Archive for the ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ Category
Theatre director/producer Darren Stewart-Jones sits down with Canadian star of stage and screen, Sheila McCarthy, for an intimate conversation with the actress about her life and career.
From her breakthrough, award-winning role in the film I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing to her recent six season run as Sarah on television’s Little Mosque On The Prairie, Sheila McCarthy continues to delight audiences with her unique character portrayals.
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12:00 – Registration – Dhur Prayer
1:00 – Introduction to Event (MC & Imam)
1:15 to 3:00 – Rotations & Introductions
3:00 – Lunch & Asr
3:45 to 5:30 – Introductions to candidates & opportunities to meet interested parties with coordinators
5:30 PM – Conclusion
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Zaib Shaikh has been leading a prominent career within the Canadian entertainment industry as an actor, producer, and director.Some of his most recent work includes the Gemini nominated film,Othello,The Tragedy of the Moor. Shaikh was actively involved in its creation as co director, co producer and co writer. Shaikh’s long list of television credits include series such as Metropia, Da Vinci’s City Hall and The Dead Zone. Currently, Zaib also has a great deal of involvement with many television and film productions through his production company, Governor Films.
Zaib Shaikh is best known for his role on Little Mosque on the Prairie as the compassionate ,Imam Amaar Rashid .With the show approaching its sixth and final season this and Zaib being kind enough to participate in an interview with me, we discuss how he was initially appointed the role, the challenges which he faced as he learned portrayed the character as well as how he has related to the character
Shaikh also reflects on Ammar’s relationship with Rayyan,[ Sitara Hewitt] from the two’s initial chaperoned dating to the controversial kiss which the couple shared after having been married.
Shaikh also gives viewers an update on what is to come in the show’s sixth and final season, in terms of Amaar’s married life with Rayyan, his new dynamic with Sarah Hamoudi[ Sheila McCarthy] as a son-in-law as well as his continued challenges of being Imam at Mercy Mosque. The talented actor also makes a noteworthy comment by sharing his perspective on how the series finale will satisfy viewers.
The actor also discusses his reaction to announcement of the show’s conclusion,shares his reflections on his favourite moments on the show, discusses his anticipations on how both Amaar and the show shall be remembered, Zaib’s experience as a role model as well as his final message to fans of the show.
Take a read through our complete interview with Zaib, below!
Abbas Karimjee:Lets discuss your initial appointment to the role of Amaar. Were you contacted for the role or did you audition? Could you please walk us through this initial process?
Zaib Shaikh:The Producers of the show heard of me through the director of the 1st season and he basically recommended me for the role.I put myself on tape because I was living in Vancouver at the time and lo and behold, the rest is history.
AK: How has being a real life Muslim allowed you to relate to the character? In what other ways have you also connected with Ammar?
ZS:I think Ammar is definitely connected to me because I’m a Toronto born Muslim who strongly believes in Canada, being Canadian and Canadian values but still has a strong spiritual connection to his faith. Ammar is actually a kind of perfect Canadian and that is something that has been my goal as a Canadian – to give the most I can to and for my country. Ammar is constantly striving to achieve the best of his Canadian-ness and the best of his connection to his faith every day and that’s something to admire.
AK:What challenges were initially involved in portraying the character of Amaar and how did you overcome this?
One of the biggest challenges is that Ammar is the nicest man I’ve NEVER met. He is honest, straightforward, optimistic, fair and committed to the best of everybody. I’ve known a lot of people of all kinds of cultures, creeds and religions and I have never met that kind of man – ever – so it’s hard to play a character that almost doesn’t exist no matter what his faith or nationality.
AK:How do you think Amaar has developed over the course of the series, both through his various relationships as well as an Imam at Mercy Mosque?
Ammar began as the outsider to this world, this community, and this group of people. Basically he was like the 2.1 million Canadians that watched our premiere on CBC. He met Mercy for the 1st time. Now as we present our farewell season, Amaar, like all Canadians and those audiences who watch it on over 80 countries worldwide, has become a citizen of a town, and idea, called Mercy.
AK:This season marks Little Mosque’s final season.What was your reaction when you discovered this and could you please briefly describe the circumstances which resulted in the show’s end?
ZS:This is a show that changed the world for the better and I think we were all thrilled that the show gets to have a farewell season as a kind of Thank You to our Canadian audience. So many successful shows don’t get that final chance to really give a proper ending to their story and I think it’s great that the Creative and Productions teams and CBC gave Little Mosque that chance.
AK:Last season Amaar and Rayyan became engaged and thus began dating through chaperone. According to Muslim law they refrained from physical contact. Could you please describe some of the challenges involved in this and the ways in which you think intimacy of their relationship was still conveyed?
ZS:It certainly is a unique romance on television. Typical love stories on Television shows have physical gestures and customs that everyone is used to seeing as they witness a progression of relationship between two characters. Sitara Hewitt and I had the challenge of showing all that progression through looks, smiles and physical distance until that first kiss for our season 5 finale. Ammar and Rayyan said “I love you” a whole season before they kissed. How weird is that? It’s incredibly challenging to pull of a romantic story arch in our setting and I’m proud of the work we achieved and the results it had for our audiences.
AK: Last season ended with Amaar and Rayyan, kissing in their rented limo as wedded couple. A certain portion of the online fan base expressed their views on how they thought it was inappropriate, both on the blog as well as through the show’s official Facebook page.What is your response to this perspective and what are your thoughts on the suitability of the scene?
ZS:I know a lot of married Muslims that kiss and some that don’t.The happier marriages are those with the kissing.The children of the marriages with the kissing are also better adjusted.That’s my experience.
AK:This season, Amaar and Rayaan return from their honeymoon to Mercy. Could you please give us an idea of some of the challenges which are in store for the couple as they begin their married life together?
ZS:I think the audience will enjoy seeing this particular Muslim couple in their home behind the white picket fence as it were.With Ammar and Rayyan it’s the first time in Television that any Muslim couple has fallen in love, married and moved into their own home. It’s all new and challenging and rewarding
AK: This season Sarah and Yasser finalize their divorce. Could you please give us some idea’s Amaar’s attitude and level of support towards Sarah as she goes through this?
ZS:Amaar is committed to being the perfect Canadian the perfect Muslim, the perfect husband and now the perfect son in law as well.No wonder he’s always so flustered.
AK: Could you please give us an idea of what this season is leading up to? What can viewers expect of the series finale itself?
ZS:They can expect something totally full circle and something that leaves an unforgettable smile on their faces by the end.
AK: How do you hope both Little Mosque and Amaar, in particular will be remembered as?
ZS;Little Mosque has already been called the Cosby show for Islam by Katie Couric, it’s won amazing humanitarian awards, it’s been inducted into the Museum of Television and Radio Arts in New York & LA, it’s in over 80 countries world wide and wherever I have been around the world whether Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, New York, Capetown, London, Los Angeles (you get the picture) someone always knows about Little Mosque and Amaar. That’s already happening or happened so I could hope for nothing better.
AK: Could you please share some of your favorite moments of working on Little Mosque, onscreen and/ or off-screen?
AK;How has working on the show,influenced both your acting career as well as your personal life?
ZS:A show like Little Mosque has indelibly etched itself into the hearts, minds and lives of all those that have worked on Little Mosque and I am no different.
AK: What has been your experience as a role model and why do you think the character of Amaar is so influential?Has being a real life Muslim added to the pressure of your role as an influential figure?
ZS:It is simultaneously incredibly humbling and pride filling to walk in Amaar’s shoes. He is a character under tremendous scrutiny by Muslims and Non-Muslims as an Imam and Muslim man and it’s one of the most challenging roles I’ve had to inhabit. Amaar can never just be Amaar Rashid. He’ll always be the Imam, he’ll always be the first Muslim character played by a Muslim actor as a leading character on television in the English speaking world. Frankly, that is terrifying and I can’t believe I ever agreed to do it.
AK:With Little Mosque coming to an end,what message would you like to convey to fans of the series?
ZS:Thank you to all our audiences who have tuned in and lived with us these past 6 years.Thank you to Canada for being a courageous country to show this kind of work and thank you to the CBC for making it happen. Little Mosque is seen as a “game changer” around the world and Canada and the CBC are recognized for being the country that launched such a show.
Actress Sheila McCarthy has been leading a distinguished career within the Canadian entertainment industry as an experienced singer and a talented film, stage and television actress.Sheila’s credits include a wide range of credits ,including her roles of films such as I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing and The Lotus Eaters, for which the actress was bestowed two individual Gemini awards . Additionally, Sheila has appeared in a variety of other Canadian films, including, Being Julia, Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen, The Day After Tomorrow and Die Hard.Sheila’s television credits include shows such as Picket Fences, I Was A Rat, Roxana, Missing, Wonderland and Road To Avonlea.
Sheila has now been starring in CBC’s hit sitcom, Little Mosque on the Prairie as the empathetic and spontaneous Muslim convert, Sarah Hamoudi.
With Sheila being kind enough to participate in a interview with us and Little Mosque on the Prairie currently under production for its sixth and final season we took the opportunity to chat with Sheila about her initial appointment to the role of Sarah, how the actress has related to her character, what is in store for the sixth and final season, Sheila’s thoughts on the show’s impact on Canadian culture and her view on why it resonates well with viewers , Sheila’s exciting plans for the future of her acting career and much more!
Abbas Karimjee: Lets discuss your initial appointment to the role of Sarah. Were you contacted for the role of Sarah or did you audition for the role? Could you please walk is through this initial process and any challenges which were involved?
Sheila McCarthy:I was offered the role of Sarah without auditioning which was a gift. The producers originally thought of me for the role of the MAYOR ANN POPOWITZ but my agent, Perry Zimel, recommended they cast me as SARAH and they did
AK: How are you similar to the character of Sarah?
SM:The original role of SARAH was quite a straight ahead sort of part. The serious wife, a foil for the goofy husband. I had a lot of conversations with the original writers suggesting if they were going to really use me, perhaps they might beef up SARAH’s foibles and comedy so that she would become a more three dimensional part and so much more fun to play. We had a very inclusive writing team that first season and the collaboration was wonderful. SARAH and I are similar in many ways really. A little disorganized but well meaning and optimistic for sure! She is probably a tad more organizationally impaired than me but not much!
AK:What challenges are associated with playing the Sarah and how have you overcome these challenges?
SM:I was not versed at all in the MUSLIM world so my learning curve was enormous. Having been raised a Catholic as a child , I really had my eyes opened to a whole new world of Islamic rules and tradition. It is one of the many perks of my business to learn new things and I loved immersing myself into this universe that was so foreign to me. I read a lot of material, we visited a mosque in Regina and I picked the brains of Muslims on set. I have also taken a much greater interest now in world affairs because of being a part of this special cutting edge show.
AK:How do you think the character of Sarah has developed over the course of the series and what aspirations do you have for the character , with the show drawing to a close?
SM:SARAH has grown immeasurably over the last five seasons. From her marriage, to her new jobs, her daughter’s marriage, her new arc this season being on her own, SARAH has really matured in many ways. She is still a lovable under dog and very sweet, but maybe more vulnerable now as she faces a new life of singledom. My challenge has been to bring dignity to her even as she screws up again and again. it is a fine line and I love the process. I would hope that now SARAH will move on in her life, stand up for herself with even more strength and maybe even find love again.
AK:Could you please give us an idea as to what is in store for the sixth season of Little Mosque on the Prairie , in terms of the overall direction and general storylines which the series will pursue this season?
SM:This season the marriage of my daughter RAYAN and AMAAR will be put under the telescope as well as SARAH’S own newly found independence. Everyone will have a bit of closure as we know it is the final season. A rare thing indeed in television land! SARAH will long for YASIR and her marriage and probably also long for the pitter patter of little grand children. Whether or not that will happen is up the writers! SARAH will grow up and realize she can stand on her own two feet and probably discover a strength she didn’t know she had!
AK :What challenges will the character of Sarah are in store for Sarah this season, both in terms of her relationship with her family as well as a resident of Mercy?
SM :As I said above, SARAH will find herself in many ways and also probably find a newly won respect for her married daughter and her best friend Ann. That friendship will deepen after a lot of fun and dates and mishaps I am sure!
AK: Little Mosque on the Prairie has achieved international success , airing in over 68 countries as well as in Canada, with the series premiere, earning a CBC record breaking viewership of 2. 1 million. What impact do you think Little Mosque on the Prairie has had on Canadian culture and why do you think the show has resonated with viewers so well?
SM :I think one of the most endearing and lasting impressions Little Mosque has had in Canada is our loyal fan base and also the audiences who love the show for it’s humour and sweetness. The politics are there but what I love is the relationships our audiences care about. It means people have somehow forgotten that it is about Muslims and Anglicans. It is just about people sharing a church and a community. Everyone snores! Everyone makes mistakes! Everyone loves and everyone has a community. The joy of people coming up to me every day to discuss our little show is overwhelming.
AK:What is your reaction to Little Mosque ending this season and how do you hope both the series and the character of Sarah, in particular, is remembered?
SM:I am always sad when a show ends but it is actually rare and wonderful to know it will be. Most often you shoot a TV series and you do not know that. This way, we can say goodbye to our little epic with a lot of fondness and love. I would hope that show has many more years of shelf life in reruns when future generations can tune in and get to know the town of MERCY!
AK:How has being a cast member on this series impacted your career and how has it influenced your personal perspective on the Muslim community?
SM:I have loved being part of this show. It has been so great to be known and recognized for it and I am so proud of every season. I decided to stay in Canada a long time ago to work and being a part of this success story has been indescribable. I am grateful for it. I am 55 now and a lot of my peers in this precarious business do not get the chance to work as much as I do. I feel very lucky. As for the Muslim community, I can only hope we have portrayed even a fraction of life behind and in front of the barrier with truth and humor. it was everyone’s intention from producers to cast to directors to writers to educate and entertain in the best possible way. if we have achieved this in even a small way then I am thrilled.
AK:What is your reaction to being a role model and what influence do you think the character of Sarah exerts towards Canadian culture?
SM:I don’t know how much of a role model I have been portraying SARAH. I suppose I have been a sort of window in the Muslim world in the sense that SARAH married into the culture and wasn’t born into it. She has always had one foot in the door as a Muslim and one foot out in the secular world. Perhaps people outside the Muslim world have been able to see through her eyes as it were with all her struggles to be Muslim and yet maintain her independence as well.
AK:Reflecting on your experiences as a cast member to date, what are some of your favourite moments working on the series, either on screen or off-screen, in production?
SM:I realize know that a great part of being on LITTLE MOSQUE was getting to know and love and work with Debra McGrath who plays my boss on the show, the mayor Ann Popowitz. Deb and I bonded the first day and have become fast friends through thick and thin. This does not always happen and believe me our giggles on set are legendary. I will certainly miss everyone involved in the show once we are finally done but there will be lasting friendships also because of it and six seasons of wonderful memories. I have also loved working and getting to know my daughter on the show Sitara Hewitt, through her marriage both on and off screen and motherhood in the wings. Her grace and compassion are unparalled and we will be friends forever as well.
AK:Have you been working on any other recent acting projects which you would like to share with viewers?
SM: I have been developing other projects with my co-writer Brendan Howley and we are working with WESTWIND right now on a future TV series that will bring back all of our favourites! I have two beautiful daughters and I am watching them launch into their futures with great love and hope.
AK: With Little Mosque on the Prairie drawing to a close this season, what message do you have for viewers of the series?
SM:I don’t have any messages really for the loyal viewers of our little show except to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for watching us every week and following our little family through the years. I hope you have enjoyed the show and maybe , just maybe, learned a thing or two about the world we live in and how we are all here to live and work and play together. And for future audiences, I hope you will watch LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE and do the same.
AK:What activities do you enjoy during your spare time?
SM:In my spare time I write, work out every day, read, travel, stay close to friends and family and try to keep working and learning new things! I may even learn to play the grand piano I just bought on a bit of a whim! I also lend my support to Canadian Feed The Children, Meagans Walk, and am planning to work with the Canadian Lung Association in some capacity this fall. I teach a film class at Humber College which I find extremely rewarding. Seeing young talent emerging is incredible.
Indeed, actress Arlene Duncan has been leading a prominent career as a multitalented Canadian singer and actress, who has appeared in numerous television and feature film productions , including Puppets Who Kill, Regenesis, Degrassi: The Next Generation. The actress currently stars in CBC’s hit sitcom, Little Mosque on the Prairie, as the outspoken, strong-minded café owner, Fatema Dinssa.
With Arlene being kind enough to participate in a interview with us and Little Mosque progressing in its exciting fifth season, we took the chance to discuss the challenges of playing Fatema, how Arlene relates to the character, the actress’ experience of being a role model as a result of her role as Fatema , as well as the other acting projects which Arlene has been involved in and much more!
1.Although your previous roles have varied greatly from your current role as Fatima, how have you still been able to draw from your past experiences as an actress to enhance your performance as Fatima?
Coming from a Jamaican-Canadian background, I grew up surrounded by some very strong, independent women with gregarious personalities. I’d like to think I bring a lot of that experience to Fatima’s character. In the script she’s a ‘Nigerian Muslim café owner’, but to me, she is a mother, a businesswoman who speaks her mind and a woman who lives and expresses her faith and her culture. These qualities are pretty universal and I think that’s why so many people are able to relate to her
2. How familiar were you, with the religion of Islam, prior to being appointed the role of Fatima ?
I was only vaguely familiar with the Islamic religion but have learnt a great deal more while preparing for the role, through friendships I’ve made with Muslim women and with the help of our onset production advisors over the past five seasons.
3. How do you think Fatima has developed over the course of the series and what aspirations do you have for the character?
I think the character of Fatima has been pretty consistent over the past five seasons. I see her and the café as something of an anchor in the town of Mercy. She knows and has an opinion about everyone and everything, and can be depended on in her own quirky way, to give out comfort, a good meal and sound practical advice. I’ve also enjoyed the episodes where we find out more about her background and her personal life and would be thrilled to be able to explore that more! But it’s only a half hour comedy
4. How do you relate to the character of Fatima?
Playing Fatima is a lot of fun. I have always been attracted to other cultures, especially African culture and it’s a pleasure being able to bring to life such a strong-minded, straight-talking personality. Another one of the many benefits of playing Fatima is that unlike actresses on other television shows, due to her wardrobe, I have the luxury of never having to worry about a ‘bad hair day’ or stressing about my weight! Like a lot of people I was under the misguided impression that as a rule Islamic women were shy, quiet and reserved, so when I was offered the role I was a little apprehensive but Fatima and I do have a lot in common. We are both strong-minded, independent women, and I do love to cook–although I don’t have a team of clever writers giving me witty lines to say on a daily basis!
5. What has been the most challenging aspect in portraying Fatima and how have you coped with this challenge?
I feel that the most challenging aspect of playing Fatima has been of course, trying to consistently portray her African & Islamic culture authentically. With every script it’s my challenge to take the words off the page and ‘translate’ my lines into Fatima’s rhythm or accent. We have Islamic advisors on set that are always available to answer questions, solve problems and do things like: make sure that when shooting in warm weather that we strike a compromise when I challenge them on just how many layers I really need to keep on! Every season I shop for the newest batch of Nollywood movies that I keep running in my dressing room as part of my ‘background atmosphere’—I somehow think Fatima also, would enjoy watching her Nigerian movies as a way to keep in touch with her homeland
6. Fatima has had intimate encounters with both the characters of Fred and Baber. Which of the two would you prefer to see Fatima in a romantic relationship and why? What challenges do you see Fatima facing with the chosen character?
While I love both characters Fred and Baber, Fatima has very different relationships with each of them. Fred has a heart of gold but is publicly very anti-Muslim & Baber loves to rant and challenge everyone’s religious correct-ness which I think keeps him from just being able to relax and connect with other people. In a nutshell, they are both very complicated men who are ‘works in progress’! As actors we don’t know what plans the writers have for our characters, but I think if Fatima was going to have a real relationship, it would be very interesting if it was with some mysterious new character who comes to town to be a real match for her personality. We might see a whole new side to Ms. Fatima Dinssa
7. Could you please give us an idea as to the challenges and surprises, which are in store for Fatima this season?
Isn’t it more fun to see what happens as the season unfolds?
8. What has been your experience as a role model and why do you think the character of Fatima is so influential?
As I said before, I was under the misguided impression, like a lot of people, that Islamic women were generally a very unassuming oppressed group and I think it’s very eye-opening for people to see a character like Fatima, who is so much like your mother, sister, aunt or friend…no matter what religion or culture you might be from. When people recognize me from the show they often comment on how they relate to the things she does or know people who are just like her. There are also so few prominent actors of color on television today that I’m often asked to speak at youth and cultural events encouraging young artists and inspiring them by my example that it’s possible to pursue their dreams of a career in the arts. In 2009, I was named Honorary Chairman of Literature for Life, a Toronto-based organization created to engage at-risk young families in building a culture of literacy and learning—to invest in their own families and futures. In 2010, I was awarded by the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton & the Government of Ontario, the Five Pillars Award for Arts & Culture.
9. Have you been working on any other acting projects, which you would like to share with viewers?
I have been able to work on a few other film and television projects since we finished shooting this season such as a comedic guest role as rival high school Principal Mooser on ‘Wingin’ It’ on the Family channel, and I’m looking forward to an upcoming musical theatre project later on in the year.
10. What message would you like to convey to fans of the series?
I would like the fans of Little Mosque on the Prairie and the readers of your blog to know that we really appreciate the support they’ve given us over these past five seasons and hope that they continue to enjoy following the adventures of the residents of the town of Mercy.
After several weeks of waiting, an official indication regarding Little Mosque on the Prairie’s future has been released. Indeed the series has been renewed for a fifth season, reports TV. Guide.ca.
Although CBC will not provide an official statement regarding the program’s renewal until the end of the month, the production for the upcoming season commenced last week.The news will indeed be a relief for many members of the fandom who were concerned about the program’s continuity after it was revealed that the series’ viewership had drastically decreased to less than 400,000 viewers.
The fifth season will consist of 13 episodes, the first of which will debut in January 2011. Readers should note that the exciting fifth season will feature all of the cast members who were present in the series’ inaugural season , including Carlo Rota[ Yassir Hamoudi], who was absent in the final half of the previous fourth season due to alternate professional commitments as well as Derek McGrath[ Reverend McGee] who was not apart of the cast during the fourth season.Rota will appear in only a handful of episodes throughout the season as he continues to have alternate commitments while McGrath will return for various episodes in the second half of the impending season.
As far as storylines are concerned, the following season will have a central focus on Ammar [ Zaib Shaikh] and Rayaan”s [ Sitara Hewitt] developing relationship since the two confessed their love for each other in the season 4 finale. Executive producer , Marry Darling commented on the challenges brought forth in presenting this storyline indicating that “Once love is professed, the whole chaperoning is taken to a new level. It’s been a real kick for our writers to not only figure out how to keep characters apart but to keep them from touching each other.”
Brandon Firla’[Reverend William Thorne] will also continue to be apart of the main cast during the upcoming season. According to Darling, his character will face challenges as he must now try to build a more respectable image and form positive relationships within the community.”He got his comeuppance at the end of last season and this year he’s dealing with that, trying to rebuild and find his real legs in Mercy. He’s trying to change but has some ingrained habits that make that hard”, says Darling.
Indeed we look forward to viewing the fifth season of Little Mosque on the Prairie . Are you excited about the new season? How do you feel about the direction the series is taking? What specific storylines would you like to see develop? Let us know in the comments section below!