SPOILER alert: Do not read any further if you have yet to watch tonight’s (Thursday) episode of Coronation Street.
It was no secret that Jimi Mistry was leaving the cobbles.
But the death of his character Kal Nazir in tonight’s (Thursday) Coronation Street fire and explosion was kept under wraps until the episode aired on ITV.
As producer Stuart Blackburn noted: “The ability of a show like Corrie to still shock and surprise the audience is really precious.”
He was speaking to us at a London press preview screening of this week’s episodes plus Q&A last Friday.
Jimi was at the same event but his words – and those of others – were embargoed until now…after tonight’s 9pm episode had broadcast.
Both Kym Marsh (Michelle Connor) and Sally Ann Matthews (Jenny Bradley) were also there and admitted to “a few little tears” watching Jimi’s exit on screen.
As did Jimi, who said: “Yeah, it was quite emotional. Watching yourself die like that. It’s quite a moment in time.”
Here’s what else Jimi had to say about Kal’s exit:
Q: Did you always know you were going to be killed off? Was that your choice? Did you have any say in it?
“No. I didn’t know from the beginning. But it was something that me and Stuart discussed along the route. I came into the show to do some good drama. And when the idea was pitched in that way, it was a fantastic, dramatic part of Coronation Street history. I’ve always done a lot of things in my career, as you know, and I was going to keep moving on. So, to be honest, I’ve had a fantastic time and to be a part of something like what we’ve just seen, I wanted to do it. It was a great end to the character. But also it would give so much future to the family as well. And there’ll be a lot of drama for them because of this.”
Q: Filming the blaze scenes?
“It was hot. You can look at this and you think, ‘Oh well, it’s clever camera angles, stunt men, all this sort of thing.’ But, believe me, it was real. It was safe. But it was real. We were very close to the fire. It was safe but it was fire. And fire is fire. It was as real as it could be but it was controlled. It really was quite claustrophobic. But, then again, it added to the performance that you were giving.
“You prepare the scripts, you learn your lines, you think you know how you’re going to play it. But then it all changes when you’re on set. Because you are dealing with that whole circumstance of being in that situation. It was quite a new experience for me. Of all the things I’ve done, I’ve never done anything like this. We also filmed basically on three different locations…”
Director David Kester added: “…on the Street itself, then we did some in a fireproof set in a big warehouse and it was all broken up into little sections and we had to remember what we did when. All the sound had to be re-dubbed because where we were filming the fire was a massive, cavernous warehouse. It didn’t sound right. Jimi was brilliant…because of all your movie experience he was very used to doing that. But they all did brilliantly.”
Q: How did you feel when you first read about how you were going to leave?
“I was really pleased because it is, if not the biggest fire that the show has had, a very busy week on TV for it as well. It was almost like being in a little action movie at the end. Which has a beginning, middle and end to it, which I really liked. So I was really pleased with the whole thing and how it turned out.”
Q: You’ve worked on both EastEnders and Coronation Street. How do you compare the two experiences?
“They’re very different because, obviously, EastEnders was many moons ago for me at the beginning of my career and this is now. I was a young lad then going into the world not knowing what was what. Now I’m much more experienced and I’ve enjoyed myself a lot more this time round. I’ve said on record before that the Corrie family is a very special one. Everyone makes you welcome. It’s a really good feeling, a really good atmosphere. It’s just great working there. They’ve got a really good ship going. It’s really tight, producing some great work. So I’ve really enjoyed myself this time.”
Added Jimi: “I’m going to stay away from barbecues from now on. For about two weeks I could smell the fire.”
Asked about the future of the rest of the Nazir family, producer Stuart Blackburn replied:
“We’re planning ahead right through to autumn. We’ve got some great stuff coming up for them. I’m really, really enjoying the Nazirs. And just from that last scene, Qas (Qasim Akhtar) who plays Zeedan, man, he’s good. So watch out for him. And we’ve got massive stuff for Alya (Sair Khan) coming up, that, of course, the grandparents will be involved in that. In a way the favourite episode of the week is the Friday one. When all the dust has settled and the silences and the grief. The Nazirs come into in their own in that one. They’re absolutely fantastic. So they’ve got a bright future. They’re not going to be very happy for a while but…”
Stuart added: “Leanne and Zeedan are actually going to get really close. He’s wised up a little bit, Zeedan, knowing how much Leanne meant to Kal. Simon is going to take it really hard. It’s one piece of grief too much for him. There’s trouble ahead for her and Zeedan is going to be there trying to help and support. It’s what his dad would have wanted. It’s a story where she will form a really strong friendship with Zeedan. And it is only friendship. It’s not going anywhere else. And the Nazirs continue to take her to their hearts. She was Kal’s woman so they’re going to stay close to her.”