Actress, Aliza Vellani has been leading a distinguished career.Having had extensive experience in the arts through acting,dancing, improv and singing, Aliza first brought her talents and experience to the entertainment industry in CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie as the teenage character of Layla Siddiqui.
With Aliza being kind enough to participate in a interview with us and Layla’s return to Little Mosque on the Prairie fast approaching we decided to discuss how Aliza relates to the character, the challenges of playing Layla, the actress’ experience as a role model , Aliza’s plans for the future and much more!
1.Your parents immigrated to Vancouver, Canada from Tanga, Tanzania in East Africa. How do you relate to the character of Layla, especially given your family’s ethnic background?
When I first started the show, I was a typical 14-year-old teenager facing challenges with parents who were raised in an Indo East African culture. In addition, there was the generation gap and some peer pressure. In these respects, I related to Layla. However, my parents are more liberal than Layla’s father Baber. As I have gotten older, I have gotten closer with my parents in terms of communicating, understanding and accepting our differences. As a matter of fact, when I look back into my teenage years, I can laugh at some of our events as they were just as comical as Layla’s.
2.What has been the most challenging aspect of playing the role of Layla and how have you coped with this challenge?
Layla faces many challenges in her life, and sometimes has to compromise her wants for values instilled by her dad. As I connected with the character personally, I appreciated the extent of her compromises. Like any teenager she rebelled and tried tricking her dad to have her way. In the end she made the right choices. Layla is a great role model and a fun character. I love playing her.
3. How do you think Layla has developed over the course of the series and how would you like to see her further develop?
She has certainly matured. I would like to see her develop with a personality shaped by her own cheerful charm and individuality. It would be wonderful to see how she interacts in her new environment at the university without her father constantly reminding her to behave according to his expectations. I expect she will balance her life with the basic good values instilled by her father and community.
4.Could you please give us an idea as to the some of the challenges and surprises that are in store for Layla this season on Little Mosque on the Prairie?
This season Layla has returned from her first year at University. Her personality has matured. She is more confident of herself and yet retains that same mischievous charm we love.
5.How many episodes will you appear as Layla this season and in which episode can viewers expect to see you first reprise in the role?
I appear in the last two episodes this season. I am not too sure how much I can reveal about these episodes so lets say you will see Layla’s fun side.
6.Do you experience pressure as a role model, as a result of playing your character and why do you think the character of Layla is so influential?
The one major way Layla and I differ is how strict or conservative our respective cultures are. Layla is good role model and even inspires me to be a role model for others. Layla is a strong, confident character who, like any teenager, just wants to fit in. While Layla is influenced by friends and peer pressure, she manages to stay true to who she is. Layla shows us how to balance between two very different cultures and this has taught me to be a more confident role model as well.
7. What impact do you think Little Mosque on the Prairie has had on Canadian culture and why do you think the series has been such a worldwide success?
Little Mosque is a show that has proved that laughing about controversial matters is effective to both entertain and educate us about relevant issues in our community. I think the comical approach to understanding both the Islamic community and ourselves, within the bigger community, makes the show both thought provoking and entertaining to audiences worldwide.
8.What message would you like to convey to viewers of the series?
Thank you for all the support you have given Little Mosque over the years. For me, it has been a wonderful feeling knowing that people are enjoying something I put my heart into. I am very grateful for this entire experience. Once again, Thank you all very much for your support and encouragement! J
9. Are there any other acting projects you have been working on which you would like to share with the viewers?
For the time being, I have committed my time to University. I do audition and plan on pursuing a career in acting. I would ask the viewers to keep on the lookout in the upcoming future; I’m still in the game! J
10.What activities do you enjoy during your spare time?
I have many hobbies and interests. Like my mom, I have a very keen interest in the arts and have enjoyed many activities such as dancing, singing, painting/sketching, and even writing my own stories. If I had more time I would love to advance my Tae Kwan Do training and even learn to play the guitar. Above all, I enjoy spending time with my friends: watching movies, bowling, girl’s night out, and other fun stuff. Sadly there aren’t enough hours in the day so I try to do these things when I can squeeze the time.