Headlined by Vince Vaughn, the series is based on Carl Hiaasen’s 2013 novel of the same name. Elhaj plays a character named Neville, a tame and relaxed fisherman who lives in the Bahamas, whose life is completely turned around when his house is sold and destroyed. He then goes on a journey of retribution.
The heavyweight cast also includes Michelle Monaghan, Jodie Turner-Smith, Meredith Hagner and Rob Delaney. Elhaj joins them as a series regular. “I’m super excited to join this cast,” Elhaj tells Variety. “They’re all people whom I’ve watched and admired their work and who inspire me to find my own style and uniqueness in my work. To be working with them is a dream.”
The series is being produced at Warner Bros. Television, a company that Elhaj is well familiar with: In 2020, he was one of 10 actors chosen from a field of 6,800 applicants worldwide for their “Actors in Training” program.
Acting has been a dream of Elhaj’s since the age of seven, when the bug bit him at school drama classes. “It was one of the classes that I actually felt that I looked forward to and that my creativity could run free and didn’t feel restricted in any way. It gave me a feeling of freedom that I didn’t have in any other class,” says Elhaj. “The same goes for why I wanted to be an actor, the freedom that I feel when creating work and being involved in a creative process is unmatched. It just fits with me.”
Elhaj was accepted into the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where he won a full scholarship. He credits his early success to them. “It opened my mind into the different ways of acting and gave me the tools to open up my creativity in ways I didn’t even think were possible. Teaching me different entrances and ways into a character but also the minute specific details that allow [an actor] to get closer to emulating real life,” says Elhaj.
From the academy, Elhaj was taken on by agent Bloomfields Welch and agency Verve and quickly landed his first lead in the BBC drama “Silent Witness.” A plum role in ITV drama “Grantchester” followed. “I’m very proud to be the first Black actor to play a significant lead in ITV’s ‘Grantchester.’ This meant a lot to me for such a prominent show,” says Elhaj.
Coming up for Elhaj is Starz series “Dangerous Liaisons,” an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ classic 18th-century novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” where he plays the key role of Prevan de Valmont; and the role of young Marcus in the keenly anticipated Netflix drama “Half Bad,” based on Sally Green’s bestselling young adult novel.
Hollywood has a long history of celebrating young British actors with recent examples being John Boyega (the Star Wars franchise) and the Oscar-winning Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”). Elhaj is being heralded as the next big thing from the U.K.
“I think I’m definitely honored to be called that and it is a testament to the hard work that I’ve put in and the amazing people that have helped me get here, but also to open up doors for the unseen people that are also doing amazing work,” says Elhaj. “Having this limelight allows me to bring light to projects and creatives who are somewhat unseen but creating amazing work.”