Updated: Apr 18
Tahirah Sharif is the breakout star of Sky Max’s new crime thriller, 'A Town Called Malice', which is described in its official synopsis as “if Dallas made love to Pulp Fiction to the sounds of Duran Duran”. The explosive 80s crime show follows the downfall of notorious crime family, the Lords, who flee to Spain in hopes of reclaiming their former glory. The London-born actress plays Cindy Carter, girlfriend of the family’s son, Gene Lord, who Tahirah describes as “a force to be reckoned with”. Tahirah talks to us about how 'A Town Called Malice' gave her hope for a changing industry, finding moments to reflect, and her most-wanted piece from Cindy’s wardrobe.
Congratulations on A Town Called Malice! This project feels different to your previous work – what sets this show apart from what you’ve done before?
I can’t remember reading anything like this coming out of the UK right now. It’s so explosive and so surreal. Cindy’s character was so confident and independent and she really felt layered and complete - which struck me straight away.
What do you think is so significant about the character of Cindy and in what ways did you resonate with her?
Firstly, Cindy is such a force to be reckoned with – she’s so strong and completely able to look after herself. Secondly, these roles just don’t come around very often for black women unfortunately. Things are changing, very very slowly, but straight away I was excited about playing her.
How do you think the creators of the show were able to navigate the experience of a black woman’s experience in the 80s?
Obviously the experience that a black woman might’ve had in the 80s is very different to what it’s like now – she would’ve been treated very differently. Although this show is not about that explicitly, it felt necessary to have an awareness of her identity and experience which Nick Love, the creator, was committed to.
Something else that I loved is the flamboyant, almost camp, aesthetics of the show – what was that like to be a part of?
You know, when I went for my initial fitting I was a bit worried! When you think of the 80s, what often comes to mind is the kind of costume party, big hair and bright makeup. That’s not really how people dressed in everyday life. People did wear jeans, trainers and a t-shirt! And that’s why our costume designer was such a genius to balance the flamboyance,colour and surrealism with the way that the characters authentically lived their lives.
You definitely get a sense that everything is grounded in honesty and part of that comes from the chemistry between you and your co-star Jack Rowan. What was it like working with him?
We had a really good relationship on-and-off screen and we trusted each other, which makes life and work so much easier and more fun. That’s one thing I’m really happy with is the response to Cindy and Gene’s relationship – and you need to believe that, you know, for the show to do what it sets out to do.
So, what’s next? Are you taking a beat to reflect or are you straight onto the next thing?
I’m filming something in the summer but until then I’ve made a point of saying to my team that I want to be really available for the release of A Town Called Malice. I want to be able to soak everything in and digest it because a lot of the time actors just don’t get to do that – and I acknowledge that’s a really great position to be in. Last year, I was away for about 8 months of the year, so you miss spending time with family and friends so much. For this particular show, I didn’t want to miss enjoying the launch and everything that comes with that - and this is the first time I’m in the position to do that.
What are you doing to reflect and take it all in?
I’m going on holiday! But also just finding the time to relax and chill out. After putting so much heart and soul into this project, being able to watch it with my friends and family and it’s moments like that you can’t get back. It’s so important.
What does your family think of the show?
They’re so proud, they really love the show. And it’s really exciting for them (and me) to see all the posters up and everything. We all binged it together, and my mom is a tough critic so I was really happy when she enjoyed it.
One last thing – anything you were tempted to steal from Cindy’s wardrobe?
There are so many, but there’s this cropped purple suede Vivienne Westwood jacket that I wear a lot in the show and it just fit so well and was just gorgeous – but I would’ve gotten in a lot of trouble…
Don’t miss Tahirah Sharif in the eight-part series A Town Called Malice on Sky Max and NOW in the UK.