At the end of last week, I was fortunate enough to catch up with one of my favourite actresses Nina Wadia during a break from filming to chat about her character's gobsmack-worthy storyline twist.
I don't know about you, but when I first heard about Zainab's pregnancy, I didn't believe it. But they're going for it and Nina's actually walking around set with a fake pregnancy bump already, so it looks like she'll be going full term and attending mothers' meetings with Heather (Cheryl Fergison) and baby
For the main part of my interview with Nina, click your clicking thing here. Otherwise, read on for some more juicy tidbits from Nina about the development of Zainab, her view on the Syed and Christian plot as well as her hope for her screen daughter Shabnam (Zahra Ahmadi) to return.
Do you have a lot of input into the character or are you told a lot about who she is?
"It's a blend. What I've found here is a compromise. Dominic [Treadwell Collins] and the writers have come up with a fabulous direction for her. Any time I meet a writer, they tell me how much they love writing for Zainab and I think that's because they have the exact same idea for this woman. They love that they can write the funny stuff and the heavy drama. Where the compromise happens is on the floor, if I say, 'I think it would be cool if she did this'. Like when she met the imam and she wore all the traditional clothes.
"I constantly say on set, 'I annoy myself' when I play Zainab. She's really irritating - the kind of woman that I'd never want to meet. I was on holiday last week, I went up to the Lake District, and every place that I stopped, people came up to me and said, 'Oh, you made me laugh last night'. One woman said to me, 'My husband screams at the television screen when you come on!' and I know then that I'm doing my job."
As a viewer, what are your thoughts on the Syed and Christian storyline?
"It's fantastic that it's happening, especially in the climate we live in. I have Muslim friends who are gay and some have come out, some haven't. This is a topic that needs to be looked at and EastEnders is fantastically brave to do it. They're doing it in a very clever and realistic way. They're representing all sides, with Zainab representing the more traditional view and Syed portraying what's actually happening out there. They're not shying away from the topic, they're exploring the issues and saying, 'Let's deal with it', and allowing the characters to react in the way that they would."
Are you looking forward to the big reveal?
"Oh, I can't wait to get the scripts. That'll be the one for the Masoods. We've been waiting for this for so long. I'll be in my third year when it all happens, so I've waited a long time for this! We've been very lucky, though. I love it when the Masoods are just allowed to be themselves. They're not bogged down by the whole religion aspect, but religion's used in order to drive their stories."
Do you think Zainab's warming to Amira?
"At this stage, she's tolerating her - only because Syed's her 'number one son', though. The fact that he's grown up and is getting married upsets her immensely. Zainab's slowly warming to her, but only because she wants to make her children happy - and making her children happy makes her happy. She's just missing Shabnam really, so Amira's the closest thing to step into her daughter's shoes."
It'd be great to see Shabnam back for Syed and Amira's wedding, wouldn't it?
"I'd love the producers to get her back because it'd complete the family and I actually miss Zahra [Ahmadi] - she's a friend of mine and I miss working with her. From Zainab's point of view, it'd be a massive hole for her if Shabnam wasn't at the wedding. You never know with this show, though! You never know what's going to happen until you see the scripts."
Have you had any scenes with Danniella Westbrook yet?
"No I haven't! I'm dying to do work with her. You can be on here for months and not even meet someone, though. I have met Danniella, though, but just haven't had any scenes with her. I've not had any scenes with Ronnie or Roxy, though, either."
Where's your British Soap Award?
"It's on my piano in my study! The reason it's there is because my 2-year-old son keeps wanting to hold it. The piano's the one place where it's out of reach! He tried to lift it the other day and it's really heavy!" Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad