Pakistani star Humayun Saeed on playing Princess Diana's love interest in 'The Crown'

Dr. Hasnat Khan's relationship with the late princess was a low-key but important one



Photo: Shahbaz Shazi
Photo: Shahbaz Shazi

By Sadiq Saleem

Published: Sun 6 Nov 2022, 11:29 AM

Last updated: Mon 7 Nov 2022, 9:03 AM

This year, the Pakistani entertainment industry certainly has a lot to celebrate. Mehwish Hayat and Fawad Khan are creating a buzz internationally with Ms. Marvel and very recently, The Legend of Maula Jatt broke records at the box office.

But the list doesn’t end just here! All eyes are now on Pakistani superstar, Humayun Saeed, who will portray the role of Princess Diana’s love interest Dr. Hasnat Khan in the fifth season of The Crown, scheduled to premiere on November 9.

While Diana’s affair with Dodi Al Fayed became the talk of the town within a few days (owing to Dodi’s flashy and flamboyant lifestyle) her love affair with Hasnat Khan remained a well-guarded secret. Hasnat was an extremely private person and preferred to keep a low profile, which is why they were largely not known as a couple.

Hasnat was so conscious about his privacy that Diana would reportedly leave messages for him under false names such as ‘Dr. Armani’. They spent much of their time together in Kensington Palace, to avoid the cameras and paparazzi. No monument recalls their romance. No book has an official account of their relationship.

Even after Diana’s death, Hasnat avoided the press until he was legally asked to share his statement with the Metropolitan police. This is when he acknowledged that he and Diana were together between 1995 to 1997. One has to hand it to Humayun for accepting the challenge and portraying the part of Dr. Hasnat especially considering the limited amount of validated information about his involvement with Diana. He believes that “playing Dr. Hasnat Khan was a huge responsibility” and he is hopeful that audiences will love his character.

We caught up with Humayun Saeed ahead of the release of Season 5 to know more about his choices, his steady career and the process of international casting.

You made films in Pakistan when nobody wanted to risk it. Your production house is churning out successful dramas on television and you have just delivered one of the biggest hits of the year; yet, there is this misconception about you that you are a laid-back person. Why is that?

My being around in this industry actually negates the perception that I am a laid-back person. I guess I am just focused on my work - be it the productions or the films, shows and dramas. I consistently try to understand the evolving audience, learn from each project and move on to the next one, striving to give better. I believe this is the reason of the longevity.

With major films set for OTT release, do you feel that cinema is ready to take a back seat?

If the film is good, people will go to cinemas as there is no substitute for a wholesome movie experience. Recent cinema releases like Top Gun: Maverick or Maula Jatt are huge box office hits, which goes to show that people still like to go to cinemas for a good film.

People today have access to content from all corners of the world. They are increasingly becoming aware of the good and bad both. What has changed are the choices available, but the cinema experience cannot be replaced by binging in the lounge.

Humayun Saeed as Dr. Hasnat Khan in 'The Crown' (Photo: Netflix)
Humayun Saeed as Dr. Hasnat Khan in 'The Crown' (Photo: Netflix)

Playing Dr. Hasnat must not have been easy as there are no validated references available. How was the experience?

It is for the first time that I will be playing a real-life character on-screen and to play the role of Dr. Hasnat Khan who everyone knows due to Princess Diana, was a huge responsibility. I am very confident that the viewers will love the simplicity and purity of their relationship and how it has been portrayed on-screen.

I had to put on weight to look the part, which again is something I never had to do in any of my previous projects. I even attended many workshops with real-life surgeons to learn how a medical resource or a doctor would behave and react in a hospital environment.

Photo: Netflix
Photo: Netflix

Besides acting skills, what else does it take for an Asian talent to make an impact internationally? Is it networking and PR?

It is a great misconception that an actor needs to do networking and PR to get work internationally. Their working style is very different and transparent. You need to have a talent representative who could pitch your profile to the production houses for upcoming projects. And then, if they like your work, they will ask for an audition.

In my case, it was Hamid who pitched me and my work to the team at The Crown; that was the first step before I was asked to audition. At times actors have to audition multiple times for the same role before a decision is made. So, a good representation along with acting skills is the only way forward.

Working internationally and in a production of this scale must have been a great learning experience. Can you share what has been your biggest learning?

Every project comes with its own set of challenges and learning opportunities and The Crown was no different. When you are working on a scale like this one, the challenges are massive as well. But I feel something we need to learn from such productions is how organized and planned everything is.

Every one involved in the project was adhering to the schedule and the timeline. And this planning solved most of the challenges beforehand.

Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in 'The Crown' (Photo: Netflix)
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in 'The Crown' (Photo: Netflix)

Were your co-stars curious to know about your country, Pakistan?

I share most scenes with Elizabeth Debicki in the show so during the course of filming we often spoke about Pakistan and she was eager to know about our people, culture, our food and our entertainment industry. I have given her an invitation to visit Pakistan after she finishes filming Season 6 of The Crown.

Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai-based entertainment writer. He can be contacted on his Instagram handle @sadiqidas


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