GROWING up in The Fort, once one of the Capital’s most notorious housing schemes, Noof McEwan dreamed of being an actor.
This week, that dream comes true as the 31-year-old gets his big break in the ITV prime-time police drama Vera, as new regular character Detective Constable Hicham Cherradi.
“I’m buzzing because I get to be in a cop drama, playing a detective, and I get to act with Brenda Blethyn and some great actors. It’s very exciting,” he said.
Viewers will meet Noof – short for Naoufal – in Sunday’s episode, The Moth Catcher, on STV at 8pm, when the new DC joins the team just as DCI Vera Stanhope begins investigating the hit-and-run murder of a 22-year-old.
“In the first episode, the team can’t quite work out if Cherradi is very cocky, arrogant or just eager – I’m going for eager,” said Noof.
“Vera and he don’t hit it off at first. I think she sees a lot of herself when she was younger in him, but Brenda was lovely to me.”
Usually I look over and see The Fort towering over the walls, but this time my heart sunk because it was gone. I miss it because of what it taught me. It was a big part of me and I was gutted to find it had been knocked down.Noof McEwan
For Noof, the role is the breakthrough he’s been working towards since leaving Leith just over a decade ago.
Of Moroccan descent, he said life wasn’t easy being a member of the only ethnic minority family on the estate.
“One morning, my mum couldn’t go to work as her car had been covered in white paint, all because she’d called the police to report a gang of lads who had jumped me,” he said. “I was 11, and had been living there for two weeks, when six of them jumped me.”
Despite being subjected to regular racist abuse, Noof was determined not to be cowed by the experience.
“Living in a place like The Fort makes you street smart,” he said. “There are things you can’t learn at school that you learn on the street. Looking back, ours was the only ethnic family there and we just had to get by. I had to move on and show them that nothing could knock me down.
“It was all part and parcel of living in an area like that.”
Now based in London, Noof confessed that he missed the estate, which has since been razed to the ground.
He said: “It sounds crazy, but I was home at Christmas and we made the usual journey past The Fort.
“Usually I look over and see it towering over the walls, but this time my heart sunk because it was gone.
“I miss it because of what it taught me. It was a big part of me and I was gutted to find it had been knocked down.”
In Vera, Noof finds himself in a very different landscape, that of the Northumberland countryside, but there is still a connection to home.
“They asked about my family origins and decided to make my character Moroccan too.
“I’d told them about my mum, whose name is Fatima Cherradi, and when I got my script through, they had given my character her family name, I can’t tell you how pleased that has made her.”
• “They tried to strangle me with my key chain,” – Noof McEwan. Don’t miss a full interview in tomorrow’s Evening News