Nina Wadia: ‘It’s really important we encourage our own communities to get together and to support each other’

By Fatima Patel

Best known for her role as Zainab Masood on EastEnders, actress Nina Wadia is back on the big screen, with Finding Fatimah.

Finding Fatimah is a film which explores the British Muslim dating scene and Nina plays the role of a mother who is looking for her own partner and becomes infatuated with a man thirteen years her junior.

You wouldn’t expect anything less from Nina, but a standout performance. After all Nina is renowned for her role in the timeless sketch-show Goodness Gracious Me and has won several awards and accolades

Our Editor caught up with the Goodness Gracious Me star during the promotions of the upcoming British comedy and yes Nina too greeted our Editor with … I’ve found you Fatima…

Fatima Patel: So, tell us how did you get involved in the film?

Nina Wadia: I got an email from Oz, the director, via my agency saying: ‘would you read this’ it was originally called Single British Muslim and I thought it was a funny title and I said I would read the part and see if I like it and I did like it. So I said yes I would do it for him.

Wonderful, so you didn’t have to do any auditions and they had already planned this part for you.

Yes, he was hoping I would say yes, which is very complimentary and very nice.

That must feel amazing when people are approaching you with their scripts with a role already in mind for you to play.

That is, it really is. That’s probably because I’m very old.
(Laughter)

fatimah -nina wadia Mum_DaughterIn the film, you play the part of a mother who is infatuated with a man thirteen years her junior. What attracted you to play this role apart from obviously being asked by the director? What was it you liked about this role?

I liked a few things. Firstly I like supporting any new British Asian talent that’s out there, because I think that’s really important we encourage our own communities to get together and to support each other. I like that some of the proceeds to this film go to charity. I like that an issue,  about divorce being like a stigma issue within the Muslim community is being talked about and I liked the cast and you know Oz brought a lot of warmth to the movie, you know the way he directed it, it’s such a sweet little kind of fun film, it will leave you feeling really good.

Whether you’re working on film or TV, you’ve frequently displayed a wonderful talent for sarcasm and often very funny put downs and obviously comic humour. Is that something that comes naturally to you? Are you naturally gifted in that sense, because most of your roles, whether film or TV have been down that route? So, tell us more about the real Nina.

I have a very very dark sense of humour and it comes out through sarcasm for sure. So yes, that is mostly me.

So, is that what draws you to these kinds of roles? Because your personality is pretty much similar?

I like anything were you can combine, kind of empathy for a character with a sense of humour. That for me is the most important and you have to like a character. You actually have to warm to someone in order to find them funny. If you don’t like someone, even if they are funny, you’re not going to find them funny. So, it’s having that empathy, that the audience can relate to, to then, you know, let them appreciate the sense of humour.

You mentioned you love supporting British Asian projects. Tell us how important do you think a film like Finding Fatimah is for the British Film Industry today?

I think it its hugely important how amazing is it going to be to have two brown faces on the front of a poster, you know, out here in Leicester Square, or out all over the country. You don’t see that very often. So it’s great, we need that, we need our British Asian film industry to take off. We don’t want to have to rely on other people to do it for us. Let’s do it ourselves.

Are there any memorable incidents that you’re able to share with us, while you were working on the film?

There was a scene in which I had to, like Oz wanted me to walk around the table getting breakfast ready or something like that and I was also on the phone at the same time. So I said can I just shove the phone into my scarf and just be hands free and then that just set off a whole series of jokes about how you can use the headscarf. So, I did the scene with the phone shoved in my scarf and he said actually a lot of women do that, so that just made me laugh. I thought that was really cute.

fatimah Nina_Wadia_scarfWonderful, will look forward to watching that in the film. Going a little bit away from the film, everyone remembers you from your role as the infamous Mrs Zainab Masood in Eastenders. Do you ever miss being on the show and is there a chance you can make a return on the famous soap?

Yes there is a chance I could do that, that is always in question. It won’t be immediate I’ve literally just come back from LA I just did a job for NBC Universal called Champions. So my careers going in a very different direction to heading back to the square, but in this job you never say never, because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future and I loved my part in Eastenders. I thought Zainab Masood was an incredible character and I hope at some point she will be revived in the future, but it won’t be immediate unfortunately.

What kind of characters do you prefer playing? We’ve seen you do a lot of comedy; we’ve seen you in Bollywood as well, in Namaste London, where you played a mother. What kind of film or what kind of acting roles would you enjoy doing? What challenges you?

I mean my ideal part and I’d like to play her one day is Kate in Taming of the Shrew. I love Shakespeare, I started in Shakespeare, I did seven years practically worth of it before I went in to radio, to do Goodness Gracious Me and then into TV from there. So for me my first love always has been and always will be theatre. So, if there is a possibility to do something in that vein, I would love it, but TV seems to have taken over and film. They’re mediums that just from a financial point of view it’s easier to be a TV actress. You can support a family; with theatre it’s very hard because theatres you know, I can afford only as much as I can.

Well we hope someone is listening and gives you your ideal role someday. We’d like to thank you for talking to us and would like to wish you all the best for Finding Fatimah.

Thank you!

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