AJ (Phaldut Sharma) is a cheeky chancer who never misses an opportunity for excitement, and with Zainab away at a Minute Mart brand event for a few days, Masood seizes the opportunity to enjoy some childish fun. However, it's not long until the pair inadvertently cross bad boy Derek Branning…
Digital Spy recently caught up with Nitin Ganatra, who plays Masood, to hear about the latest developments for his screen family.
How do you feel about Masood's brother AJ joining EastEnders?
"It's great! I always feel very confident, happy and excited about having a new character to play against, but especially if it's a family member - because the Masoods are always about family.
"The viewers may remember that I did have scenes with an older brother a long time ago - a character called Inzamam. But this time they've brought in a younger brother to stir up Masood's life, and that has exciting prospects."
Has AJ's arrival been in the pipeline for a while?
"Yes, they did say a while ago that it's what they were planning. We went through a list of ideas of how it would affect Masood, what their relationship would be - and then of course, who would be best to play that part."
You've worked with Phaldut Sharma before, haven't you?
"Yes I have, and I thoroughly recommended Phaldut's work. I've worked with him several times - on a short film called The Drop, a comedy series for Channel 4 called Meet The Magoons and also in theatre, in a show called To Eat With Your Fingers.
"So we've worked together many, many times - particularly in comedy. Given that they wanted Masood and AJ to be very funny together and get up to all sorts of shenanigans, I couldn't think of anyone more perfect to play the part."
Had Masood and AJ lost touch in recent years?
"They did lose touch, and I think there's a backstory emerging where they had a falling out, due to Zainab having a bitter argument with AJ's wife about something or other! It's still not clear exactly what, but these things tend to unravel as the character evolves. It's been three years since they've spoken, so it is a reunion for them."
How will AJ's arrival impact Masood?
"Well, what's interesting for me as an actor is that AJ's arrival allows us to see what Masood was like before he got married. At the moment, Masood only exists from the point he got married to Zainab - as that's all we really know about him.
"So by opening this door, you get to see what Masood was like in his childhood and as a teenager. Masood did have a naughty streak - he was in a band with his brother, and they got up to mischief. Masood is the sort of character who has been put on the straight and narrow after getting married. But prior to that, he was a teenager like any other - getting into trouble, and that was in cahoots with his brother AJ!"
Does Masood wish he was a bit more like carefree AJ?
"Well, after 29 years of being settled down, Masood looks at a carefree younger brother with no responsibilities, no children and no stress of having to provide for a family. So I think in the back of his mind, he longs for the life that AJ is living.
"Similarly, I think AJ longs for what Masood has. AJ is suffering from loneliness, he hasn't had kids, and when we see him, we discover that he's having marital problems. So I think they want each other's lives, which is quite a nice dynamic to play."
Is there lots of tension between Zainab and AJ?
"Yeah, I think we're going to have some fun scenes between those two! It's not necessarily that Zainab doesn't like AJ, it's just that whenever he's around, Masood gets into trouble. He's that kind of brother and they have that kind of relationship. There's also some animosity due to the emerging backstory between Zainab and AJ's wife."
Derek Branning also gives Masood and AJ some grief next week. Is Masood intimidated by Derek, or does he stand up to him?
"Masood is one of those characters who, when forced to stand up for himself, he will. He'd do anything for a quiet life, but if his family gets threatened - as you saw at Christmas - he'll do anything.
"But the falling-out with Derek is actually quite a funny storyline - it's not anything too dark or shady. It's to do with the fact that AJ and Masood get up to their antics, run around the Square in a shopping trolley and break the wing mirror on Derek's car. He wants it fixed, but it's not Masood who gets the black eye, let's put it that way!"
It's fair to say that we saw a darker side to Masood last year. Are you hoping that isn't forgotten about?
"I do hope we get to see more range in Masood, yes. It was really fun for me to explore a darker side, because it just means that the character doesn't become too predictable. What's lovely about Masood and what keeps me interested as an actor is that he can play light and dark - he's a very flexible, malleable character.
"That's exciting for me to play. There is a lot of light and dark, and I think at the moment we are concentrating on the lighter side. But I have a feeling that it may get dark again…"
Masood and Zainab also set a date for their wedding next week. Will it be a low-key occasion or a big ceremony?
"I don't know - the Masood and Zainab wedding has been much debated! I think there was a point where it was going to be low-key, but I know that Nina and I would love to do a big Bollywood dance number. Well, Nina would!
"None of that has resolved itself yet, so we don't know where the wedding is going to go yet. They're keeping us in the dark over that, so it'll be a nice surprise either way."
Were you sad to see Meryl Fernandes (Afia) leave the show recently?
"Yes of course, because we all work together so closely and we have such fun. We do behave like a real family at times. It was a big surprise to see Afia go and I don't think any of us saw it coming, but I'm sure in the story office there's a huge, big jigsaw that they're busy putting together.
"It was very emotional and we were all a bit teary-eyed on her leaving day. It was especially emotional for Himesh [Patel], as they'd been working very closely together."
Our readers are still very passionate about Christian and Syed. Can we expect to see them interacting with the family more?
"I don't know for sure, but I think they're working on a story for them at the moment, so I think there will be more of them interacting with the family.
"Zainab and Masood have accepted Christian now, as we saw in the scene where they all sat round the dinner table and did a toast. So I think the animosity has gone and the story has developed. I haven't seen any scripts yet, but I hope the Masoods will be much more of a big family with a delinquent uncle, gay son and their gay son's boyfriend. A typical Asian household in Albert Square!"
What's the atmosphere like on set with the new boss Lorraine Newman in charge?
"Everyone seems quite chirpy and happy. Lorraine has been on this show for such a long time - she knows EastEnders like the back of her hand, so everyone feels very confident and happy because we're in safe hands.
"Lorraine knows the show so well and everybody knows Lorraine, so it doesn't feel like a new boss, to be honest. You can trust her opinion on things because she knows the characters so well."
Is there also buzz on set with Letitia Dean being back as Sharon?
"Yeah, there is a buzz with Letitia being back. Obviously I'm not even sure if I'll get to work with her, because I don't know whether Masood and Sharon will ever cross paths. It would be great if they do, but if you watch the show carefully, there are a lot of characters who actually never get to meet each other.
"We pass each other in the corridor as actors, but I've never done a scene with Michael Moon, for example. And when Lacey Turner was in the show, in the three years that I'd known her, I think I'd said about one sentence to her as a character. But I do hope that myself and Letitia get to work together - we'll have to wait and see!"
> 'EastEnders' casts Masood's brother AJ
> 'EastEnders' and 'Coronation Street' newcomers, 'Hollyoaks' Silas return, 'Emmerdale' exit
> Read more 'EastEnders' spoilers and news
EastEnders airs AJ's first episode on Monday, July 9 at 8pm on BBC One.