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Nina Wadia (Zainab Masood, 'EastEnders')

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Nina Wadia

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Old tensions and unresolved issues between the Masood family return to the forefront of EastEnders next week as Tamwar and Afia's engagement party at the Argee Bhajee ends in disaster. After Yusef deceives Syed by telling him that his parents want him to be at the celebration, tempers become frayed when he and his partner Christian turn up unexpectedly. However, in a dramatic turn of events, the family's latest row is interrupted as the restaurant's roof suddenly caves in, leaving Syed in serious danger. Keeping up the family estrangement, Zainab makes the heart-wrenching decision to ignore her son's perilous situation, but has she really cut him off for good? Nina Wadia, who plays Zainab, recently chatted to Digital Spy about the emotional storyline.

How is Zainab feeling as Tamwar and Afia's engagement party approaches?
"She's very conflicted. It's a huge problem for her because obviously Yusef is Afia's father, so he's involved. I don't think she'd have a problem with Afia if she didn't happen to be the daughter of her ex-husband, but because that is the case, she's not happy with the situation. I think she does actually have a warm spot for Afia, though, and I think she also recognises a lot of herself in her - she likes her. So Zainab definitely has mixed feelings."

For the most part, Zainab has stopped short of directly opposing Tamwar and Afia's relationship. Do you think that's because she's learned lessons from her experience with Syed?
"Yes, it's exactly that reason. You've hit the nail on the head and that's exactly why. She doesn't want to lose another son."

In a twist, Tamwar has already married Afia before the engagement party. How do you think Zainab would react if she found out?
"I think all hell would break loose! It would actually break her heart more than anything else, because she would feel betrayed again. That seems to be a theme for the Masood family - a sense of betrayal and a sense of pride."

How does Zainab feel when Christian and Syed arrive at the engagement party?
"She's pretty horrified! I think the last thing she wants is for Syed to stand up to her in front of the entire community and say, 'It's okay for me to be here because I'm a part of this family'. Deep down, Zainab would probably love for that to be true, and she probably does believe that is true. But at that moment, being shown up in front of the community and in front of her friends, she is not going to back down. She's way too strong-minded for that."

As they are arguing, the ceiling of the restaurant suddenly gives way.
What was it like to film the dramatic Argee Bhajee roof collapse scenes?
"It was great fun, actually! It wasn't meant to be, but it was. Obviously there was a stunt and it's always exciting when there's a stunt involved, so it was quite incredible to film. I can't wait to see what it actually looks like on screen. We had bits of dust falling on people, which the audience will be able to see but the characters don't notice at first. And then, of course, there's the actual collapse. They had a stunt guy for Marc, so I have lots of pictures of the two Marcs, which makes me laugh!"

Did it take a long time to film the stunt scenes?
"Oh yes, there was a rehearsal without doing the actual stunt - two or three in fact. There's also a little safety talk that you get beforehand. Sometimes you think it can be a bit excessive when it comes to the safety aspect, but you don't ever want it to be the other way around, so I wasn't complaining!"

Is Zainab out of harm's way when the roof collapses or is she in danger?
"She's definitely in danger - she gets a bit of a knock, and there's dust all over her head too. Pretty much everyone comes out with stuff all over them. Also, Zainab is right there watching when the roof beam collapses down on to Syed."

How does Zainab feel when she sees that Syed is injured?
"It's very difficult. For me as an actress and a real mother it was very hard not to go up to my pretend son who's hurt. But you have to stay true to the story and the writers have decided that, in that case, she wouldn't. So that was hard - when you see someone who you really love hurt in that way, you want to be right by their side."

Syed is lying injured on the floor in the Argee Bhajee.
Have you missed sharing screen time with Marc Elliott?
"Oh gosh, absolutely! More than anything else, we just have such a laugh on set, so I miss him more for that reason than anything else. However, the one good thing about not working with him is that I don't end up crying as much, because we always have emotional scenes and Marc has the ability to really push those buttons."

Is there any chance the roof collapse could ultimately prove to be a turning point for the family feud?
"All I know at the moment is that there's a lot of tension and there's a lot of Zainab wanting things to be okay. Also, Christian says a few words to her that hit home - and Johnny Partridge is fantastic at that, he's got a real ability to make someone listen to him. So Zainab certainly has a few words said at her, and that makes her wake up to the fact that what she is doing is wrong. But whether or not they'll eventually get back together, even we don't know!"

What else can you tell us about what's ahead for the Masoods?
"What we've got over the next six weeks, the writers have done superbly. It's a real emotional rollercoaster. I mean, we even made the cameramen cry and that really says something, because they've seen a lot of things on this show! So there is stuff coming up that is particularly heart-wrenching and I feel very, very lucky to be part of that whole storyline."

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