that.”

Latif has since built up a notable career for himself in television and film. He can be seen as one of the leads in the new movie “Profile,” directed by Timur Bekmambetov.

Based on the non-fiction book “In The Skin of a Jihadist” by Anna Erelle, “Profile” follows the story of Amy Whittaker, a journalist played by Valene Kane who is investigating ISIS’s recruitment of young European women. She creates a fake profile and catches the attention of Abu Bilel, played by Latif, an ISIS fighter and recruiter in Syria. 

“There’s a cat and mouse crazy love story where they basically fall for each other,” said Latif. “It’s a very strange love story but one is trying to get a deep story on him, the journalist, and the one is trying to sort of seduce her, but they both keep it secret. It’s a sort of cat and mousey thing all through a digital screen.”

The audition for “Profile” came through like any other, but what caught Latif’s eye was that he was given an opportunity to improvise based off of a brief description of the character. He was even more drawn in when Bekmambetov was directing.

After landing the role, Latif dove into the character and read “In The Skin of a Jihadist,” which blew him away entirely.

“Everything about it from the start showed that this is a quite different kind of project,” said Latif. “Once I read the novel, reading this true story that happens to Anna Erelle and just how crazy it was, it was just weird and what a strange love story this could be. And then finding out how we could film it and the idea behind that — there were so many different things that made this something new, something interesting.”

The film is a computer screen thriller with the entire story taking place through the lens of a laptop or smartphone screen. Not only was “Profile” Latif’s first lead, but he had never worked on the style of film before.

“I’ve never done a thriller like this before,” said Latif. “We filmed this movie three years ago, it was one of my first leads. But I had never done anything like that before.”

Latif says that audiences who come to see “Profile” are in for an experience that is unlike anything they have ever seen before. Latif himself was unsure of how the film would translate considering the computer screen format, but was delightfully surprised when he saw it all come together.

“When I saw the finished product, just kudos to Timur and the team and the editors and sound team,” said Latif. “It’s a very suspenseful fast-paced thing, there wasn’t a moment where I was bored. It’s a very strange love story about this journalist, it’s very interesting about what actually happened to this person, falling slightly in love with this crazy, crazy guy.”

Latif will also be appearing in a few projects that are expected to premiere later this year, including starring in IFC Film’s upcoming romantic comedy “Falling For Figaro” with Danielle Macdonald and BBC’s upcoming limited series “The Pursuit of Love” with Lily James. Latif hopes to be able to sink his teeth into more movie and TV roles, though film is where his passion lies.

“My first love is movies and film, my dream is to keep pursuing that,” said Latif. “I want to do everything.” 

“Profile” is now playing in theaters. Keep up with Latif by following him on Twitter and Instagram @shazad.

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