Nina Wadia: “British Asians are in favour right now”

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By Reena Kumar

Goodness Gracious Me actress Nina Wadia has urged budding artists to “get out there” and make their move in the creative world because British Asians are “in favour” right now.

The former Eastenders star who was promoting her appearance in the new British romantic comedy Finding Fatimah, told Eastern Eye that there was currently a demand for ethnic talent in response to the rise of right wing politics.

“This is how the business works, you’ll have a couple of years where it’s the black actors who are really wanted and then you’ll have a couple of years where it’s oriental actors, but this is our year,” said Wadia.

Speaking in The Courthouse Hotel in central London, the mother of two described the shift as a rare opportunity.

She added: “If you look at it politically I think it’s in challenge to Trump and in challenge to what’s happening in this country.

“People are saying actually, we want our voices to be heard because we don’t like what’s going on in the world and that’s why there’s a need for ethnic talent so get out there, this is the year to push. It’s a rare opportunity.”

Imparting her advice to budding actors, she urged them to “please, for goodness sake train.”

“Actually learn how to do this because it makes a huge difference, it is a craft and never think it is going to happen overnight.”

However the seasoned actress who has a love of theatre, admitted that the industry was particularly hard for ethnic actors, but believes attitudes are shifting right now.

“You never know when the ball will turn again and it will be back to a sea of white again. It’s a tough business and you have to be resilient and you have to be persistent.”

Nina Wadia, Danny Ashok and Ambreen Razia in Finding Fatimah

In her latest role as Khadija in Finding Fatimah, Wadia plays the divorced mum of main character Shahid (Danny Ashok) who has also been married previously and is struggling to find “the one.”

She said she was drawn to the script because of the way Shahid had been affected by divorce.

“It was interesting reading the script that it affected the male young character in the same way (as the mother), and he had his own issues with it and for that reason, it was particularly important to be involved with the film. It highlights an issue which needs to be brought to the forefront, there’s a charity attached to the film and it supports new British Asian talent.”

Wadia played Zainab Masood on popular soap Eastenders for six years until she stepped down in 2013.

She said the role was a great springboard for her as it opened up a lot of doors, especially in the States. However, she admitted she would have left the soap earlier if she could have.

“If I could have done it differently I would have left Eastenders earlier because there’s a little bit of a curse attached to being in a soap. You want to do enough to be noticed, but you want to leave before they give you the big stuff because then your career’s already going up. There’s a lull that happens if you stay too long and that did happen to me where a lot of casting directors said ‘don’t touch her, she’s Zainab Masood.’”

Wadia admitted however that Eastenders suddenly made another country “sit up and notice” her. She has just returned from the country where she was involved in a pilot for a show called Champions for NBC Universal, playing a “very rich” Persian nail salon owner.

“Right now is an exciting time for me, things are happening in America, working on set in Universal Studios is a dream for me. There’s a lot of different work out there and we have to say this is our time now to play characters that we don’t normally get to do.”

Finding Fatimah releases nationwide in UK cinemas from April 21.

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