This week Orla Garriques meets up with MANOJ SOOD via teleconference for the viewers’ choice Q&A, bringing you what you want to know.
OG: So Manoj, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? You were born in Kenya and raised in Calgary. Since 1994 you’ve appeared in over 45 television and feature film productions, and are one of the most entertaining and adored characters on one of Canada’s top rated series. How does that feel?
MS: It feels great – great to be part of something that is so much bigger than myself. As an actor, we always want to be on a popular show. Little Mosque is more than just popular, as it is a show that creates change in people’s hearts. I feel thankful to be a part of that.
I had always wanted to act but I never had the courage to pursue it. I also doubted if I could find any success at it. Finally, in the early, 90s, I thought it was time to start doing what truly interests me. I took lessons and found an agent. Now many agents later…here I am.
OG: If not acting then what…what else?
MS: If I weren’t an actor I would be a writer. I do write but I have never submitted anything professionally. I have been writing a novel about an East Indian man who grows up in the deep south of the US. I always have found the southern US to be a fascinating place, hence its location in the novel. My passions and interests are astronomy, photography and fishing.
OG: How much of you is Baber Siddiqui, and how much of Baber is Manoj Sood?
MS: Well we both have the same skin tone, same size feet, seriously...I have to become someone very different. It’s a challenge especially in areas like maintaining the accent. I over physicalize him a bit, but try to stay within the confines of what is acceptable in terms of a sitcom.
Donna, student (Toronto) - Baber Siddiqui is a simple man yet a complex character, how did you prepare to take on this role?
MS: I saw him (Baber) as primarily being innocent. When most of us think of someone as being racist or a chauvinist we cannot see ourselves liking that person. Archie Bunker was a racsist but because he was ignorant and didn’t know any better people still loved him regardless of their own skin color. Baber is an immigrant, ignorant to the ways of the West. He comes across at times as a bit racist to non-Muslims. Truly he is a fish out of water. I always try to bring out his innocence and hopefully when I am able to do that we have a character that is liked.
Debbie (USA) - What is it like playing the father of a teenage daughter on the series and what does your son think of Baber?
MS: Being a father really helps. Someone said once: “There are only 2 kinds of people in this world. Those that have kids and those that don’t”.
My son of course thinks of Baber as his favorite character. He likes mimicking Baber’s hand gestures. Basically he thinks Baber is fun. He said once Baber reminds him of Fred Flintstone…. He’s a great kid we just finished an interview for Parenting magazine, coming out later this year, I’m sure he has a bit more to say about dear dad.
Victoria, Teacher (Trenton): You are a role model on so many levels, who inspired you, who are your role models?
MS: I am inspired by people who do things for the people around them and not just themselves. Our shows producers are an example of the kind of people I admire. Yes they have created a marketable product which I hope makes them a lot of money but more important is that they have the intent to create something that will have a positive impact and truly make the world a better place. I admire so many people I wouldn’t feel right mentioning one name specifically because then I would feel guilty for not mentioning the remaining 100,000…., I would like to say that I admire my Mother and Father and in may ways see them as roll models. My father recently was awarded the Order of Canada for his work in promoting multi-culturalism. Every one in our family is proud of him for achieving that.
OG: Last year the ‘Baber rants’ were a definite bonus for Little Mosque fans, it seems you’ve cultivated quite the internet following, what can we expect this year online?
MS: Well this year they gave Baber a partner, Rayyan Hamoudi (Sitara Hewitt). The arguments and silliness and philosophical differences that you see on Little Mosque between Baber and Rayyan show up once again in their new talk show “I on Mercy” which can be found at www.littlemosque.ca. We cover some hot yet fun subjects such as elections, dating, and parenting.
OG: What next?
MS: Looking forward to a season 4 and in the mean time enjoying a lot of time with my son and time to fish and write oh, and curling… lots and lots of curling.