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I TALK TO Allan Mustafa

"When we started writing The Curse, we looked at it as a trilogy. But obviously, that's up to the viewership, if we get another series."

Channel 4's hit crime-comedy caper The Curse, written by Tom Davis and director James De Frond, along with Steve Stamp, Allan Mustafa, Hugo Chegwin and Emer Kenny returned for its second series last week and this time it's set in 1985 as the gang find themselves residing in the sunny Costa Del Sol, recently dubbed the Costa Del Crime.

Due to the lack of extradition treaty between the British and Spanish governments, it became a safe haven for UK criminals during this period, leaving the gang untouchable. Albert and Tash, played by Allan Mustafa and Emer Kenny, have invested the money from the gold in a dream restaurant and hotel business but what becomes quickly evident is that Spain isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The stakes are higher, the gangsters are scarier, and the vultures are beginning to circle. Behind the cocktails around the pool and the paradise façade the calamitous gang have very much got out of the frying pan and into the fire.

I recently caught up with Allan Mustafa to discuss what's in store for Albert and the gang in this series, THAT reveal at the end of episode one, what to expect from a potential nineties-set third and final series and so much more!

Contains spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen

the end of series two, episode one.

For anyone who missed the first series of The Curse, how would you sum it up?

Series one is set in the early 80s and follows four friends who are idiots, pretty much, and get into a bit of a heist. They've all got money issues and think they're getting 100 grand in cash, which is a lot of money back then.

But it turns out it's actually several tonnes of gold bars and the series shows what they do with it. They do it with a bunch of real criminals, so you're seeing these normal everyday wallies and their journey through the underworld.

But you understand why they're doing it, right?

Yeah. Each character has their own reason. Some for ego. Some for money. Some out of pure stupidity and friendship. But there's always a reason and it's what brings them all together, I guess.

Following a huge show like People Just Do Nothing with The Curse, did you feel the pressure for it to succeed? And are you pleased that it did and the reaction the series has received?

Yeah, 100 per cent. Like you said, there's always pressure but we don't do it because we want to make the biggest show. We just want to make something that we're proud of. Doing it with Tom (Davis) and James (de Frond) who are now like our family - we've been friends with them for around five years previous to that - it felt like everyone's heart was in the right place. If other people like it, then it's always a bonus.

What inspired the decision to series two in Spain?

The story is loosely based on a few different stories from the eighties and a lot of the criminal underworld moved to the Costa del Sol because of the extradition laws, so we felt it was only right that if they needed to escape, that's where they'd go.

Where do we kick things off in series two?

At the start of series two, you join them when things are pretty smooth. For Albert and Tash anyway. They're the ones that got away. They're running their own hotel. It's going really well for Tash, as far as she knows she's not doing anything wrong. Albert's always wanted to run a restaurant, he ran a cafe before, so he's running the restaurant in the hotel.

In her eyes, that should be enough, but she's really leading the way. Meeting up with the local mayor, making plans to build a water park. She's the port of call for The Baptist now. She's in the driving seat. Albert's in the boot, essentially!

Albert doesn't want to be in the driver's seat, I think he wants to be in the passenger seat, but he's not even there. This is what starts him missing his mates and that adrenalin he used to have, which we got a taste of in series one.

I think Albert just feels more shat on than usual, I guess! It's funny to see because as I say, he doesn't want the limelight but he does want a little bit of control. A little bit of something to make him feel like he's actually in charge of his own destiny.

But, he doesn't always say the right things. He doesn't know how to articulate himself. He puts himself in it. But he's always coming from a good place.

How much longer do you think they can keep up that lifestyle?

We're only on episode two at the moment... that lifestyle doesn't last, does it? When we started writing The Curse, we looked at it as a trilogy. But obviously, that's up to the viewership, if we get another series.

Bit by bit, everyone will die in the end. You either go to jail or you die. And we want to tell the true story of it. Not the glamorised version of it. So as much as you see the glamour, you also see the fuckeries they have to go through.

Speaking of deaths. I thought Phil had died at the end of the first series. Was it always your plan to keep him alive?

It was always the plan, because in series one, right at the end, we filmed it and everything, it was in the script, after the credits you see Phil get back up basically. But in the edit, we made the call that it's actually better without it and keep people guessing.

What was it like filming in Spain?

Oh man, it was so sick! We filmed out in Gran Canaria and I'm very fortunate to be filming abroad and that, but I thought it'd be more like Benidorm. Brits abroad sort of thing. And there is one part of that, but where we were was beautiful. Beautiful nature, amazing local food and just being there with your mates, jumping in the sea before you go to work was amazing.

I'm aware that people reading this are going to be hating us! But honestly, I do pinch myself every day. For example, it was amazing getting to hang out with Michael Smiley, who plays Ronnie, and hearing stories from him because he's a legend. By the end of the shoot, he went "Look, there are different jobs you get in this life. Sometimes it's about where you are. Sometimes it's about the people. And sometimes it's about the actual job." He went "On this one, it's all three things." Coming from HIM, I was like "Wow!".

I feel like that, because they're my best mates that I'm working with and obviously I've created it so I'm proud of it and stuff, but for him to say that really put things into perspective because he's obviously been involved in a lot more jobs than I have.

Still a lot of corpsing on set this series?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 100 per cent. We're all corpsing at different times. Tom will be corpsing at his own stuff a lot of the time. Listen, when it's silent and Tom comes out of nowhere with the accent, it's always going to hit you.

And Tom is the king of improv, so he'd always add an extra but to his line which would throw him off and us at the same time. But then you know it's great, so you do it again, hopefully without corpsing.

The worst person is Hugo (Chegwin) because he can't keep a straight face ever. You always see his top lip start to go and then it's game over.

You mention Tom is the king of improv. Was there generally a lot of improvisation involved in The Curse?

We always fully go by the script. But, we'll say it with slightly different words and improvise around it as well. It depends who I'm with in a scene, I guess. If I know they're comfortable with it, like the boys and Emer, then cool. If there's someone who's just stepping in for the day, some actors are thrown if you don't go by the script.

To be honest, mostly on The Curse it's been sweet. I feel like I always need a little bit of improv in there, just to keep it fresh. Otherwise, I'm bored!

Not to suggest you're in any way similar to Albert, but is there anything you could learn from the way he is?

That's a good question actually. I never thought about it that way around. I probably do wish I was a bit more like Albert in the sense of letting things be sometimes. Albert gets shat on way too much. But maybe I need to learn a little but from Albert.

I feel like there's a little bit of Albert in everyone, just like there's a little bit of Grindah (from People Just Do Nothing) in everyone. Especially men. A lot of us deep down are just pathetic children who never seem to grow out of it and someone like Grindah masks that with ego. With Albert, it's just there on his sleeve. He's completely open about it.

What were some of your favourite scenes to film?

There's a scene where Albert gets into a weird situation with a prostitute and he doesn't want to be there and he's squirming! Because it's more physical comedy as well, it was an awkward and hilarious situation in real life as well with this Spanish actress and me trying to run away from her essentially.

When you're writing those scenes? Is there a part of you that goes "Oh right. I now have to actually do this"?

Yeah, definitely. I actually wrote that one and it was worse before. We then had to work out a more realistic way of doing that scene.

But I don't really think about it until the day and then I'm like "Oh, this is fucking awkward." It is what it is, innit? when you've got professional actors, they've done stuff like that a million times. They don't feel the pain and the awkwardness that I'm feeling. After the first couple of takes, it's completely fine.

Did you find this series any easier to write and perform, because you knew how everyone would perform their part and how the overall series looks, albeit slightly different this series?

Yeah. Exactly that. Series one took us a lot longer to write because a lot of it was initial meetings to work out the characters and doing research. We already had the idea for series two, where it was going to go and stuff like that, so this time, it was just about getting the script written.

Of course, it's always a challenge. You're still getting to know different parts of those characters in different scenarios, but it was definitely a lot more straightforward this time.

Emer Kenny as Tash really comes into her own in this series. Was that always the plan?

Definitely. She wrote on this series as well so we got her in the writer's room from the start. Where it says that we all write our own episodes or whatever, we all sit together and plan and create beat sheets for all the episodes together. So she has an input in all the episodes, not just the one she's written.

First of all, I think it was really important to get a female perspective and to get her feeling more comfortable with her own character as well and where she wanted to take Tash. Like you say, you can really see that Tash has come into her own this series.

Emer is like our sister. She's one of the family. And I think that helps when we're all throwing ideas around together in the writer's room. It makes you feel more comfortable on set because she's even chucking in a bit more improv this time. She did before and obviously could have before, but understandably she probably felt like she was stepping into someone else's thing, where now it's our thing.

Let's talk about the moustache. I know you didn't like it series one, but have you grown to like it over the course of filming series two?

Actually, I didn't mind the moustache in Spain, because I had big curly hair and it's just different when you're not in your own country. Here, I'm more self-conscious that people might recognise me or whatever and question why I've got that moustache, and also I look like I work in a bike shop in Shoreditch.

Whereas in Spain, I just looked like a random Spanish don, so it was cool. No one really batted an eyelid. They've got mad piercings and mad mullets out there so everyone's kinda doing their own thing out there anyway, so no one's really paying attention.

Albert's look wasn't in the script actually. We hadn't thought about that until we'd sat down with the make-up team. James the director had a thought that it should be a bit permy, but we didn't go too all out, that it looked cartoony.

What about Phil's mullet? Was that in the script?

Oh yeah. That look came completely from the script because his new obsession with Scarface meant that he's got a Scarface-esque haircut. He wears more Scarface-like kinda suits. Scarface Hawaiian shirts. So that was completely from the script. That was all story.

And the same with Sidney... well... Andrew, now. I stuttered then as if you were one of the criminals! That was all story as well because he had to have a new identity. His new leather waistcoat, new haircut and tan, that was all pre-planned.

I've watched the whole second series, but aware that everyone watches at their own pace, so without spoiling the ending, Albert makes a decision that's pivotal to where the story could go next. Do you think people will understand why he does what he does? And was that always the planned ending?

It was actually always going to end more on Tash so that was more of an afterthought to weave Albert into the story because potentially, he could have just gone with the boys. I feel the audience will understand why he does it. All I can say is, it's Albert trying to do the best for his family, but he fucks up again!

Series three. When, not if, it happens. You've got to set it in the nineties right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah! Series three would be the nineties. It would be the ecstasy trade. And this is just us spitballing in the writer's room, but it would potentially be set in Manchester, the Haçienda sort of days. It's split between that, Ibiza and Amsterdam because of the ecstasy. I'm gonna get curtains for it, man!

What's next for you then?

I can't really talk about it, but there's something I did last year that might be coming back. That's all I can say.

Is there anything you haven't done yet, that you'd like to do?

Yeah, I actually did a short film called The Out with a friend who's a director (Harry Brandrick) which was me helping them out on their project whilst also trying some straight acting myself.

A good way to try it is in a short film because no one's really going to see it. It's been pretty well received and I wouldn't say it's my best work - it's amazingly directed and stuff - but I'm talking about my acting because I'm not trained and I'm not used to it, but I feel like it's a good stepping stone and would definitely love to do more.

I'm actually developing something with him at the moment that could be my first proper drama role. So I'd like to do that, but only for the right things. Comedy is what I want to be creating and I don't want to be taking random roles just for the sake of doing straight acting. It's only if it feels right and feels like I'm exploring a different part of my creativity.

It's been over 10 years since the BBC pilot for People Just Do Nothing. Could you ever have imagined when you started creating that off your own back with your mates where that series would take you? And how have you found the industry?

Growing up, I always had a vision of doing something performance-wise. As a little kid I was performing in front of my family but it was mainly music based. I did Elvis which then turned into me playing the drums, and then I wanted to be an MC and a rapper, and that was it. It was always music.

Looking back, we always used to do prank phone calls with different voices which was harnessing the comedy and the acting. Then it turned into skits we'd film on our phones which turned into People Just Do Nothing. It is a surprise that this is the avenue I've taken, but I've always felt - and it's easy to say now, when I'm doing it - that I wanted to do something in the performance world, not that I deserved to.

As a collective, I feel like you've really influenced the generation coming up behind you.

I think we've shown that it's not just talent and hard work, it's making sure that you're persistent and get seen by the right people. That's luck, right? But you can make your own luck by making it yourself, being persistent and putting it out there.

We're just very fortunate that that happened for us with our first comedy idea. But we'd been trying that with music for years before that. So it wasn't our first creative idea. It just so happened to be our first comedy idea.

What that proved was collaboration is key. Meeting the right boys at the right time and them all being so talented and leaning on each other.

Never say never for a People Just Do Nothing reunion?

(Laughs) At the moment, no. We just want to keep it special. Well, hopefully, it's special to people. We've done five series, a film, that will live forever. There's only two series of The Office but I still watch that all the time. It lives forever. They're not dead. They're there, in that memory.

We have also done a Kurupt FM podcast, which is now on its third series on Audible. So those characters a basically living their lives out in audio format now.

The Curse continues Thursdays at 10pm and all episodes are available to watch now on Channel 4

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