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Aliza Vellani is no stranger within the Canadian entertainment industry.Particularly, the actress is well known for her role as the teenaged character of Layla Siddiqui on CBC’S hit sitcom,Little Mosque on the Prairie.
With Little Mosque having been off the air for nearly 2 years and Aliza continuing to explore pursuits within the Canadian entertainment industry , I thought it’s a great time to connect with the delightful actress.
Particularly we discuss Little Mosque’s impact, her reflections on portraying the character of Layla as well as the series finale and much more! We also discuss the actress’ role on CTV’S Motive in the show’s upcoming second season which is scheduled to debut in summer 2014.
Read through the complete interview with Aliza Vellani below and share your thoughts on it in the comments section.
Abbas Karimjee:How do you think both Little Mosque and specifically the character of Layla will be remembered as?
Aliza Vellani:I think Layla will be remembered as a loveable Muslim teenager. A young girl, who simply goes through the everyday struggles of discovering her own identity. Layla had the added challenge of finding a balance between her family values and the values of the community at large. I think this is something all teenagers can relate to and it makes Layla a charming character to remember.
AK: Little Mosque on the Prairie aimed to dispel stereotypes about Muslims and help bring light to the way in which we are all similar regardless of our cultural or religious differences. To what extent do you think the show was successful in achieving this goal and essentially how do you think it changed how the mainstream society perceives Muslims?
AV:Little Mosque on the Prairie was remarkable as it served to educate its audiences on Islamic culture and practices in a humourous and family friendly setting. In doing so it tried to dispel those stereotypes by using them as a source of laughter. In a wonderful ‘laugh at yourself’ style.
AK:Little Mosque was the first of its kind, in terms of a show which used comedy to showcase Muslims in a positive light. How do you think the fact that CBC dared to feature the show, reflects Canadian culture?
AV:I think it reflects Canadian culture in a very positive light. CBC tackled sensitive and potentially controversial issues in a great way. It demonstrated multiculturalism and acceptance as a work in progress not just in Canada but around the world.
AK:When we last saw Layla in the series finale, she informed her father, Baber [Manoj Sood] that she had decided to pursue acting instead of going to medical school. Although the show is no longer on the air, what was your reaction to Layla’s decision and how do you envision her future?
AV:In many ways, I saw a big part of myself in Layla. It made the ending so special to me because it reflected my own pursuit in life. I like to imagine that Layla still manages to drive her Dad crazy with her choices in life and yet give him memories to cherish. I believe the healthy tug of war between Baber and Layla continues in every loving household as young girls explore their options in life with Daddy on guard.
AK:How has working on Little Mosque impacted both your career and your personal life?
AV:Being on Little Mosque on the Prairie was the most amazing experience. The best training one can get is through experience. I was so lucky that Little Mosque presented itself to me at such a young age. I was also very lucky to be able to work with several seasoned performers. They remain my mentors and I consider them part of my family. I really grew up on that show and it felt like a wonderful chapter in my life ended with the series. Little Mosque on the Prairie gave me more than I ever could have hoped and I will always be grateful for that.
Let us discuss your role on CTV’S Motive.
AK: What character do you portray and how many episodes do you appear in?
AV:I play a doctor named Dr. Gita Ambreen in the eighth episode of Motive’s second season.
AK:Lets discuss how you were appointed to the role of Dr.Ambreen. Were you contacted or did you audition? Could you please walk us through this initial process?
AV:My agent, Emilio Salituro from Muse Artist Management, had contacted me with the audition a couple of days before the taping. Luckily, I was able to audition between classes at SFU.
AK: What can you tell us about Dr.Gita Ambreen? Could you please describe her personality and perhaps how it differs from Layla’s?
AV:Layla was a teenager in the series while Dr. Gita Ambreen is both an adult and a doctor. Dr. Ambreen is a naturally professional character. She follows protocol. On the other hand Layla, was a charming but rebellious teenager.
AK:Portraying a role in a crime series can have a more serious and darker tone than a comedy series such as Little Mosque on the Prairie. What challenges were involved in adjusting to working on a darker, more serious show? Which type of genre do you prefer working in?
AV:A comedy is very light hearted while a crime series is quite serious reflecting high stakes. I loved working in comedy, but being part of a crime genre was new and extremely exciting. It is definitely a genre that I would love to do more of.
AK:Did you have to do research to portray the role of a doctor? If so, could you please walk us through this process?
AV:Much of the dialogue in the scenes was fairly straightforward so there wasn’t much I had to research. Of course an important part in preparing for a scene is making sure you know exactly what you are talking about. I had to make sure I truly understood what I was saying, and knew how Dr. Gita Ambreen contributed to the events that occurred.
AK:Motive is a series where investigators try to look at who committed a murder by looking at what the motive of the crime is and based on that, who may have committed the crime. Without giving too much away, how does your character support the storyline of the episode in which you appear?
AV:Dr. Ambreen plays a small role in furthering the investigation when Detectives Vega and Flynn follow a lead in the case.
AK:Though you only worked on Motive for one episode, are there any favourite memories either onscreen or off screen which you would like to share with viewers?
AV:Working on Motive was a wonderful experience. It was great getting to know the other cast and crew on the show between takes on set. My favourite moments on set seem to occur when the unexpected happens. As I was playing a doctor, I was given a pager to attach to my belt during the scene. As we began to run the scene, my pager goes off in the middle of the scene. It was an unexpected surprise.
Lets discuss your career in general.
AK:You recently completed studying Theatre at the Simon Fraser University. Congratulations! How does it feel and what aspirations do you have for your acting career at this point?
AV:Thanks Abbas! It is such a relief to have completed my university degree but also very scary as I enter yet another new and unknown chapter in my life. As an actor, you are constantly in training to strengthen your skills but this will be the first time I will be pursuing acting without being a fulltime student. I think at this point in my career, anything is possible. I am very excited to put all of my efforts into being an actor and working hard to achieve that goal.
AK: You have led a distinguished career, having developed a fair bit of prominence within the Canadian entertainment industry. What advice do you have for youth who are interested in pursuing a career in acting or in the arts, in general?
AV:Thank you again. That is so kind of you to say Abbas. Hopefully this is just the beginning. It takes so much to pursue your passion and it is something I think everyone should do no matter what the obstacles. In pursuing acting as a career, I think my advice for youth would be to always try and have fun. The reason you pursue your passion is because you want enjoy what you do every day. If you lose that, what’s the point? Never forget to enjoy yourself, even when auditioning. In my mind, auditioning is just as much a part of the job description.
AK:Do you have a message for fans who have been following your career?
AV:I would like to say thank you for all the support I have been given so far, and I hope you will continue to enjoy the work I do in the future. It has been an amazing journey so far and I cannot wait for what lies ahead.
UPDATE:The winners of the blog’s first Little Mosque on the Prairie contest are readers, Batulbanu and Mvhelene! Congrats to you both and thank you to all of our valued readers who participated!
Participation awards will also be sent to some contestants!
This update has been featured through the blog’s social media platforms as well
Welcome to Abbas Karimjee’s Weblog’s first Little Mosque on the Prairie contest!
Readers have until 9:00am eastern standard time on Friday, January 24 to answer all of the questions below. The questions are related to the show’s first two seasons.Submit your response in the comments section.
Those readers who answer all questions correctly, will be entered into a draw for a chance to win an autographed photo of Aliza Vellani [Layla] or Manoj Sood [Baber].A total of 8 prizes will be awarded for this contest.
Winners will be announced by Monday ,January 27 and will be contacted by e-mail.
1. In the series premiere, which character gets arrested at an airport for comments which are mistaken as declaration of intent to commit a terrorist act?
2. Which character said the following quote-“Wine, gums, root beer, western traps designed to teach Muslims to drink Alcohol”.
3. Which character enters Mercy Anglican in the series premiere and is shocked to see the Muslim congregation praying inside the building?
4. In the second episode of the show’s first season, a debate takes place at Mercy mosque about whether or not a barrier should be installed between the men and women of the congregation.Which female character wanted the barrier?
5. In the first season episode entitled “The Open House” , which character’s negligence causes an electrical explosion which requires the members and Christian guests of Mercy Mosque to evacuate the premises?
6. In the episode ”The Open House”, what does the Mayor want to be handed out to all of the guests as a condition for her attending the event?
7. In the first season, Marlon briefly converts to Islam and takes a extreme approach in practicing the religion. As a way to make him change his faith, what are four un-islamic things which Yasser, Sarah, Fatema, Rayyan and Baber do in front of him?
8. In the show’s first season, Mother Hammoudi arrives to Yasser and Sarah’s house asking Yasser to do something which really upsets Sarah .What did Mother Hammoudi ask of Yasser and why?
9. In the show’s first season, Rayyan develops a petition to get a female swimming instructor for the Muslim women after Fatima has an injury which requires her to take swimming lessons. Which character is specifically avoiding signing the petition for a personal gain and what is that personal gain?
10. What is the name of the firefighter who shows a strong ,romantic interest towards Rayyan in the show’s first season ?
11. In the second season episode, “ No fly list”, Baber claims that he is on the no fly list and is accompanied to the American consulate by two other characters to clear his name.Who are the two characters who accompany Baber and what is the real reason why Baber has been unable to fly?
12. In the second season episode entitled ”Jihad on Ice”, which four Muslim characters initially participate in a curling team?
13. In the second season episode entitled “Jihad on Ice”, Sarah discovers an Islamic tradition which requires Yasser to pay for her material needs. When he must follow this rule, how does Yasser trick Sarah into making her think she is actually owning as many clothes as she thinks she is?
14. In the second season episode, “Welcome To Mercy”Sarah assumes the role of acting mayor and is responsible for creating a new sign after the old one is destroyed in an accident.The new sign contains the phrase welcome in many different languages, but there is something wrong with it. What is wrong with the sign?
15. In season 2 Layla develops a crush which leads Amaar and Rayyan to believe that he is the object of her attraction. Although they are mistaken, what is the name of the person who Layla actually did have a crush on and how did Baber react when he discovered this?
16. In the show’s second season, Sarah participates in a charity talent show:
a] What talent does she showcase?
b] Baber initially objects to her participation until Layla makes a discovery which makes him to change his attitude about Sarah’s behaviour. Why is Baber against it and what exactly does Layla discover?
17. In the show’s second season, Fatema aspires to obtain her Canadian citizenship and receives help from two characters on the show to study for her testing. Who are the two characters who help her study?!
18. In the second season episode entitled “Lucky Day”, Sarah wins a lottery of $5000 and receives guidance from Rayyan and Amaar .After thinking about it , how she does she spend the money?
19 . Which character said the following :”See,I was never really good with rules, honey. When I was in school I always left my hall pass in the bathroom”.
20. In the episode entitled “Islam on Tap”, JJ discovers Rayyan’s past experience with dating as a teenager and become jealous about this. As a way of expressing his jealousy what activity does he make Rayyan participate in and why?
Every week until the season 3 premiere of Mr. D on February 24 @ 9:00pm, CBC will be releasing a webisode of “Jimmy Get Out” .The short online episodes cover the variety of escapades which the character of Jimmy undertakes after he routinely gets kicked out of class by his teacher, Gerry Dee.
See this week’s episode below to see how Gerry assists Trudy in the office during his time out from class and share your response to this week’s clip in the comments section!
Happy New Year to the blog’s valued readers and supportive affiliates!I truly hope that 2014 brings you all an excess of happiness, health and prosperity!Thank you for your continued support and involvement through visits and comments on the blog, which has greatly contributed to the site’s ongoing operation.
LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE
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Take a look at a clip from the coming season of Mr. D directly below.
The clip features the character of Gerry Dee attempting to discourage the #1 pick in the 2013 NHL draft Nathan MacKinnon, from pursuing a career in hockey since Gerry himself was unable to succeed in that pursuit. Share your response to the clip in the comments section.
The third season of Mr. D will debut at some point in March 2013, with an exact date to be finalized by CBC later this month. Stay tuned a report from the blog!
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