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EASTERN EYE February 6, 2009

Roy sisters in Hollyoaks, talk about the show What do you think needs to be done to improve the representation of ethnic minority characters on the small screen? Saira: I think it is an important responsibility for television networks and producers to portray a fair and balanced viewpoint of ethnic minorities in Britain. The current media tends to focus too much on the negatives, often giving the wrong impression of reality. Lena: I think we need more young writers out there. That’s how things start – people want to tell new stories. I can’t name more than a few young Asian writers, especially female. We all know that people like Meera Syal are completely flying the flag but I just think we need more young BritishAsian writers.

Hollyoaks recently had a storyline which dealt with racism. Have you ever encountered racism while you were growing up? Saira: Yes, racism is something I have encountered growing up. Not anything major, but just occasionally being called names in the street or at school, which did not have many Asian people in it. But it is something that can deeply hurt people and make them feel completely alienated and alone. I think it’s great that Hollyoaks is dealing with this issue that has been around for decades and unfortunately, still goes on today. Lena: Nothing that’s been major in my life. I can remember name-calling when I was younger but I have never had a massive experience where I have had to deal with racism. But you hear about it all the time, like when Prince Harry was in the news recently. So you know it’s still around. Are there any exciting storylines coming up for the Roy family? Saira: All I can say is to keep watching Hollyoaks because Anita will be dealing with some deep issues and will need the support of her family more than ever. Lena: Oooh! That’s asking, but I can’t give away anything. It gets more dramatic for Leila. She moves on as a character and develops from this clumsy ditsy student into an adult. I think it’s really interesting to see how her relationship progresses with her family and with Justin Burton (Chris Fountain). She is growing up. Hollyoaks has its fair share of good-looking blokes. Have you (or your character) got your eye on anyone? Saira: Well, everyone knows Anita fancies Newt (Nico Mirallegro). She isn’t very subtle about it considering he has a girlfriend! Lena: (Laughs) We get asked this question all the time. No, I totally don’t see anyone like that. You just don’t – they are like your mates or people at work. Erm, as for Leila, I don’t know – she just has eyes for Justin. Your screen brother Stephen Uppal was featured in Eastern Eye’s sexiest Asian men list (No 21). Do you think he deserved to be in there? Saira: Hell, yeah, have you seen those muscles?

TIES THAT BIND: Lena Kaur (left) and Saira Choudhry; and (right) the Roy family

Lena: Yeah, he seems to be doing quite well with the whole sexy male thing, so good for him! Hollyoaks is known for its raunchy storylines. Are you comfortable with them? Saira: It doesn’t bother me. To me, it’s all in the name of acting. Lena: It’s fine if it was true to my character and it was needed to tell her story. Were there any moments while you were filming that stick with you? Saira: I had to do a fight scene with Lauren Valentine (Dominique Jackson) where I had to fall on my bum. This will always stick with me because of how painful it was after the 30th take (laughs). It was a really interesting day and we had a stunt coach teaching us how to make the fight look realistic. What are your greatest unfulfilled ambitions? Saira: I would love to do a Bollywood film. Lena: Travelling the world, writing more, going on loads of adventures and doing charity work. Have you ever considered Bollywood? Lena: I would love to do it, but I would be absolutely awful because I can’t dance, I can’t sing and I can’t speak Hindi or Urdu. I speak really rubbish Yorkshire Punjabi. Maybe they could superimpose my head on someone and dub my voice? Are there any other characters you would like to play which you haven’t already? Saira: There is an endless list. I couldn’t possibly say. For instance, I would love to play the lead in a biographical film. Lena: Yeah, I’m really interested in writing and I feel there are so many stories about my life that I have to tell, being a young female British-Asian artist and being from the North. I think they are really important and exciting and that’s why I will write them, and I’m gonna play them (Laughs)! What would you be if you were not actresses? Saira: I like travelling, so maybe an air stewardess. However, I would have to get over my fear of planes first. Lena: Something in the arts, like be a painter. What do you do when you are not working? Saira: I’m a gym freak, so that’s where I try to go as much as possible when I’m not working. And generally catching up with mates, going out and did I mention eating out? I’m a total greedy guts and love food – that is why I need to go to the gym. Lena: Just generally hang out, read, write, catch up with friends, go to the cinema. Finally, have you got a message for Hollyoaks fans? Saira: Thank you so much for all your support and please keep watching because Anita and the Roys have loads in store for ya! Lena: Thanks for watching and keep on doing that. Catch Hollyoaks every weekday on Channel 4 at 6:30pm



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Catch Hollyoaks every weekday on Channel 4 at 6:30pm Hollyoaks is known for its raunchy storylines. Are you comfortable with them? Saira: It...