Viewers' Choice Q&A with Sitara Hewitt
This week we connect with SITARA HEWITT for the viewers' choice Q&A, bringing you answers to your questions.
Sitara Hewitt, much like her character Rayyan Hamoudi, is a strong, intelligent and vibrant woman. The former classically trained dancer has worked in many facets of the entertainment industry—as a dancer, host, model and actor. Sitara recently participated in our VIEWERS' CHOICE Q&A series, answering questions on challenges and triumphs of being on Little Mosque, her new role on the web spin-off "I on Mercy", and hijab chic fashion.
What is it like playing such a bold, outspoken character?
SH: Fantastic! This is the first role I've played where the character's religion forms a great deal of her choices and actions. I feel fortunate also to be playing a character who is unique and unlike any other on television.
It's great to play a character who is empowered and who believes in her cause. It gives her a great deal of depth and strength. It's important to me and the writers to keep her accessible so that though she is a feminist, a doctor and a devout Muslim, she's still flawed, makes mistakes and can sometimes be downright wacky! That's what I like about Rayyan, she's like so many young women who are just trying to do their best with regards to family, love, faith and work.
Sarah (Ottawa) - How challenging is the role and how you deal with the challenges?
SH: Though Rayyan and I are similar in some ways (we're both of mixed ethnicity and grew up in small town Canada) our lifestyles couldn't be more different. Primarily, I was raised Christian and she is a devout Muslim. While a lot of my relatives are Muslim and I've spent time in Islamic countries, I don't presume to know what it's like to be a Muslim woman in Canada who wears the hijab. So I read, and meet with women who are just like Rayyan.
Since Little Mosque on the Prairie is the first show of its kind we are always moving into slightly unchartered waters. Though our story lines are more family and comedy based than controversial, we are still aware that this is the first time this religion has been portrayed in a sitcom, so we try to be respectful while still making good entertainment and warm comedy the priority. A challenge for me personally is trying to let go of trying to please everyone, because that's impossible! Now my focus is to just do my best, trust my instincts and know that I'll learn from any mistakes I may make.
Shimara (facebook) - Last season's cliffhanger nearly killed me. Any more surprises for Rayyan this season?
SH: Yes! Every time I got a new episode script I was surprised, so I think audiences will be too. Rayyan will be faced with some life changing decisions with regards to her personal, and dare I say, love life. I wish I could say more about it but I can't! Viewers will find out as the season goes on…
There is so much attention surrounding Rayyan's love interests, what do you value in a relationship?
SH: Honesty, fun, inspiration and support.
Derek (Toronto) - Do you feel any pressure being a role model?
SH: Well, I definitely feel more pressure now than when no one knew who I was! Do I nominate myself to be a role model?
No, I don't. I think it's important to make the distinction between myself and the character I play. While I'm delighted that people enjoy and relate to Rayyan, at the end of the day I am not her. I am an actor, I am me, and I‘m trying to figure it all out like everyone else! If people connect to the character I play then I guess it just means I'm doing my job.
From role model to fashion icon, numerous viewers have written wanting to know about your style, where can they buy what Rayyan's wearing?
SH: We have an incredible designer on the show, Resa McConaghy (recently nominated for a Gemini). Not only do I have a blast working with her, but she's fantastic at what she does, and she makes a point of understanding all of our characters inside and out. There are talks about creating a Rayyan clothing line. I'm in favor of that because Rayyan's got classy style!
What's new for Little Mosque this year?
SH: The new season deepens into the characters' lives and it's rewarding to go on that journey with them. Plus the website is awesome this year! I just checked it out and was impressed! I personally enjoy playing myself in the curling game (ha! ha!). There are new webisodes each week called "I on Mercy"—a Mercy-based Regis and Kelly style show with Baber and Rayyan as the hosts. Imagine those two having to deal with each other! There are great radio podcasts by Fred Tupper with all the other residents of Mercy stopping by to chat with him. I laughed out loud at those. Neil Crone is classic as Fred.