Its been almost a year since we last connected with Little Mosque on the Prairie’s Manoj Sood[ Baber Siddiqui]. With the show approaching the commencement of its sixth and final season this January and Manoj being kind enough to participate in an interview with us,we discuss Baber’s upcoming friendship with Reverend William Thorne[ Brandon Firla], the character’s relationship with his daughter Layla[Aliza Vellani] as she furthers her independence at University as well as some details on Little Mosque’s highly anticipated series finale.
Manoj also reflects on his time on the show,by sharing his insights on how successful it has been in building bridges between the Islamic community and western society, how the show has impacted his professional life, his favorite moments from working on the show and his final message to viewers of the program.
Read through our complete interview with the actor, below!
Abbas Karimjee:Since we last connected,it was announced that Little Mosque on the Prairie would end after its upcoming sixth and final season.What was your reaction about the show coming to an end and what do you think were the factors which led to the decision to cancel the show? Could you please describe the atmosphere which was present on the set of Little Mosque during the final weeks of production?
Manoj Sood: Every show has a specific life span and Little Mosque is no different.Rarely do TV shows last more than 5 or 6 seasons in Canada so to last 6 seasons is a real achievement. The atmosphere on set was like any other season.Filming a TV show is a very busy process and when we are on set we focus on doing the job we are there to do which is to act. We knew well before the season started that it would be the last season so there were no surprises or heavy sentiment. The end was expected.
AK: This season Baber has a new storyline, in terms of becoming best friends with Reverend William Thorne [Brandon Firla] On the outset, the two seem like an odd pair given how Baber is an extremely conservative Muslim while Reverend Thorne is an Anglican leader who is also quite judgmental. Reverend Thorne also previously manipulated Baber, to help ensure that Mercy Mosque was evicted from the Church back in the show’s fourth season.
What was your initial reaction when you learnt of this storyline and could you please give us an idea as to the circumstances which help lead the two to becoming best of friends?
MS:I thought that a lot of humour would come from this unlikely friendship.That is the magic of TV: where very unrealistic situations become real and the result is laughter. The friendship began when Baber was running the Mosque while Amaar was away on his honeymoon.The details will become apparent in the first episode
AK: What are some of the challenges which the two will face with each other during the course of the season?
MS: They will face the challenge of maintaining a friendship in light of the fact they have very different views in terms of their religion and attitudes towards life.Of course these challenges force each of the 2 characters to face their own intolerances and make compromises to accept the differences in each other.
AK: Are there any other plot points regarding the friendship,which you are able to reveal?
MS: One aspect of a friendship is friendly competition.You will see the 2 competing in some very funny ways.
AK: Did portraying Baber’s relationship with Reverend Thorne present some acting challenges, given how the relationship has evolved to a genuinely friendly one as opposed to previous seasons?
MS: Fortunately we have very good writers on Little Mosque.When the writing is good much of the actor’s job is done and the rest is much easier. The challenge of portraying Baber as a friend of Thorne is no different to portraying Baber in any situation: the key is to be truthful to the character and everything will fall into place.
AK: How do you think becoming best of friends with Reverend Thorne, speaks to how Baber has developed over the years? Having played the character since Little Mosque’s inauguration in 2006, how else do you think the character has evolved over the course of the show?
MS: I guess I could dare say that Baber is a bit more tolerant but not too muchÉ.Otherwise he would become boring.Over the years Baber has become gentler yet he is still as ignorant and big-headed than ever.
AK: Last season Baber dealt with some of the challenges of being separated from his daughter, Layla [Aliza Vellani] who attended University elsewhere. Will viewers have the chance to see this relationship further explored in the final season? If so, could you please give us an idea of what is store for Baber’s relationship with Layla, particularly given how it was hinted in last season’s finale that Layla has become romantically involved at university?
Layla will be making some serious decisions about her future this season. How will Baber respond ?
MS: Layla is at university and she makes some serious decisions about her future…that’s all I can say about this though.
AK:Could you please give us an idea of what else is in store for Baber this season, as a treasurer/ member of Mercy Mosque?Also, what else is in store for Little Mosque’s final season, in general?
Baber continues to be a key figure and leader in the Mosque and his stubbornness and intolerance continues to raise issues in a very funny way. As for the show in general you will see new relationships develop between the different townspeople, some relationships will change and a few new-comers will show up. I also feel that you will see a more emotional side of Baber this season.
AK: The sixth and final season is all leading up to the series finale. What can viewers expect of the finale, episode itself?How suitable of an ending do you think the finale will be, in terms of how it wraps up the story lines of the characters of Mercy?
MS: The season ends with a bit of pageantry, a surprise for Baber a compromise for Amaar and a few goals being achieved. Sorry I can’t say more
AK: Little Mosque has been such a successful series both internationally as well as in Canada,with the series premiere having earned 2.1 million viewers.What impact do you think the series has had on Canadian culture and how do you think the series represents Canada, given how it is the first of its kind in building bridges between the Islamic community and western society? Also, how successful do you think the show has been in building bridges?
MS: The show has put a friendly face on a religion and group of people who have been tainted by unfortunate international events. I believe the show has done much to breakdown stereotypes. To a degree I believe that thanks to Little Mosque,Muslims are not automatically seen in a negative light as much as they once were.
AK: Has working on Little Mosque impacted both your career and your personal life? How?
MS: I like to think that working consistently on a show for so many seasons has developed and honed my acting skills. It has opened doors to other projects which came to me only because the producer or director knew my work on Little Mosque. I’ve been surprised when my agent tells me that she received an inquiry from a casting director in another country who liked my work on Little Mosque and wants to know if I am available for a new project.
AK: Reflecting on your experiences on the show, what are some of your favourite memories of working on Little Mosque, either on-screen or off-screen in production?
MS: I really enjoyed the Halloween episode in Season 1 and at a comedy award show I, as Baber, sang a lovely spoof of the Johnny Cash song, “Walk the Line”. I had never sung in front of an audience before so it was something I will never forget.
AK :In retrospect, how do you believe Little Mosque and Baber, in particular will be remembered as?
MS: Little Mosque was the first cultural sitcom in Canada that appealed to a broad audience.It will be remembered not only as a Canadian but an international success.It will be remembered as a show that built bridges between different peoples while at the same time making people laugh.I believe that Baber will be remembered as the first fundamental Muslim that people actually liked. He won’t be remembered for his dashing looks or sexy body….unfortunately ;-).
AK: Do you have a final message which you would like to convey to viewers of Little Mosque, with the show having drawn to a close?
MS: I really do appreciate all of you who stayed with the show thorough all of its changes over its six seasons.Thanks so much for watching!!!!
AK: With Little Mosque having drawn to an end, are there any other projects which you have been involved in? Also, what aspirations do you have for the future of your acting career?
MS: Right now I am focusing trying to write and produce my own television show. That is my long-term goal.
AK: What activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
MS: I am a very passionate amateur astronomer and fly fisherman. I spent much of July and August fishing all offer BC with my son. Most of my spare time when I am not at work is spent with my son and our goofy dog named Mowgli.